Overview: Urging legislators to invest in Texas; Provide input on concealed carry

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<strong>Urging legislators to invest in Texas<strong/>

More than 25 organizations, including Student Government, Senate of College Councils and Graduate Student Assembly, will march to the Capitol at noon today to discuss proposed higher education budget cuts, urging them to preserve funding for the University and financial aid programs for students.

The Invest in Texas campaign provides an avenue for students to voice their opinions and provide their representatives and senators with input on higher education budget cuts from the unique student perspective. When the Invest in Texas campaign kicked off last month, more than 100 students attended the Senate finance committee hearing regarding the budget for the UT System.

Proposed budgets from both the Senate and the House cut financial aid by hundreds of millions of dollars in 2012-13 (the House’s version cuts it by $431 million and the Senate by $381 million) and reduce funding for the TEXAS Grant program, shrinking the number of students who can receive the grant by nearly half. Proposals also cut 11 percent, or nearly $88 million, from state and federal funds allotted to UT.

Putting a face to budget cuts, particularly those threatening financial aid and quality of education, reminds legislators that their decisions directly affect students and can reduce the accessibility of higher education in the state. We applaud the efforts of the organizations behind the campaign, and we hope more students participate, imploring legislators to minimize cuts to University funding.

<strong>Provide input on concealed carry<strong/>

Legislation that would allow concealed carry of handguns on college campuses passed out of a House committee Wednesday.

The bill, which passed in a 5-3 vote out of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, would allow concealed handgun license carriers aged 21 or older to carry handguns on college campuses.

Despite overwhelming response to this legislation, it is clear that lawmakers are disregarding the opinion of those who would be most affected by its passage: students. This is evidenced by the House committee’s decision to hold the hearing during spring break, when many students were unable to attend and thus unable to provide input.

Though student testimony at last week’s hearing may not have directly affected the outcome of the vote, it would have challenged legislators to take their constituents’ input into account when voting on legislation that would affect them.

However, students will have the opportunity to testify today. The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice will hold a hearing at 1:30 p.m. in Room E1.016 of the Capitol, where committee members will discuss similar concealed carry legislation and hear public testimony on the issue.

Ultimately, college students, professors, staff members and law enforcement would be significantly affected by the passage of this legislation. This hearing gives them the opportunity to testify before state senators. While testimony may not directly influence how committee members vote on the legislation, it will provide legislators with direct feedback on the bill from those who would be most impacted by it.