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Saturday, November 26, 2022

SG Senate Judiciary committee blocks transparency bills, censure hearings rescheduled

The Judiciary committee indefinitely postponed two bills Sunday ahead of a censure hearing for Chairman John Brinkman for abuse of power

Student Government SG Generic
Student Government SG Generic

The UF Student Government Senate Judiciary Committee indefinitely postponed a bill Sunday — which would have compelled the committee to give official reasons why it postpones and fails future bills — three days after SG had to cancel abuse of power and bad conduct censure hearings due to a lack of public notice.

The proposed bill did not make sense based on its terminology, committee members said, and it would restrict the committee’s power to table or postpone bills if there is a reason beyond the five criteria — constitution, implication, legality, format and clarity — to do so.

Though committee members said indefinitely postponing a bill is not failing it, no bills indefinitely postponed this semester have been discussed again and therefore have all failed. The committee blocked half of the 35 proposed bills brought before them this Summer from reaching the Senate floor.

The committee, made entirely of Gator Party senators, blocked another bill Sunday that would have expanded the parameters of public comment to allow written submissions to be read aloud by the Senate Secretary. Minority Party Leader Faith Corbett (Change - District D), the author of both bills, said the second bill would extend accessibility toward UFOnline, PaCE and other students who may not be able to attend meetings in person. 

The committee worried the policy might open public comment to abuse. It maintained  constituents must make email requests to the Senate President and Secretary by 5 p.m. the day of the meeting and be physically present at the meeting to give public comment.

Senator Jonathan C. Stephens (Change - Replacement District D), who authored 16 bills blocked by the committee this Summer, said he asked the committee for input on his most recent legislation prior to official submission to avoid it being blocked. No one responded, he said, and the committee again postponed his bills indefinitely at its next meeting.

One of Stephens’ bills would have required the Senate Information & Communications committee to post legislation passed by the Senate on SG’s social media accounts. It was postponed indefinitely, and later failed, because it would clutter people’s feeds, according to the committee. Passed legislation is available on SG’s website.

Dual censure hearings into the Judiciary Chairman John Brinkman (Gator - CLAS) for abuse of power and Stephens for bad conduct were also canceled Thursday evening due to a lack of public notice.

Failure to provide public notice was an oversight, Jackie Phillips, SG adviser under the UF Division of Student Life, wrote in an email to Senator Oscar Santiago Perez (Change - District D), the petitioner against Brinkman and Rules & Ethics Chairwoman Tanner Thompson. The meeting must be rescheduled with proper notice. 

SG must give at least 24 hours public notice for its meetings, in accordance with Florida Sunshine laws and its own constitution. Historically, this requirement is satisfied with a sign on the SG bulletin board on Reitz Union’s ground floor outside of POD Market, although there are still concerns about this manner of public notice

Some meetings are announced over the Senate ListServ, a private by-request email list meant for senators and other interested parties. Only Replacement & Agenda and Judiciary meetings are typically announced over the ListServ. 

The Rules & Ethics Committee will set a new hearing date at a yet unannounced meeting later this week.

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The next Senate meeting will be held in the Reitz Union Senate Chambers Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Contact Sandra McDonald at smcdonald@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @sn_mcdonald.

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Sandra McDonald

Sandra McDonald is a third-year journalism major and the Student Government reporter for the University Desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator. When she's not reporting, she's probably reading fantasy novels and listening to Taylor Swift.


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