Student body President Maxon Victor said there is a “100 percent chance” that he will veto Bill 53, passed Tuesday by the Student Government senate. The bill creates a new permanent senate committee, the Special Projects Committee. The heated debate on the bill pushed the meeting to nearly four hours; normally a senate meeting takes under two.
The controversial bill was passed by a vote of 26 for, 9 against, with 1 abstention.Sen. James Culp authored the bill. He is the Rules Committee Chairman.
The bill creates a permanent committee in the senate that will hear ideas for new projects from senators. The committee will then decide if the project is a legitimate one. The senator with the idea will eventually become the project coordinator barring senate approval. Project coordinators will be paid, unlike normal senators. There is no limit to the number of projects the SPC will be able to approve.
Members of the executive branch were on hand at the meeting to express their concerns that the senate is giving itself new powers that they consider unconstitutional, unnecessary and dangerous.
Victor, student body Vice President Sameer Ahmed and SG Attorney General Daniel Miller all spoke to the senate in opposition of the bill before senators even began debating it. Only senators were able to participate in the debate on the senate floor.
“It is overlapping of duties, destruction of checks and balances and senate funding itself for projects with no oversight,” Ahmed said.
However, Culp believes the bill is needed to help projects get started.
“Philosophically the executive branch is supposed to be handling these projects,” Culp said. “There is no way they can handle the load of all these projects.”
Ahmed stood by the idea that special projects were part of the executive branch’s domain.
“Senators didn’t sign up for projects; projects are supposed to be done through the executive branch,” Ahmed said.
He also said the bill will open the door for too much financial autonomy. He said it would lead to senators funding senators without any real checks in place.
Senate President Frank Harrison, who helped Culp write the bill, said that while senators are currently able to start special projects, they “have great ideas but no structure to guide them through an initiative.”
Culp hopes the bill will facilitate that guidance.
“There needs to be some venue for senators to go to when they have ideas,” Culp told the senate.
Prior to the passage of the bill, senators took ideas for projects either to the executive branch or the senate leadership.
There are three permanent committees in senate, the Student Concerns Committee, the Interim Funding (Budget) Committee, and the Rules Committee. All three have paid heads, as will the SPC if it is created. The senate president, president pro tempore and secretary are the only other permanent paid senate positions.