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Our View: Bill ensures regional representation on the Board of Regents

A new Wisconsin law was a long time coming.

Through the years, the members appointed to the 18-member University of Wisconsin Board of Regents have come from all walks of life and from all across the state.

Trouble is, often representation on the Board of Regents leaned heavily toward the state's large population centers -- Madison and Milwaukee. In fact, presently half of the appointed positions on the board come from those major cities. Until last week, there has been no requirement to appoint members who live in places far away from the state capitol and who might bring a different perspective to the work of the regents.

Now, thanks to the new law, at least one person from each of Wisconsin's eight congressional districts has to be named to the Board of Regents.

The bill, authored by local legislators State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and State Rep. Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie), was signed into law last week by Gov. Scott Walker. It takes effect in 2013.

"It is important to have input on issues regarding higher education from all areas of the state," Gov. Scott Walker said at a special bill signing ceremony.

We would agree.

The new requirement, which has been a topic of discussion and debate for years, will ensure that each area of the state has a voice when policies, tuition rates and cuts are decided by the Board of Regents.

From 2013 on, new regents will be appointed for seven-year terms. That means one regional representative will be appointed or re-appointed to the board each year.

The goal of achieving more geographic diversity among the regents is a no-brainer. Wisconsin's higher education system can only benefit from widening the pool of future candidates for the board.