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Student Senate supports LBGT bill, debates bill on textbook taxes

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Student Senate 2017-2018

Graduate Student Senate and President Nellis have already announced support for the LGBT rights bill.

Student Senate expressed support Wednesday for an Ohio House Bill, which aims to add sexual orientation and gender identity to anti-discrimination policies in the state. It also debated whether to support a bill that would exempt sales tax on textbooks.

President Nellis expressed support for House Bill 160  in a President’s Cabinet meeting on Monday, and Graduate Student Senate endorsed the bill on Tuesday.  Student Senate’s proposition to support the bill passed with just one  opposition vote.

“I think this is more of an issue of civil rights, and not firing anybody from their place of employment for their sexual orientation or gender identity is a core value at this institution, Jon Schlosser, Student Senate Chief of Staff, said.

Ohio University’s current anti-discrimination policy “opposes discrimination against any person in employment or educational opportunities because of race, color, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation.”

Senate additionally debated whether or not to support House Bill 337, which would exempt sales taxes from post-secondary education textbooks. Student Senate has previously supported bill that would provide a tax exemption on menstrual products.

In the resolution, it claims that Student Senate was in favor of the bill “in order to protect not only its students, but all Ohioans.” The bill also cites that Ohio students spend on average between $455 million and $563 million on textbooks and related course materials.  It also claims that a tax exemption on textbooks would save students between $23 million and $26.2 million.

Senate also wrote that Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have all exempted sale taxes from secondary education textbook purchases. Wright State University and Ohio State University Board of Trustees have passed similar resolutions.

The bill was sponsored by Student Senate President Landen Lama.

“I think it’s really important that student government unite around ohio to come together and talk about important issues and one of those is textbook affordability and college affordability,” Lama said.

While some students were in favor of the bill, others had concerns on the impact of another tax exemption.

“I’m more traditional,” Matt Mamone, the Governmental Affairs Commissioner, said. “I would prefer taxes to be cut on primary needs, like water and food, not so much secondary education.”

Momane also pointed out that while tax exemptions could benefit students in one aspect, the tax exemption would take money away from state projects like road construction.

The bill was ultimately tabled for further debate, something that surprised Student Senate Treasurer Zachary Woods.

“I went in thinking this would pass no doubt,” Woods said, “There were some questions brought up like if the tax exempt only comes from the publisher or if it also goes through Chegg or Amazon, where I assume a majority of students actually purchase their textbooks.”

Student Senate Vice President Nicole Schneider also said that the debate made her rethink the bill.

“I’m analyzing both sides now,” Schneider said. “I supported tabling it just so we could make sure we have all this information so that we have all these numbers once we bring it back to the student body and can actually be informed on exactly what we are affecting by voting for or against it.”

Correction: A previous version of this report stated the vote to support House Bill 160 had two opposition votes. 

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