Fall 2020 senators said goodbye to the chamber as Senate ratified election results and welcomed its new members.
A unanimous ratification of the results officialized the election of 37 Gator and 12 Change senators.
In the Spring semester, the minority party was so small that it did not meet the minimum member requirement of eight senators to gain representation in the Replacement and Agenda Committee. The committee is made up of the senate president, pro-tempore, party leaders and two members at large.
Senate elected its former Rules and Ethics Chair Annabelle Groux (Gator, District A) and former Judiciary Chair Noah Fineberg (Gator, District A) to serve as senate president and senate pro-tempore respectively.
As Senate president and pro-tempore, Groux and Fineberg will be two of the six members serving on the Replacement and Agenda Committee. The committee is responsible for setting the agenda for Senate meetings, adding special rules and interviewing candidates to fill vacant Senate seats.
Now, with 12 newly elected Change senators, the minority party regained representation in the committee. There are roughly 60 gator senators and 12 Change senators filling about 72 out of 100 seats.
One of Groux’s initiatives as the senate president includes reforming constituencies, or the requirement for senators to communicate with the students they represent. Groux wants to change the current process senators use out to fulfill their constituency requirement because the current process has some inefficiencies.
The form senators must complete to prove they met their constituency requirement often doesn’t work, Groux said. There are also several rules that senators must follow in order to properly fill out this form, such as submitting it within seven days, that are not clearly labeled.
Groux wants to build a form that works and make the rules to fulfill their constituency requirements clearly labeled at the top of the form.
She also wants to utilize liaisons more between senators and groups on campus such as UPD, Recreational Sports and the cabinet executive branch. Some of these positions have been empty for months, Groux said. Another change she advocated for is to start a senate newsletter to keep senators updated on what happens in each meeting.
Interviews take place after candidates submit an application to fill a vacant seat. The committee then discusses the strongest candidates and makes a recommendation to other senators, who will vote in a meeting to ratify the filling of the seat, according to the Rules and Procedures of the Student Senate.
The committee is now responsible for recommending who fills the vacant Family Housing seat, which was left vacant after no candidates ran for the position and two voters wrote in “Gator Party” in last week’s election.
The committee also consists of two Members at Large and the leader of each political party. Senate elected Madi Koukos (Gator, Agriculture and Life Sciences) and Joseph Kwan (Gator, Liberal Arts and Sciences) to serve as the two Members at Large in the committee.
At the end of their terms, five senators gave goodbye speeches to their colleagues along with advice to the incoming senators. These included former Majority Party Leader Jason Sheuer, former Senate President Franco Luis, former Pro-Tempore Blake Robinson, former Senator Zachery Utt and former Senator Jeff Fondeur.
Utt left his office asking whether he had left a better democracy in the Senate than he inherited. For him, the answer is no.
He spoke about the dramatic decrease in public comment. Following a period of Zoom Senate meetings and a legislation requiring individuals to give a 24 hour notice before speaking, Utt is the only person who has given a public comment all semester.
He then introduced a new website he’s launching, Student Government Public Resistance Bot, which would automatically sign up those interested in public comment for every Senate meeting.
“What I can do is offer tools to future student body leaders to get their voices heard,” he said.
Former Pro-Tempore Blake Robinson gave a heartfelt speech about his time in Senate. He opened up about his struggles with suicidal ideation, ill family members and being the first member of his family to attend college. He stated that after a suicide attempt, he made the choice to turn around his life, get involved and make a dent in the universe.
“This is the ending of the chapter that I can be proud of,” he said. “I have never felt happier than I do now.”
At the end of Robinson’s speech, Utt filed a resolution that the student senate podium be renamed the “Blake Robinson Public Comment Podium” to honor the former pro-tempore. That resolution passed unanimously.
“Y'all have shaped me in ways I cannot imagine. This senate has shown me what it means to make a difference and most importantly, what it means to be a Gator,” Robinson said “I am forever indebted to this place. And I know it's in good hands.”
Contact Allessandra at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ainzinna.
Allessandra is a third-year journalism major with a minor in English. In the past, she has covered local musicians and the cannabis industry. She is now the Student Government reporter for The Alligator. Allessandra paints and plays guitar in her free time.