Republicans seek to alter Wisconsin student fee voting rules

MADISON — Republican state legislators are recommending that students on the University of Wisconsin System campuses be required to vote twice in order to approve the construction of new amenities, a measure some school leaders contend would make the process unnecessarily difficult.

Rep. Dave Murphy, of Greenville, and Sen. André Jacque, of De Pere, are crafting a bill that would bar student fee-funded building projects from proceeding without the majority vote from students, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“You need to make the case to students,” said Jacque. “We’re not trying to make it easy to add to students’ debt loads.”

Students are currently required to vote once. But under the proposal, the students who don’t vote would be considered to have casted no votes, which would further complicate the approval process to construct student-funded buildings, said a student leader at the university’s Madison campus.

This year, the school’s students will pay between roughly $1,000 and $1,600 in yearly fees for bus transportation, student organizations and services such as mental health counseling. If approved by students in a referendum, a share of those fees would go to paying for the building of amenities that include student unions and recreation facilities.

The restrictions outlined in the proposed bill “would have a significant negative impact on universities’ ability to provide the types of facilities that students expect,” said John Lucas, a spokesman for the university’s Madison campus.

Laura Downer, an incoming senior at the Madison campus, questioned the likelihood of her school’s roughly 22,000 students showing up and voting yes in two separate referendums.

“It strikes me as more of a way to prevent buildings from ever being built than as a way to increase student voice,” said Down, chairwoman of the Madison campus’ student government, which works with various university units to hold referendus when the need for a building is being discussed.

Melissa Baldauff, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, declined to comment on whether he would sign the bill into law. But Baldauff noted that the university’s System Board of Regents and campuses need flexibility.

The proposal will be introduced within the next two weeks, Murphy’s office said

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