This semester, UF’s Senate continues a trend of passing fewer legislation compared to previous years.
Every Tuesday evening on the ground floor of the Reitz Union, the UF Student Government Senate meets to discuss and vote on legislation.
During meetings, some Senators play computer games like Octagon, do homework in Canvas or scroll through social media.
Seven bills have passed this semester and seven bills were passed last semester, compared to 19 last Spring.
The Senate once held lively debates and weighed issues like the impeachment of former Student Body President Michael Murphy and the interpretation of the Student Body constitution.
Of the seven bills passed this semester, two made changes to SG’s structure, two revised SG’s codes with clarifications and three were resolutions, also known as statements of support.
One of the bills, SSB 2022-1000, authored by former Pro-Tempore Noah Fineberg, removed the power of other SG members except for Senators and the Student Body President, Vice President or Treasurer to author or support legislation.
Another dissolved the Internal Affairs agency and transferred responsibilities to the Senate and Student Body President as well as increasing resources for the Student Body Treasurer’s office. SSB 2022-1006 was authored by Judiciary Committee Chair John Brinkman.
In the most recent Senate meeting Tuesday, Change and Gator Senators worked together to sponsor and pass a resolution condemning Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, though Senators debated specific clauses in the bill.
Change Senators hoped to see a clause included that recognized the University of Florida’s transgressions against the LGBTQ community, specifically through the Johns Committee, which sought, interrogated and removed students and faculties from campus. Gator Party Senators struck it down, and the clause was not included.
Another bill was a resolution supporting Black History Month and the third upheld Gainesville’s zero waste initiative. All three resolutions were authored by Change Senators.
While Senator Santiago has successfully authored legislation, some of the reason why bills and amendments aren’t being heard is because the Gator-Party-controlled judiciary committee blocks them before they reach the chamber, he said.
The Judiciary Committee is a subdivision of the Senate that hears legislation prior to Tuesday meetings. The committee decides if a bill is constitutional and if the Senate will vote on it. Currently, all committee members are part of Gator Party.
This semester, the Judiciary Committee blocked legislation like a resolution against false information pertaining to COVID-19.
At Sunday's committee meeting, a resolution supporting the restructuring of the RTS bus app, which students have complained about, was postponed indefinitely. The legislation was written by Change Senator Grace Shoemaker.
“The Judiciary Committee just kills legislation that have merits,” Santiago said. “So legislation that we want to pass never gets proper debate.”
Senator Brinkman didn’t respond to requests for comment about the Judiciary Committee's decision to veto legislation or how many bills have passed in time for publication.
Bills that are postponed indefinitely cannot be introduced again to the Senate until after the next election.
For other leaders in the chamber, like Majority Party Leader Emily Pecora, being involved with legislation is the reason why she wanted to become involved in the Senate.
“I hope to inspire senators to talk to their constituents and work with their fellow senators to solve problems on campus,” she wrote in an email. “My ultimate goal is to make UF a place where every student on campus feels like they belong.”
Senate President Elizabeth Hartzog and Pro-Tempore Olivia Green also made promises when elected to strengthen relationships between the parties and representation of students. Hartzog described plans for tabling, where students could interact with the Senators that represent them.
When asked specifically about the amount of legislation that has passed this semester, Pecora, Green and Hartzog did not respond in time for publication.
Students who would like to make public comment, which is a five-minute speaking period open to anyone in the student body during Senate meetings, can submit requests to the Senate President and Secretary until 24 hours before the meeting.
The next Senate meeting will be held in the Senate Chamber at 7:30 p.m. on April 5 and two bills are up for first reading.
Contact Maia at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @BotekMaia.
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.