USUAA opens its wallet to student coalition

After a tense winter break in which UAA’s Coalition of Student Leaders was embattled over funding for a lobbying effort in Juneau, USUAA squelched concerns that the excursion would be under funded by approving a motion to contribute the $4,999 that the council had previously withheld.

In November, USUAA contributed $1 to the coalition-a stark contrast to the $5,000 it normally donates. Since then, the coalition has been on uneasy terms with student government while its members waited to see if a resolution to the conflict would come from USUAA’s first meeting of the new year.

The motion, which was introduced by Sen. Molly Carver, won a landslide victory after numerous amendments to the proposal were shot down.

Sen. John Roberson was the lone member voting in dissent of the motion.

Vice President of USUAA Kortney Hintsala said she originally proposed the idea of not donating the expected amount to the coalition because she wanted to prove to it the significance of UAA’s contributions.

“The coalition basically just was pushing us around and taking advantage of us,” Hintsala said. “This was a way to get their attention and it worked.”

Anthony Rivas, president of USUAA, spoke at the start of debate in favor of giving the coalition the remainder of the money. As president, he did not have a vote on the proposal, so his recommendation served only as a suggestion to legislators.

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“It was kind of a hostile situation with the coalition. We only hold one seat (in the coalition), but have 60 percent of the student body, so you can understand where the decision came from,” he said. “It may seem weird for us to be paying for (legislators from other campuses) to travel, but it does benefit UAA to have everybody there. If you really want to get (state legislators’) attention, you’ve got to have somebody from their district to show up and talk to them.”

Several senators raised questions over how the money would be spent in the hands of the coalition, which is a position that USUAA has repeatedly emphasized over the last several months.

“They did send us a budget, but their budget is empty,” John Wilcox, government relations director, said.

Wilcox, who was until this session speaker of the assembly, was removed from the position in a vote that is required after every election.

Raymond Baker was nominated and voted into the position. However, a motion to allow Wilcox to fulfill the position until the end of the session passed handily, with Baker’s support.

Wilcox was in turn voted into the position of speaker pro tem of the assembly and will remain government relations director.

Questions over the fate of the coalition’s plans in Juneau were answered during the session, but the decision to contribute the money after all might turn out to be moot. Liisa Morrison, administrative assistant to the council, noted that some members of USUAA had outstanding travel fees, which may prohibit members from traveling to Juneau.

Rivas assured the body that the problems would be resolved in time for the lobbying effort, which will take place Feb. 11-14.