Sacramento State’s Student Lobby Corps is preparing for the annual California Higher Education Student Summit beginning on March 8, in which student advocates from every California State University campus gather in the State Capitol to lobby for issues that affect them.
The California Higher Education Student Summit, or CHESS, is one of two major yearly conferences put on by the California State Student Association, which is comprised of representatives from all CSU associated student governments.
“CHESS is so important because not only a lot of students are interested in lobbying and public policy as a career path, but the state legislators we talk to have the power to make decisions that impact all CSU students,” said Anthony Gibson, Sac State CSSA representative.
Each of the schools go to the Capitol with their own lobbying agenda unique to their CSU’s lobby corp.
One of the main issues the Sac State Lobby Corps will be presenting to legislators, is an increase in priority for higher education in the governor’s budget from the current $25.4 billion in the 2013-14 Higher Education general fund to $25.5 billion.
“We are trying to get an additional $95 million added to the state budget specifically for the CSU,” CSSA member Cipriano Vargas said. “The CSU has had record number of applicants and we are turning away qualified potential students simply because the budgets aren’t enough.”
Vargas said the budget increase would allow several campuses to catch up on deferred maintenance, to replace outdated or unsafe buildings and structures, such as the San Francisco State Science building, which was closed for the spring semester due to toxic building materials and caused the relocation of thousands of students.
“Where we currently are in the governor’s budget is nowhere where the CSU needs,” Sharif said. “Having more space for higher education in the governor’s budget would help with course bottlenecks and alleviate other problems.”
The lobby corps also received permission from Associated Students Inc Board of Directors to lobby for Senate Bills 789 and 174, both of which would increase Cal Grant B. “A lot of times legislators lose sight of how much these bills can affect students,” Gibson said. “Us being there lobbying helps connect these ideas with faces, our faces.”
The conference, now in its 19th year, is a three-day event. Sac State is sending 20 students to the weekend conference taking place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street.
Though registration is now closed, the CHESS conferences are available for all CSU students, not just those in student government.
“We currently have five confirmed legislators that our school’s group will be meeting with and speaking to, and seven total on our list,” said Legislative Affairs Coordinator and Lobby Corps member Mike Sharif.
Though the conference is hosted by CSSA, each school lobbies for what its university board votes should be lobbied for.
“Lobby Corps is all about legislative advocacy on behalf of students,” Gibson said. “It’s our job to gauge what student opinion is about certain pieces of legislation and present that for approval to the board of directors. CHESS is a lot of work, but loads of fun too.”