The Student Government senate moved forward with its new Special Projects Committee and confirmed a chair for it Tuesday night, despite debate about its future. Senator Frank March was chosen over two other candidates after a brief question-and-answer session.
The new standing committee was officially passed into the Rules of Procedure (ROP) for the senate last week, and the executive and legislative branches have been at odds ever since.
The executive branch has expressed concerns over what it sees as issues with the new committee, most notably the risk of the senate overstepping its boundaries by working on “projects” and senators going through with projects from beginning to end without any checks or outside influence.
“I respect the opposition’s side, and I understand what they’re trying to say, but I still think the committee deserves a chance and they should respect that,” March said.
The new committee will be responsible for reviewing ideas for special projects brought to it by senators. Senators with their projects approved will then be added to the senate payroll and become the “project coordinator” for their project until it is finished.
The senate Interim Funding and Transfers Committee would then decide on the funding for the projects. While there is a cap on the number of hours a senator may be paid for a project, there is no cap on how much money they may request to complete a project.
The Special Projects Committee was formed by Bill 53, which was passed at the Oct. 25 senate meeting with a vote of 26 for, 9 against and one abstention.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jeremiah Pederson disagrees with the executive branch’s contention that the senate should not deal with “projects.”
“I know there has been a lot of controversy over this bill,” Pederson said to the senate as last night’s meeting came to a close. “But the people outside the (Phyllis P.) Marshall Center don’t give a hoot who does a project.”
Sen. James Culp, who authored Bill 53, echoed Pederson’s remarks.
“In the long run, it doesn’t really matter who does these projects,” Culp said. “As I said in the last senate meeting, these are normally projects that aren’t going to be done.”
Pederson, as well as other senators, has worked closely with members of the executive branch to come up with a compromise.
That compromise is Bill 58, which Pederson authored. If passed, it will amend the section of the senate ROP that deals with the Special Projects Committee. It adds several new clauses and nearly doubles the length of what has already been codified on the new committee.
“Bill 58 is an effort to rectify problems that (the executive branch) feels have developed via (Bill 53),” student body President Maxon Victor said. “I commend the senate on making the effort to rectify some of the issues and things (the executive branch) questioned in (Bill 53).”
There are a few parts of Bill 58 that stand out more than others.
If Bill 58 passes, project ideas will go through more than just the Special Projects Committee before reaching the senate floor. Projects would have to be reviewed by both the student body president and the Agency Review Board before reaching the senate floor. The Agency Review Board is a governing SG body that reviews and advises SG agencies. If either the student body president or ARB were to feel the project falls under the jurisdiction of any other existing part of SG, they would be able to assign that project to that part of SG and take it out of the senate’s hands.
There is also a provision in Bill 58 that would allow the student body president to essentially pigeonhole any project ideas he or she does not like.
Bill 58 went through its first reading last night in the Rules Committee of the senate and should be on its first reading on the full senate floor Tuesday. Because the bill is still in the Rules Committee, it has not been presented to the full senate yet.
March had no comment on Bill 58, as he had not seen it as of Tuesday night.
March plans to move forward with his new position despite the issues surrounding his new committee.
“What I really have to do now is focus on how exactly I’m gonna go about selecting whose projects I’m gonna be admitting and who I think should be part of the committee,” March said.