Bemidji State representatives lobby at the Capitol for the events center
Bemidji State University students are making their mark at the Capitol.
Today, BSU Student Senate President Cody Nelson will travel to St. Paul to hand-deliver 5,000 letters, written and signed by BSU students, in support of the proposed events center. School mascot Bucky the Beaver signed a few of the letters himself.
The letters will be delivered to legislators who serve on the House of Representatives' Capital Investment Committee, which is considering priorities for its bonding bill proposal.
"I'm really excited to see students in and realize that not only can they make a difference, but they are making a difference on community projects," Nelson said.
BSU students hope to secure funding for four building projects at the university; they also are supporting state funding for the proposed events center, which would house BSU hockey.
Students' efforts are going beyond a letter-writing campaign, however.
Ten Student Senate members on Monday camped out at the State Capitol while lobbying on behalf of their legislative agenda.
They met with 12 legislators and dropped off literature for another 13 or so.
Their most impactful visit, though, just might have been a conversation with Alice Hausman, the DFL chair of the House Capital Investment Committee.
While House legislators were in session trying to veto Gov. Tim Pawlenty's transportation bill, Nelson said the group of BSU students was huddled outside awaiting representatives along with all of the other lobbyists.
They were able to catch Hausman and talked about their hopes for the events center and other BSU requests.
"She was really thrilled," he said. "She said this means a lot."
While results from Monday's lobbying effort may not immediately be known, Nelson said legislators welcomed the opportunity to talk about the issues.
"If students knew how much they could make a difference, they would be down there every day," Nelson said.
BSU students wore their lumberjack sweaters and were approached by people who immediately recognized them as BSU students.
"These were people we didn't even know," Nelson said.
While Nelson said the statewide student association through the Minnesota State Universities and Colleges has sent officers to the Capitol for lobbying, he believes the contingent from BSU just might be the first Student Senate to approach legislators directly at the Capitol.
The BSU Student Senate passed a six-item legislative platform about one month ago. It includes:
--renovation of Sattgast Hall of Science
-- renovation for nursing lab space in Memorial Hall
-- approval for the purchase of the former Bemidji High School property
-- demolition of Maple Hall
"We're trying to represent the voice of the students on campus, what they want," Nelson said.
Additionally, the Student Senate voted to support the two legislative requests concerning the proposed events center: obtaining $22 million in bonding dollars for it construction, and the extension of the half-cent sales tax to fund the remainder of the project.
"Yeah, it'[s a new home for our hockey program, but it's also a lot more than that," Nelson said.
It would also be a place for conventions and events, another destination point in Bemidji, he explained.
"It's more than just a hockey arena," he said.