The new UF Student Government Judiciary Committee Chair has written one piece of legislation during his nearly two semesters in SG.
Sen. Franco Luis (Gator, District B) was elected for Judiciary Committee Chair Senate Tuesday night, making him the senior leader of the Senate committee that decides what legislation senators vote on. He has written one resolution, a declaration of opinion from the chamber, since becoming a senator in Spring.
SG controls a $22 million budget, and legislation sent to the Judiciary Committee includes non-budget related resolutions and SG code revisions. The committee previously reviewed resolutions asking UF to research its ties with slavery and supporting rescinding the admission of former incoming freshman Liberty Woodley because of her racist comments.
When asked what experience he had with legislation and whether he wanted to comment on only writing one piece during his time in the Senate, Luis wrote in an email to The Alligator that his experience as a member of the Judiciary Committee since mid April provided him with valuable experience. He reviewed countless pieces of legislation during his time as committee member, he wrote.
Luis was already a member of the Allocations Committee, a group of senators that distributes money to student organizations for events, when he was nominated for Judiciary Committee Chair. According to SG’s rules and procedures, “The chair of a standing committee is not permitted to be a member of any other standing Senate committee.”
Luis resigned from his Allocations seat before being elected Tuesday, he wrote in an email to The Alligator. Allocations Committee Chair Chase Reineke confirmed that Luis resigned Monday afternoon, according to an email to The Alligator.
He was elected to the position after former Judiciary Chair Seth Longland resigned to “focus on myself and my mental health,” according to an email he sent to The Alligator. The position was announced open July 14.
During Senate public comment Tuesday, several Inspire Party senators said they oppose Luis’ nomination. The senators said he is not qualified compared to other candidates. Luis was elected in a vote of 60 to 24, where the vote was mainly along party lines.
The Replacement and Agenda Committee nominated Luis for the position Sunday in a vote of 3 to 1. Replacement and Agenda Committee Chair and Senate Pro tempore Cooper Brown did not respond to The Alligator’s texts, emails and phone calls asking for comment on why Luis was the most qualified candidate and why Luis was nominated for the position despite already serving on the Allocations Committee.
During the Replacement and Agenda meeting, Senate President Kyle Garner said Luis’ experience in the Judiciary Committee while holding a seat puts him in a strong position for the role as Chair. When Minority Party Leader Shawn Zimmer said Luis should be ineligible for the position according to SG codes, Garner said he doesn’t think “we should ignore Franco and his application because he already serves on two committees.”
Sen. Lindsay Kaighin (Gator, District A) said during the meeting that she nominated Luis for the position because of his experience in Judiciary and his experience as a student journalist in high school would be beneficial for fixing grammatical errors on legislation.
Other members of the Replacement and Agenda Committee, including Garner, Kaighin and Sen. Simon Jee (Gator, District C) also did not respond to emails from The Alligator.
Zimmer, a member of the Replacement and Agenda Committee, was the only committee person to vote “no” to appointing Luis as the Judiciary chair in the meeting Sunday.
He did not approve Luis because Luis was not the most qualified candidate, he wrote in an email to The Alligator. Luis had only written one piece of legislation, while the other two applicants, Sen. Sahil Patel (Inspire, Hume) and Sen. Zachariah Chou (Inspire, Murphree) have written multiple pieces of legislation and are more qualified, he wrote.
Committees should be representative of Senate, Zimmer wrote. Placing a member of the minority party on an important committee like Judiciary would help prevent future controversy, he wrote.