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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A heated public comment and contentious debate concerning a procedural budgetary bill commanded Tuesday’s Student Government Senate meeting.

On the docket: a resolution to make discriminatory acts an official violation of the Orange Book Conduct Codes, an amendment to remove gendered language from the UF Student Body Constitution and a revision to the 300 Codes, which outline the rules of the legislative branch, to turn Town Hall events into moderated forums, all passed without debate. 

During public comment, Sen. Jonathan Stephens (Change-District D) expressed his dismay at the Budget and Appropriation’s decision to kill five bills he authored Monday, including an act that would increase the base funding student organizations receive each fiscal semester.  

“I have never felt so disrespected of my time, energy and perspectives in this chamber,” Stephens said. 

Stephens' motion to rescind the Budget and Appropriations Criteria of Review Act he wrote sparked the most controversy. The bill, which would establish an official structure for future  Budget and Appropriations Committee meetings, first failed in Fall 2022. 

After its second iteration failed again two weeks ago, Stephens’ motion would send it back to the Judiciary Committee.

During a pro and con debate initiated by Green, Harkins argued that according to the rules and procedures of the UF Senate, the bill cannot be heard again until after the Spring election cycle, he said, when a new term begins.

After a brief recess, Stephens moved to rescind the legislation with a two-thirds vote. The motion wasn’t passed, with the majority voting in opposition. Stephens then moved to rescind the original legislation that failed in Fall 2022. With objection, the motion once again failed.

Following the meeting, Stephens said behind-the-scenes conversations suggested Judiciary Committee Chair Sean Harkins and Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Emily Pecora were interested in the budgetary bill.

He remains unsure why the bill didn’t pass as he didn’t receive content-related reasoning for the bill's failure, he said. Stephens was noticeably frustrated with the meeting’s outcome.

“I don’t know how else to justify it besides they [Gator Caucus] don’t want to work with us [Change Caucus],” he said. “Has it hurt my feelings? Yes. But again, I can only move forward and try to do what I can.”

After the meeting adjourned, Green said while she always encourages healthy debates on the Senate floor, she is confident the Judiciary Committee carried out its duties properly. 

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“The Judiciary Committee’s entire job is to review legislation based of the five criteria,” she said. “I believe Chairman Harkins did that and I believe his committee did that as well.”

Sen. Connor Panish (Change-Yulee), who serves on the Budget and Appropriations committee, presented a minority report where he expressed his disappointment in the Budget and Appropriation committee’s decision to fail Stephens’ five bills

“Many of the important decisions made in student government happen in committees whose overall transparency and justification for their decisions is questionable at best,” he said. “Often the incredible work of people like Senator Stephens is not valued nor officially recognized by this chamber.”

Panish was concerned that Stephens’ bill was blocked because it would have increased the base funding for student organizations,he said, considering the Student Organization Funding Review Ad Hoc Committee has yet to make significant progress to amend the student organization funding model.

Senators also approved the nomination of Aysia Lewis for assistant supervisor of elections and Samantha Kinggard for the District D open seat, and Andrei Berekhovski for the Lakeside open seat.  

For student body officer reports, Director of External Affairs Noah Fineberg discussed his excitement regarding the recent efforts of his agency, including a $500 Pell grant expansion, the highest increase since 2009, and the establishment of a textbook affordability program. 

Toward the end of the meeting, Green announced that the Feb. 14 and 28 Senate meetings will be canceled. Green said the Feb. 14 meeting will be canceled to pay respect to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and the Feb. 28 meeting will be canceled due to that day being the first day of elections.

The meeting adjourned at 8:59 p.m.

Senate meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Senate Chambers, located in the Reitz Union. The meetings are open to the general public. 

Contact Amanda at afriedman@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandasfriedman.

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Amanda Friedman

Amanda Friedman is a senior journalism major and the Enterprise Editor at The Alligator. She previously wrote for the Avenue, Metro and University desks. When she isn't reporting, she loves watching coming-of-age films and listening to Ariana Grande. 


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