A joint resolution that would give the governor the power to appoint the student member of the Board of Governors — the body that oversees the Florida university system — passed through the state Senate’s Higher Education Committee Thursday.
The current student Board of Governors member is elected by members of the Florida Student Association.
State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Apalachicola and Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, hinted that more changes to SJR 1508 could be in the offing — changes that may reflect an amendment introduced by Altman to have the student Board of Governors member elected by students, not selected by the governor.
Altman withdrew the amendment after testimony from student government associations seemed to confuse the senators.
“I will support this bill today in the spirit of compromise,” Altman said. “Sen. Montford and I have worked together. But I would not vote for this on the floor.”
The bill will now go to the Senate floor. A similar bill, HJR 931, passed the House Education Committee last week.
The committee’s chair, state Sen. Olerich, R-Gainesville, was the only “no” vote. He said he was confused by the conflicting sides, and chose to side with the majority of student government associations that opposed the bill.
Patrick O’Keefe, Florida International University student body president, testified that the ability of students to elect the member needs to be preserved.
Florida State University Student Body President Avi Assidon decided last year that his school would not pay dues to the Florida Student Association, and now the FSU and University of Florida student government associations are advocating for the bill so that Gov. Rick Scott may select the Board of Governors student member directly.
FSU opposed Sen. Altman’s amendment as insufficiently specific. Asimina Boutzoukas of the FSU Student Government Association’s Office of Governmental Affairs said the measure needed to specify who will convene the presidents, certify election results and prevent it from falling back under the influence of former Florida Student Association members.
UF Student Government Assocation Director of External Affairs Billy Vranish agreed, saying Altman’s amendment could create a “defacto FSA.”