Tuesday night, the final Student Senate meeting of the summer began with the Impact Party losing three members and ended with a significant change to the Senate Rules and Procedures.
A controversial resolution amending the Rules and Procedures the Senate follows, written by Judiciary Chairman Will Sandifer, Rules and Ethics Chairwoman Abby Morris, Information and Communication Chairwoman Meryl Jones, Allocations Chairwoman Sam Girschick, Budget and Appropriations Chairman Cooper Brown and Majority Party Leader Branden Pearson (Impact, Jennings), passed the Senate last night with a vote of 49-16.
During public comment, Impact senators Mauricio Perez (Lakeside), Nandini Goel (Sophomore) and Wynton White (Health & Human performance) disaffiliated from the Impact Party in favor of being independent. The senators stated the general dysfunction in the chamber and the lack of bipartisanship were among the reasons they decided to go independent.
Goel said the constant arguing of the two parties was something she could no longer be a part of.
“Both parties lost sight of what their core mission is and that is a disservice to students. We are here to serve the student body,” Goel said.
Goel said she thinks being able to make decisions without a party bias will make her more accessible to her constituents and help her to serve them better in the long run.
Following public comment, the Senate was set to vote on 11 new resolutions and hear second readings on six bills introduced during last week’s meeting.
Before any of the bills could be presented, Pearson stood up and made a rapid series of motions to approve 16 out of 17 of the items on the agenda.
In the span of about 3.5 minutes, Pearson moved to have the 16 bills approved by unanimous consent, leaving the most controversial piece of legislation, a resolution amending the Rules and Procedures of the Senate, for last.
The changes contained in the 55-page list of amendments range from simple adding and subtracting of words to completely rewriting sections of the rules.
Notable changes include:
- Granting the Senate President the right to issue warnings to senators who exhibit disruptive conduct
- Senators who receive two warnings in one meeting will be considered absent. This makes the “constructive absence” procedure, which became a topic of much debate after two Inspire senators lost their Senate seats because of it, official.
- Defining a dilatory motion and gives the Senate President the ability to issue a warning to a Senator if they make a motion that falls under that definition
- Allowing special rules to be added to the agenda either from the Senate floor or by the Replacement and Agenda Committee
- Changing the signup procedure for public comment from a signup sheet at the beginning of each meeting to an online request form that must be sent to the Senate President and secretary in advance of the meeting with the subject the speaker wishes to speak on
- Restructuring the rules for public comment so each speaker is allotted five minutes and must direct their comments toward the Chair of the Senate; otherwise, they will be issued warnings and ultimately forced to yield their time
- Changing the rules of the minority report so it can only last a maximum of five minutes and can only be issued by one speaker
- Removing the right of Innovation Academy senators to appoint fall replacement senators if they won’t be enrolled in classes during the fall semester
- Changing the rules for submitting new legislation so that a piece of legislation bearing similarities to another previously failed or postponed piece of legislation will not be able to be considered until the next term
Pearson said this is the first major revision to the Senate Rules and Procedures since 2013.
He said the authors of the resolution worked to incorporate feedback from the minority party and constituents into the revision process, while also drawing inspiration from the way other government organizations operate.
“During the writing process, we worked to align our Senate Rules and Procedures with relevant local, state and federal practices to ensure our Senate operates more effectively and efficiently,” Pearson said.
Deputy Minority Party Leader Nikolas Bindi (Inspire, Liberal Arts and Sciences) and members of his caucus were against the new amendments. They believe the changes will strip away rights from minority party senators, independent senators and students.
“The resolution amending the Rules and Procedures is, in the best way of saying, an interesting piece of legislation,” Bindi said. “In the worst way, it is absolutely disgusting.”
Bindi and other minority party senators made motions to either prevent the resolution from being voted on or delay the vote.
These motions failed. The resolution will take effect immediately.