Florida Students Visit the Capitol to Push for a Student Green Energy Fund

February 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm 2 comments

The morning of Thurs, Feb 18, I attended a hearing in the Senate Higher Education Committee in Tallahassee along with 11 other Florida students. We were there to express our support for a Student Green Energy Fund in Florida’s public colleges and universities. Together, we have been working on this legislative campaign to give students the right to vote on whether to implement a small fee to fund campus energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy projects.

I made the trip to Tallahassee Wednesday evening along with four fellow University of Florida students. That evening, we met with students from Florida State University, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, and New College of Florida.

As we were planning our statements for the hearing, there was this feeling in the air that we were doing something really monumental. Stephen Mortellaro from UCF remarked that “You never see students come together like this.” We were excited to come together and represent students from across the state at the following day’s hearing. We had a feeling we would not be ignored.

At the hearing, five of us spoke during public comment about why the Student Green Energy Fund means so much to us. Stephen Mortellaro pointed out to our legislators that Senate Bill 778 would not impose a fee on universities; rather, it would simply give students the option to implement a small fee for campus energy projects. Rebecca Christoforo from New College pointed out the whopping 87% of students who approved the initiative in a non-binding referendum at her school. Stefan Bird from UF explained the need for campus energy efficiency improvements, given our 1.5 million square feet of historic, inefficient buildings; he noted the broad support at UF for a Student Green Energy Fund, including from students, our university president and the Board of Trustees, who have all endorsed the initiative. We built an irrefutable case.

The senators were impressed. We made up the majority of the audience and we made compelling arguments. When the bill’s sponsor, Senator Constantine, was challenged over two unrelated articles in the bill, Constantine without hesitation assured Senator Lynn – who chairs a committee that will soon hear our bill – that he would remove those articles and make SB 778 a clean bill. I had the impression that we had something to do with this change. How could Senator Constantine risk killing this bill as 12 of his constituents watched on? He knew how much this meant to us, and so did the other Senators.

The Student Green Energy Fund bill passed the Senate Higher Education committee with a unanimous vote, including a yes vote from Senator Lynn, who opposed our legislation in her committee last year. After the votes were cast, we all looked at each other, ecstatic. I won’t point fingers but I even saw a few teary eyes! At that moment we all realized that our voices matter. The thought that “wow, we can do this,” must have crossed everyone’s mind. We still have a long way to go, but this week’s hearing showed us that when we come together, we can make things happen.

I remember having lunch a couple years ago at Gainesville’s Leonardo’s Pizza with Zak Keith, who helped organize the original “green fee” campaign at UF, and he was telling me about his efforts to recruit students at other schools to this campaign. He was not sure what would happen to the green fee campaign after he graduated in Spring of 2008. He wondered who might take on the campaign after him. “Good luck with that,” I said.

Two years later, the Student Green Energy Fund campaign has snowballed and we have 8 of the 11 public universities in Florida participating. This campaign is the beginning of the strong statewide student network that Florida organizers have been envisioning. Let’s pass the Student Green Energy Fund, and let’s help move Florida toward its clean energy future! We can do this.

-Chris Cano is a senior at The University of Florida

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Entry filed under: southern energy network.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jomar Floyd  |  February 20, 2010 at 6:10 am

    First and foremost, I would like to commend everyone for their tireless efforts in support of this bill. I will continue to be in full support to all who are for the cause to better our campuses in the state of Florida. Again, thank you all for the continuous support.

    Reply
  • 2. university media  |  March 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    The Student Green Energy Fund bill passed the Senate Higher Education committee with a unanimous vote.

    Reply

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