SG senators gather student opinion on Bill 50

Student Government Bill 50, which would cap the number of seats in the SG senate, will be up for a second reading at the SG senate meeting tonight.

Since its introduction, the bill has been the center of debate among senate members.

In last Tuesday’s senate meeting, the senate agreed to gather the opinions of their constituents in each of the colleges they represent. If passed, not only will the bill cap the number of seats, but the number of seats in the senate will directly represent the percentage of USF students in the college. If a college has less than 2 percent of the student population, that college will hold only one seat.

During the Nov. 16 senate meeting, the Rules Committee, which decides what bills will be heard on the senate floor, originally voted 6-5 not to allow the bill to be heard. However, Senator Frank Harrison and Senate President Stavros Papandreou motioned to bypass the Rules Committee’s decision and have the bill debated on the senate floor.

Jessica Vilorio, a senator of the College of Arts and Science, e-mailed her constituents through Blackboard.

“It’s shocking because right now my students are completely split right down the middle,” she said.

According to a pie graph compiled by Vilorio, 49 percent of her students are for the bill and 51 percent are against it.

Vilorio said that her students think the cap on senate members may allow them to meet their senate.

Some of Vilorio’s students who voted against passing the bill referred to it as a popularity contest. Others argued that the bill would not change how many senate members attend SG meetings.

Harrison, who is head of the Student Concerns Committee, said his constituents are in favor of passing the bill.

“Most students are in favor of a senate that is more competitive, accountable, responsible and taken more seriously by administration,” he said.

Forty-five out of 70 senate members vote during senate meetings, said Harrison.

“I think when you explain to students that out of 70 senate members only 45 show up and vote that it’s not going to be taken seriously by the administration or by other universities, they tend to always agree,” Harrison said.

Harrison, who is also the co-author of Bill 50, said the idea behind the bill is to make the senate more competitive, accountable and force candidates to campaign.

“There are senate members who won their seat by voting for themselves and won by one vote. These are the ones who don’t care and don’t show up to the meetings,” Harrison said.

Harrison further explained that the motivation for writing the bill is not only to target inactive senate members but also to save money and time.

The 50-seat cap on the senate will save $6,000 a year. Each senate seat cost $300 and Harrison said he insists that the money saved can be put toward funding student organizations.

Since 25 members resigned or were thrown out this semester, Harrison said they wasted time training people who were not active; therefore, he believes capping senate at 50 is more manageable.

“I’m getting flak from students who don’t think it’s going to change anything. But the flak is coming from senators who don’t have a plan to be reconstructive,” said Harrison.

If senators pass Bill 50 during the third reading next week, it will go to referendum and be voted on by students Dec. 1. The bill will be effective spring 2005, if passed by the students.

The SG Senate meeting will be at 8 p.m. in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom.