The Student Government Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a student code that allows students to pass legislation through initiatives is unconstitutional.
In a hearing Thursday night, 19-year-old UF political science sophomore Zachary Amrose appeared before the five-person court to discuss an initiative he hoped would have been on the ballot in the next election cycle, which is scheduled for Feb. 20 and 21. Amrose intended to reduce the required amount of signatures required in petitions requesting to place an initiative on the ballot from 1,200 to 500.
Signatures from two percent of the student body population are needed to put an initiative that would amend student code. A 10 percent is needed for constitutional amendments.
“It would’ve allowed students to be involved with their own Student Government in an easier way,” he said.
Justice Chris Boyett disagreed.
After hearing Amrose’s remarks, Boyett said Amrose was attempting to change student law by bypassing the student senate.
Boyett said students hold the fundamental right to seek policy changes. However, they must do it through amendments to the constitution only, and not through petitioned initiatives.
“It seems like this act is basically trying to hijack the legislative authority of the senate,” Boyett said.
The other justices said students may petition for initiatives to be on ballots in elections, but petitions can’t themselves call for changes to law. Justices have yet to release the written opinion of the court.
“There’s just a lot of ambiguity as to what the word ‘initiative’ means in the constitution,” Justice Carter Wallace said.
Amrose said he thinks students have a fundamental right, listed in the constitution, to seek law changes through initiatives.
Amrose cited policy codes within the Student Government Initiative and Referendum Act about how students may generate initiatives, which appear as yes or no questions on ballots during elections. The initiative can then become law after receiving a majority of the student vote.
He said this decision could impact other student-led initiatives, such as online voting.
“This is an outrage, it is a power grab,” he said. “This should be protested, and this is not the end.”