State senators hold public forum to discuss General Assembly issues

Less than 24 hours after the Virginia General Assembly passed a budget resolution for the upcoming fiscal years of 2013 and 2014, three representatives from the state government addressed students in a campus public forum.

State Senators Thomas Norment J.D. ’73, R-3, and John Miller, D-1, and Delegate Michael Watson, R-93, traveled to Williamsburg to update College students about recent events in Richmond. The Student Assembly Public Affairs branch invited the representatives to visit April 19.

“I think it is really important for our legislators to know that we care about the issues and that we are a group of the electorate that is not uneducated and unaware of what is going on in Richmond,” SA Secretary of Public Affairs Keenan Kelley ’14 said. “It is great to hear from them and hear what they have to say and what they are going to do for the college.”

The representatives addressed the latest updates in the budget that will affect the College of William and Mary within the next two years. The new budget includes approximately 1.2 million operating dollars for the school to help support a number of initiatives.

“There are many of us in government fighting very hard to make sure that William and Mary is getting the money that they deserve, that access to the college is affordable and that we don’t change the personality of William and Mary,” Norment said.

Norment, who teaches both at the Marshall–Wythe School of Law and the main campus, continues to advocate for policies that will maintain the character and caliber of the College.

“There is a lot of pressure to take more students,” Norment said. “We have a greater emphasis on the liberal arts here, and other schools in Virginia have a higher concentration on science, technology, engineering and math.”

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Norment fought for the College to get funding despite the fact that the College has a stronger focus on liberal arts than STEM subjects: science, math, engineering and technology.

Watson, a freshman in the House of Delegates, passed three amendments included in the new budget to benefit the College physically. One provides funding for upgrades to the Brafferton, another provides funding for renovations to Tyler Hall and the third authorizes debt for the fraternity housing complex project.

“As a freshman, I didn’t change or save the world, but I feel like I got some things done,” Watson said.

Watson stressed the importance of connecting with College students in open discussions.

“I need to know what is on the hearts and minds of the students that are here now, what can we do to make sure that the tuition you are paying here is valuable,” he said.

Miller highlighted this point by explaining how students helped push an amendment to the recent bill that requires voters to carry a form of identification with them when voting at the polls. After receiving an email from students, Miller added an amendment to allow IDs from four-year institutions of higher education in the state as a valid form of identification for voters.

“You got involved, voiced a concern, and we acted on it,” Miller said. “Now it’s part of the law, so you guys do make a difference even with a simple email.”



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