CalPIRG has phones ringing off the hook

    The UCSD chapter of the California Public Interest Research Group was out campaigning on Library Walk Wednesday for a familiar cause — increased renewable energy — but its tactics used in this instance were a little different.

    Anna MacMurdo
    Guardian

    The group provided cell phones for people to call state Assemblyman Jay LaSuer’s office and encourage him to vote for Senate Bill 532 as part of “”Speak Out Day,”” where CalPIRG members from the UC campuses encouraged students to call local state officials.

    LaSuer, a Republican, represents Assembly District 77, which runs up against the southeast border of the city of San Diego. District 77 includes the cities of La Mesa, El Cajon, Spring Valley and Bonita.

    CalPIRG targeted him because the organization’s members believe he is a critical swing vote on the issue.

    Senate Bill 532, also known as the Clean Energy Bill, would double the percentage of renewable resources the state’s electrical corporations would be required to use by 2010 from 10 to 20 percent.

    CalPIRG provided students with scripts to read that concisely covered why the group was urging them to call.

    Students who did participate felt the event was a positive one.

    “”I think it’s a good idea, and something needs to be done about the energy crisis,”” said student Sara Patton.

    The tactic of inundating government officials with telephone calls has been effective in the past, according to CalPIRG organizers.

    “”UC Santa Barbara’s CalPIRG was able to get their local Assemblyman to say yes to a bill after only an hour of phone calls,”” said CalPIRG member Chris Noddings.

    Barry Jantz, district chief of staff for Assemblyman LaSuer, said the calls will be taken into account but the language in the final bill is what will be the overriding factor when LaSuer votes.

    Nevertheless, students believe in the the effectiveness of the tactic.

    “”Government is sensitive to mail right now; calls are easier,”” said student Sharlene Weng. “”It shows them that people on campus actually care. It really makes a difference.””

    LaSuer’s office logs the calls in relation to the issues and bills to gauge public support, but it also notes coordinated efforts by groups, Jantz said.

    The energy issue itself is a major concern for many students as well.

    “”I’m particularly interested in the energy topic because for our generation and the generation to come, the issue of renewable resources will be so important,”” said CalPIRG member Cassie Burdyshaw.

    “”We would like to see these renewable resources include wind, solar and geothermal,”” Noddings said.

    Currently, the bill is in committee and has not reached the Senate floor. The last vote in September failed; 11 of the Utilities and Commerce Committee members voted: seven in favor and four against. Seven members abstained from the vote, including Assemblyman La Suer.

    CalPIRG hopes to swing LaSuer’s vote because he has been supportive of renewable energy bills in the past.

    “”We think that if it came to the floor, people would support it because it is good for California, for the economy and the environment. It would bring jobs to California,”” said CalPIRG member Chris Draper.

    The bill, CalPIRG members believe, would also be good for the health of Californians.

    Jantz said he expects the bill to go back to committee to be revised and amended once the bill is finalized, and LaSuer will take a stance on it, but now it is too early in the process for that to happen.

    “”I hope we can get Assemblyman LaSuer to not only protect the environment but also the health of all Californians by saying he will vote ‘yes’ on Senate Bill 532,”” Noddings said.

    CalPIRG hopes that events such as these will increase student participation in the political process.

    “”I think students definitely have a voice; they just need to use it,”” Draper said. “”That’s why we are here.””

    Overall, Nodding calls the day a “”great success”” as CalPIRG beat its goal of 75 calls by 3 p.m.; at that time they had logged 105 calls.

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