Senate Notes: Resolution Opposing 2400 Passes

Gintautas Dumcius

After more than two months of debating the issue, the Student Senate passed a resolution against House Bill 2400.

The resolution against the bill, which changes opt-out fees on tuition bills to opt-in, is to be sent to the Student Senate’s Campus and Community Affairs (CCA) Committee for “final approval,” before making its way to the Statehouse on Beacon Hill.

The resolution, introduced by Senator Robert Nappier, was tacked onto the senate’s agenda at the last minute at the November 5 meeting, having skipped past committee straight to the full senate. A similar resolution, in support of HB 2400, was voted off the agenda.

The resolution called HB 2400 “anti-student,” arguing that it would “strip students rights to form and fund advocacy groups in a democratic manner.” Currently under consideration by a House-Senate joint committee on education, the bill is potentially damaging for the Massachusetts Public Research Interest Group (MassPIRG) and The Mass Media, organizations both funded by opt-out, or waivable, fees.

As MassPIRG representatives and members of the UMass Boston chapter sat in the audience, the Student Senate debated whether the resolution should be sent to CCA first before coming to the full senate.

Senate President Tuan Pham, a supporter of HB 2400 after he testified before the joint committee last summer, promised to “veto any resolution that does not support my view.”

Nappier stressed that the resolution needed to be considered then and there, since the joint committee is expected to vote on the bill before the state legislature adjourns November 19, and the Student Senate’s opinion needed to be registered. “The only reason we’re doing it this way is [because] we won’t have a voice if we go the normal route,” he said.

Senator Bryan Smith instead encouraged senate members who opposed or supported HB 2400 to personally contact their congresspersons.

Senator William Roach, an opponent of HB 2400, supported sending it to committee, with “great reservation,” to remain consistent in his record as a student senator.

The senate voted in support of the resolution, with six for it, three against, and one abstaining. A roll call vote was not taken, since the resolution had not gone through the steering committee. The steering committee approves all roll call votes.

Before the vote, Senator Todd Babbitt asked if the senate had the support of the students, and urged “sobriety.”

Supporters of HB 2400 have said they haven’t met with many students, but held meetings with MassPIRG representatives five to six times since the issue came up early in the fall semester. Pham stated he had spoken with an estimated ten students.

MassPIRG had been heavily lobbying the Student Senate against Pham’s resolution in support of HB 2400.

However, not all agreed with the approach. One person familiar with MassPIRG and the situation stated on the condition of anonymity that the issue “never should’ve been brought up in the Student Senate.”

The person also chastised Representative James Fagan (D-Taunton), the originator of HB 2400, for not knowing that The Mass Media would be affected by the bill. In a recent interview with The Mass Media, Fagan said he did not know that The Mass Media was affected by it, but stated he opposed waivable fees on principle. “I want to make an affirmative choice to spend my own money. I don’t need anybody-I’m already married, I don’t need anybody else’s help in any way,” he told The Mass Media.

“How can someone on the Ethics Committee have the balls to go in and say that he’s truly trying to do something for students when he doesn’t know the parties involved?” said the source, also criticizing HB 2400 as a “state senate push to get rid of MassPIRG,” as retaliation for its role in the passing of the Clean Elections law.

The Student Senate’s resolution against HB 2400 has been sent back to CCA, the public relations arm of the senate, for “final approval,” due to several words being stricken from the resolution.

When asked if it was “ass-backwards” that a resolution go straight to the senate and then to committee, instead of the other way around as is usually done, Senator Reuben Urmeneta replied, “It is,” adding, “It’s unfortunate.”

Vice President Fritz Hyppolite explained that as result of the words being stricken, it had to go back to CCA for a correction. “It’s already going out,” he said, and the final approval is just of the format it is going out in.

The correction included striking the words “and all legislative attempts,” leaving the sentence reading “…encourage Education committee [sic] members and all state legislators to oppose H.B. 2400… to eliminate the democratically student elected waivable fee.” Nappier argued that while 2400 doesn’t improve the system, the legislature might still come up with a better way. “There might be a better system out there,” he said.