Representatives defeated a bill with a vote of 18-22-6 to bar members of the Undergraduate Executive Branch from serving in the Undergraduate House of Representatives during their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Authored by ME Rep. Matt Vickers, the bill has been in the works since Sept. of this year.
The bill would have amended the Undergraduate Bylaws to bar those defined as “officers” from serving in the House, starting with the final meeting of the academic year in April 2011. According to Vickers and Rost, this would include the Vice Presidents of Finance, Campus Organizations and Campus Affairs, the Institute Wide Committees Chair and Special Assistants to the President created by executive order.
The debate lasted for an hour and a half and was the last item of business on a meeting which stretched to four and a half hours. Vickers and Rost sought to postpone the bill one week, due to the perceived fatigue of representatives, but their motion did not pass. They then asked representatives to put away any computers and cell phones and began presenting a comprehensive explanation of the bill.
Discussion centered on the operative definition of “officer” and the necessity of the amendment. Vickers and Rost said that “officer” was a term used consistently throughout the constitution and bylaws and referred only to those students serving in the executive cabinet. Executive Vice President Brenda Morales expressed concern several times throughout the night over the ambiguity of the term and took issue with Rost and Vickers’ explanation. Sophomore Rep. and Internal Development Chair Mike Mosgrove, in his capacity as advisor for policy changes for the executive and legislative branches, eventually made a recommendation against passage of the bill based on his belief that the bill was poorly written.
Several representatives spoke against the reasons offered for the bill and the way in which it was presented. ChBE Rep. Zach Dicke said that this bill would reduce the number of qualified candidates for the House, especially for positions that typically only just receive enough candidates to fill the seats. Junior Rep. Alex Walker said that she did not agree with any assertion that members of the executive branch influenced her votes on bills.
Vickers and Rost countered assertions that this was a strike against the current executive branch by saying that this bill was to prevent against future executive cabinets from abusing power. According to them, their main goal throughout the process was to decrease the executive branch’s influence in the House.
MATH Rep. David Lowry concluded debate by pointing out there are many factions within the House split along Greek, major and gender lines. He said that eliminating executive officers from the organization would have little effect. ECON Rep. Julianne Camacho then successfully moved to close debate.
The bill did not receive the support of even a majority of representatives, failing to approach the 2/3 majority needed to pass. All of the executive officers currently serving in the House voted for the amendment.
Rost and Vickers pledged to make another effort at passage of the amendment later in year when the timing is more conducive to passage of such a controversial bill. “We greatly believe in the advantages and importance of this amendment. The support behind the bill from the student body and other representatives leads us to believe this is a question of when, rather than if the amendment will pass,” they said in an e-mail.
PR communications budget
UHR voted 25-22-3 on Tuesday to fund a $2000 budget for SGA’s Public Relations Committee, chaired by Sophomore Rep. Hunter Hammond. Debate was contentious and lasted for 45 minutes. Many representatives expressed concern over the fact that the committee was free to spend the $2000 as it wished without any oversight or direction from UHR.
After the meeting, Hammond said, “I fully intend to keep that information public….In the end, our goal is to make sure that we can effectively reach out to and communicate with students, and we hope that this budget is a step in the right direction for that.”