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Sen. Swope Speaks at SGA Meeting

By Laura Buchanan
On October 18, 2018

Sen. Chandler Swope

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, Sen. Chandler Swope came to speak to the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting held in the State Room in the student center.

The senator addressed the responsibilities the state Senate and more localized topics such as how students can get involved in legislative decisions.

Sen. Swope spent the first half of his discussion describing how he makes decisions on bills that come before him. “I’m a business guy, not a politician,” he points out, adding that he views things in a cost versus benefit manner.

He says, “Think of the economy as a wagon. You can pull it, or you can ride. The trick is to get the balance right.” Using this example, Sen. Swope explained that without production, everyone would be “riding,” and thus the wagon would not move. He keeps this in mind when considering a bill, specifically if it will keep the balance and keep things moving with little regard to which party is sponsoring the bill.

Sen. Swope took the time to define the basic principles of the Senate to those assembled in the SGA meeting, starting with how a senate term is four years. According to the senator, anybody can file to run for the senate and anybody can be elected. “Somehow this helter-skelter voting system works,” he exclaimed, going on to say that the 32 senators are some of the finest people he has ever met.

The senators are divided up into two committees, the Judicial Committee and the Financial Committee. Each of these committees review bills prior to their making it to the Senate session, which begins at 11 a.m. During these committee meetings, law clerks are often brought in to explain the legal points of a bill. This is also an opportunity for testimonies for or against a bill to be heard. Sen. Swope revealed that anybody can speak at these meetings to provide better insight on a bill’s importance. The committee meetings are not a debate session but merely a fact-gathering process.

Committee meetings are public and live-streamed with agendas being published at least 24 hours in advance. Anybody can stand for a bill and speak.

Initially, sessions are not very long, as there are not as many bills to review, but as the term progresses, there are more to review and therefore sessions may last well into the night until all the bills on the floor have been addressed.

In a given year, nearly 1,800 bills are presented for consideration; however, only 260 are passed. Swope pointed out that the system is similar to a funnel where only so much can be squeezed through at any given time.

He then moved on to the budget and bills that directly affect higher education. He began with an explanation on what it means to be a balanced budget state. He says, “[One] can’t write a check if the money isn’t in the bank,” which justifies why some budgets and requests are not approved.

One bill the Senate passed for higher education was not of monetary design, but it requests a change in how the budget is controlled. The bill gives colleges local control in deciding how they spend the money already received.

A bill the senator is hoping will be on the floor this year is a performance-based model. This would move higher education away from the political funding they now receive, which gives the big schools like West Virginia University and Marshall University nearly 85 percent of the budget and the remaining 15 percent dispersed between smaller colleges in smaller communities.

In a performance-based funding model, colleges would receive their money based on their ability to yield a great product, i.e. graduates. Factors such as how many college hours are being completed, complexity of courses, and how many graduate can be brought under consideration in a type of point system. This would allow for smaller colleges to be treated more fairly when it comes to the budget.

Sen. Swope pointed out, “Performance is how the rest of the world works, so why should the education system be any different?” He is hoping the bill will be up to vote on this year.

The senator remarked, “I need people to bring the information to me so I can make an informed decision.” He went on to say that it is important for individuals to spend time with their legislators, even if it is just a few minutes. “Sometimes you’re the only voice that is being heard and so it can make a difference.”

Swope summed up his talk by telling those assembled to “be a good citizen. Learn as much as you can. Learn about individual candidates. Try to elect those that will give you people to pull the wagon. Visit your legislature.”

The senator’s visit concluded with a question and answer session followed by a round of applause.

For those that wish to hear the senator speak, a live-stream has been posted on The Concordian’s Facebook page @concordiannewspaper1

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