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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bill to require rural representation in ABOR

    PHOENIX – Claiming the needs of rural Arizonans have been ignored for years, a House committee passed a bill that will require two permanent seats on the Arizona Board of Regents for rural Arizonans.

    The Universities, Community Colleges and Technology Committee approved SB 1058, which would require that two members of ABOR whose term is scheduled to end in 2008 be replaced with new gubernatorial appointees from rural counties. The Senate approved the proposed legislation last month.

    The bill, written by Sen. Jake Flake, R-Snowflake , requires that one of the new members be from Apache, Coconino, Gila, Mohave, Navajo or Yavapai county and that the other member be from Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pinal, Santa Cruz or Yuma County.

    The bill will make the two rural seats permanent.

    Flake said the bill was written after a constituent requested the rural representation, saying it made sense for rural Arizona to have representatives in ABOR. Currently, all 10 regents are from either Maricopa or Pima County.

    A co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, said the current ABOR representation did not equally represent all Arizonans.

    He gave the example of Flagstaff, home of NAU, as an example of a community that should be represented in ABOR.

    Blendu said the legislation was “”long overdue”” and was a step toward equality on the board for rural Arizona.

    With two regents on the board, Blendu said he thought rural issues could be represented in future ABOR meetings.

    Jerry Hogle, vice provost for instruction at the UA, said academic programs located off the UA’s main campus at satellite locations serve several hundred rural students a year. He said the UA offers degree track programs in Sierra Vista and Douglas.

    Hogle said hundreds of courses are offered online through he Arizona Universities Network, a partnership between NAU, ASU and the UA.

    UA’s Arizona Telemedicine program, which allows rural hospitals to teleconference with doctors in Tucson to consult on treatment for their patients, is another example of UA reaching out to rural communities, Hogle said.

    Anne Barton, a spokeswoman for ABOR, said the board had a neutral stance on the legislation but questioned whether the terms should be staggered. She said having both members start and end their terms at the exact same time would be a disservice to rural Arizonans.

    The committee also approved legislation adding four legislators to ABOR’s rank. The legislators, two from the House and two from the Senate, will serve as nonvoting members.

    The legislation requires that the two members from each house, appointed by the president, be from different political parties.

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