Rules committee chair resigns after heated senate dispute on amendment

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Kevin Hettinger resigned Tuesday night after a heated debate by the Rules Committee. Earlier in the evening, the Rules Committee voted 6-5 not to bring a constitutional amendment to the senate floor. The amendment, which also deals with reapportionment of senate seats, would cap the number of senators at 50. Senators debated to negate the Committee vote and bring the Amendment to the senate floor.

Senators supporting the amendment’s bypass of the Rules Committee argued that the Committee was overstepping its bounds and voting on its opinion of the amendment, not the clarity and accuracy of the information. They also argued the amendment should be heard by the senate because of the close vote.

Hettinger responded by saying that if the Rules Committee’s decision only mattered in votes that aren’t close, then there is no reason for its existence.

Opponents of the amendment’s bypass noted that it was brought before the Rules Committee very swiftly and inadequate information was brought forward to show the amendment was ready to be debated on the senate floor.

Senator Jeremiah Pederson said the amendment could be brought back to the Rules Committee with more information readily available and explained.

Proponents of the amendment being brought to the floor argued that time was an important issue and that they wanted it passed before winter break so it would be in effect for the upcoming spring elections.

After more than 30 minutes of intense debate, the motion to bring the amendment to the senate floor was brought to a roll-call vote and needed a two-thirds majority to bypass the Rules Committee.

The measure passed by a razor-thin margin of 67 percent, counting two abstentions in the overall vote.

When it came time for Hettinger’s executive officer report as head of the Rules Committee, he stood in front of the senate and announced his resignation.

He told his fellow senators that this would be his last meeting.

“This is just not something I’m interested in anymore,” Hettinger said before walking out of the room.

He said he had been thinking about the decision for a while.

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight pushed it over the edge,” said Hettinger as he was leaving the Phyllis P. Marshall Center.

During the meeting, the senate discussed other pieces of legislation and interviewed a supreme court justice nominee.

Junior Evita Cheaib was confirmed as the newest associate chief justice after a few questions from the senate.

Cheaib is the eight justice currently on the court, which leaves one more slot unfilled.

The senate also confirmed Marigelle Malapira, a graduate student from UCF, as the new election rules commissioner. She will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the upcoming elections in the spring.