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 frees collected from students to benefit any organization not under the Board of Regents. The legislation also bars universities from using their own billing process to collect funds for any such group.
While HB 2169 does not name names, the target is clear: the Arizona Students Association.
And to ensure that the measure is sufficiently narrow, the legislation spells out that nothing affects the ability of any university to provide financial support for student government or any "university recognized student organizations.''
The measure crafted by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, comes in the wake of criticism by some legislators of the association's decision last year to provide financial support for Proposition 204. That measure, which failed, would have imposed a permanent one-cent hike in state sales taxes to support education and other issues.
Prior to this year the $2-a-semester fee was tacked on to each student's bill. Those who objected could request a refund in writing.
Earlier this year the state Board of Regents, in reaction to the controversy, did agree to allow the fee to continue be collected by universities. But the board said students would have to first give permission before the fee could be deducted, reversing the current opt-out process.
That action resulted in a lawsuit filed in federal court against the regents by the association. Attorney Stephen Montoya claims that the decision to go to an opt-in process was politically motivated to punish the association for its backing of 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 association's lawsuit thrown out. He says 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 in the case 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, who is 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.
Montoya said the legislation would not end the federal court lawsuit. He said that, if nothing else, the association is suing for the fees that the universities did not collect for the spring semester while the regents were debating the issue.
No date has been set for a hearing.