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Saturday, December 02, 2023

UF Senate begins new legislative session, elects Senate leaders

Senate verified election results and chose Senate President and Pro-Tempore

Student Government’s Gator Party widened its supermajority last UF Senate meeting, grabbing one more seat in a tiebreaker and filling one of two open member-at-large positions. 

The March 1 meeting marked the beginning of the legislative session. The second member-at-large position will be voted on Tuesday.

UF Senate swore in its batch of 50 newly elected senators and chose a new Senate president and president pro-tempore at the meeting. It was in the process of electing the members-at-large when the meeting was cut short, as the Reitz Union building closes at 11 p.m.

The election results bring few changes to the chamber. Gator Party remained the supermajority while Change party remained the minority party. Gator Party’s candidates also won the election for Student Body president, vice president and treasurer, who will take office in April. 

Senators elected last Spring said their goodbyes, including the former Senate President Annabelle Groux and Senate President Pro-Tempore Noah Fineberg, both members of Gator Party. 

“Coming to work each day doesn't feel like a job and I am very sad to be leaving this post,” Fineberg wrote in an email. “I hope my successor will carry on the proud legacy of this office. The job of the President Pro-Tempore is often misunderstood, but it is extremely important.”

Newly elected Senators were sworn in, and Elizabeth Hartzog (Gator, Accounting) and Olivia Green (Gator, District A) were elected as the Senate president and Senate president pro-tempore, respectively. They ran unopposed.

Both served in the Budget and Appropriations Committee, with Hartzog as former chair and Green as former vice chair.

The nominations were supported unanimously by senators from both parties.

The Senate president serves as the Senate’s chief executive and administrative officer and is responsible for overseeing and leading meetings. The pro-tempore serves as the president’s right-hand and is the chair of the Replacement and Agenda Committee, which reviews the meetings agenda and replacement senators’ applications.

Throughout their speeches, Hartzog and Green set initiatives like establishing relationships with each Senator, making Senate inclusive and representative and re-organizing the website Docutraq, which is used for student funding. 

Senators also voted in two senators from a tiebreaker and a member-at-large position.

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Senators broke the tie for one Liberal Arts and Science seat. Mohammed Faisal (Change) and Justin Lanzuela (Gator) both received 877 votes during the elections last month. 

Lanzuela won the seat in a Senate vote of 58-18.

Both candidates gave a brief speech before answering five minutes of questions.

Lanzuela talked about initiatives for first-generation students and his high school leadership experience. 

“I like to work towards more programs that help first generation students who share the same problem of not knowing where to start, and really helping them all succeed as a Gator,” Lanzuela said during his speech. 

Faisal spoke about his previous time and achievements as a Senator, his bipartisanship and his goals if he were elected, like editing the 800 codes that define funding for student government organizations to be more easily understood. He is happy other Change Party Senators like Grace Shoemaker and Gabriela Montes won their seats but using Senate votes to determine tiebreakers can lead to majority parties retaining their power, he said.

“60 plus seats are seated to Gator party,” he said. “We see time and time again that Senate tries to do work sometimes, but it's blocked by this partisan mindset.”

For the member-at-large positions, Change Party’s Faith Corbett and Gator’s Christine Locascio ran for one open seat. Locascio won in a vote of 54-15, but because the two seats are separate positions, Corbett plans to run again to fill the second seat, she said. 

Members-at-large serve as nonpartisan representatives in the Replacement and Agenda Committee and help represent the overall goals of Senators. 

Senate President Hartzog announced the election of the second member-at-large position and remaining agenda items would be postponed until the next meeting. 

The next Senate meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Chamber on Tuesday. There will also be a mandatory orientation for new Senators March 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Maia Botek Contact her on Twitter @BotekMaia

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Maia Botek

Maia Botek is a third-year journalism major and Spanish minor covering student government this semester. Maia is from South Florida and enjoys the beach, spending time with her friends and learning about the environment in her free time.

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