PHOENIX - The Arizona Students Association appears to be on the verge of losing its ability to have the state's three universities collect its fees.
On a voice vote Wednesday, the Senate voted to bar universities from transferring any portion of fees collected from students to benefit any organization not under the Board of Regents. The legislation also bars universities from using their own billing processes to collect funds for any such group.
While HB 2169 does not name names, the Students Association was clearly the target.
The legislation does not affect the ability of any university to provide financial support for student government or any "university recognized student organizations."
The measure by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, comes in the wake of criticism by some legislators of the association's providing financial support for Proposition 204 last year. That measure, which failed, would have imposed a permanent 1-cent hike in state sales taxes to support education and other issues.
Prior to this year, the $2-a-semester fee was tacked onto each student's bill. Those who objected could request a refund in writing.
After a controversy over the association funding of Proposition 204, the state Board of Regents changed its policy on collecting the fee to require each student to agree to the charge. The change led to a lawsuit by the association saying it was illegal retaliation for the association's backing the initiative.
Association officers have said they expect collections to drop sharply under an opt-in system.
Joe Kanefield, an attorney for the regents, is attempting to have the lawsuit thrown out, contending the board was within its authority to require students to opt in to association membership.
Separately, the Goldwater Institute has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of five students who support the regents' decision to change the fee collection. One of the students is state Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, a graduate student at Arizona State University.
HB 2169, which already has been approved by the House, needs a final roll-call vote in the Senate before going to the governor.
Attorney Stephen Montoya, who represents the students group, said the legislation would not end the federal lawsuit. He said, if nothing else, the association is suing for the fees the universities did not collect for the spring semester while the regents were debating the issue.
No date has been set for a hearing.