Student Government proposes bill to reduce campaign finances

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government introduced legislation Tuesday to reduce the current amount of money candidates can spend on their campaigns.

Assembly Bill 9, “Amending Student Government Campaign Finance Limits in the Election Code,” was proposed to address the issue of diversity among Student Government members.

Student Government is often seen as not representing the diverse interests of the entire student body, said Amber Magee, public health junior and Student Government administrative director, who proposed the bill with student body president Xavier Rotnofsky.

“Some students choose not to run in elections because of the assumption that it takes a certain amount of money to be competitive in a Student Government race,” Magee said. “While spending more money doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will win a race, students can feel discouraged when they don’t have the disposable income to spend on an election that their opponents may have.”

Current financial campaign spending limits allow for $1,023 for executive alliance elections, $614 for University-wide representatives and first-year representatives and $409 for college representatives. The bill proposes reducing those limits to $511, $204 and $153, respectively.

Taral Patel, biology and government senior and Student Government chief of staff, said there is currently a lack of diversity in Student Government due to barriers such as the campaign finance structure, which allows students to spend up to $1,000 for their executive alliance races.

“Lots of students simply do not have $1,000 — or two months of rent — on hand to wager for running and trying to win an elected position in a student organization,” Patel said.

Patel said Student Government is supposed to represent a diverse array of students, and by implementing campaign finance reform, the organization can become more inclusive during the upcoming election cycle.

“This legislation will hopefully have more students filing for election that aren’t typically seen in Student Government,” Magee said. “We are hoping to further diversify the students who feel represented by Student Government and who make use of the resources and access that Student Government has.”

Tanner Long, government senior and Student Government speaker of the assembly, said he thinks the bill should be implemented for this year’s election, but agrees campaign financial budgets need to be reformed.

“While I understand the need to re-examine adjusting our campaign expenditure limits, the timing of this bill is unfortunate,” Long said. “Candidates that have already filed have been given one set of rules. AB 9 is changing the rules of the game after the game has already started.” 

Long said adjustments to Student Government expenditure limits are needed to promote more involvement between students and Student Government, but the majority of students that filed and ran for office last year did not come close to spending near the current limits or the proposed limits of AB 9.

“Nearly 29 percent of the candidates last year spent $0,” Long said. “I think some members of Student Government feel the end goal of promoting more involvement is necessary and are willing to try anything to achieve that goal — even if it may appear as rushed.”

Long said encouraging students to file for Student Government is a good idea if it is done in a reasonable and responsible way.

“AB 9 can have tremendous advantages if we don’t rush this bill through and instead consult with students all across campus to find a reasonable compromise,” Long said.