The first Senate session of the spring semester commenced on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 9:15 p.m. in Harvey Hall, marking Josiah McGee’s first session as SGA vice president, confirming the election of several new positions and promising to enforce old and new policies.
The session began as SGA Attorney General James Matthew Wyatt swore in the newly elected class officers and executive officers for the spring semester. The Senate body then confirmed Brandon Harper as chaplain and Justice Walker as sergeant at arms. Korey Adams and Baker Evans were also recognized as commuter senators.
The Senate body also nominated several candidates for the positions of clerk and president pro tempore. The Senate clerk’s primary responsibilities are to introduce legislation and assist the secretary in taking roll. The president pro tempore’s responsibility is to preside in McGee’s absence. McGee reminded students that the president pro tempore is required to be a current senator, while the clerk is not required to be a senator. Taylor Bush was elected as clerk with 45 votes, and Kyle Souleyrette was elected as president pro tempore with 63 votes.
McGee then explained the rules and process of Senate, explaining that he decided to do this after meeting with the student life team, which includes Bryan Carrier, vice president of student life and dean of students, and Dr. Dub Oliver, to discuss how the student Senate works and what the team wanted Senate members to know before the semester starts.
“We really don’t spend enough time discussing how we do what we do and why we’re doing what we’re doing,” McGee said.
McGee said that Carrier and Oliver wanted students to know that Senate is an integral part of Union’s student government because “the vast majority of the work that is done by our student government is done in the student Senate.”
Before he began, McGee explained to students that, while none of the rules that he was about to explain are new and all can be found in the SGA constitution, a few changes are being made to how Senate policies are enforced.
“We’ve done a fairly poor job of enforcing these rules in the past, and we intend to start enforcing them this semester,” McGee said.
McGee began by explaining the attendance policy. The SGA constitution states that every organization must send two senators to each session. If two senators neglect to attend each session, an organization can temporarily be suspended until a solution is found.
These two senators are required to represent their organization for the duration of the semester and are allowed two excused absences per semester. A senator needing an excused absence must find a substitute and inform McGee at least 48 hours before the session.
Failure to find a substitute or having an unexcused absence may result in the senator’s expulsion from the Senate for the rest of the semester. An appeal process is available.
McGee then explained the parliamentary procedures and the process of getting legislature presented and confirmed.
“We wanted to make sure that every single senator understands those options and feels comfortable actually using those options,” McGee said.
Those presenting the legislation begin by giving opening remarks, and then they move to adopt. During the debate, anyone can debate the legislation or ask a question after asking if the sponsor yields to a question.
At the end of the debate, the legislation moves to previous question. An objection is no longer required to end a debate; instead, a vote must now be taken to end debate before voting on the legislation.
“This hopefully will provide everyone the opportunity to actually say what they want to rather than the question being moved before the rest of the Senate is ready to end debate,” McGee said.
Senators can ask for a vote of acclamation after legislation is passed if the legislation is felt to have the full support of every senator. Senators can also pass an amendment that adds to or takes away from the legislation without changing the legislation’s intent or title. Senators can also table a motion if it is felt that there is not enough information to vote on the legislation.
McGee then explained what legislation looks like. A resolution is a “statement of intent” or a statement asking administration to do something. A bill is a document requesting Senate to provide a specific amount of funds.
“We felt that it was important to cover this because there’s been a significant lack of legislation over the past few semesters,” McGee said. “We want to make sure that you all are comfortable writing legislation so that, if you have ideas, you’re confident to present and write that legislation.”
McGee urged students to do their homework before writing a resolution or bill. Students should ask themselves how much a resolution is going to cost, who the resolution benefits and how the administration will accomplish the resolution. When writing bills, students should ask if they’ve done fundraisers in the past, how they intend to use the money, if they’ve asked for money in the past, when the last time they asked for money was and how the money was used last time.
Resolutions and bills that benefit more than one student organization have a greater chance of being passed. If passed, legislation goes to the student ambassador, who then takes it to Dean Carrier.
As an incentive to encourage more people to write legislation, SGA will be offering a monetary reward at the end of the semester to the best resolution written by an organization other than class council. Clarity, quality of legislation, number of affected students and administration response will be taken into account.
SGA Treasurer Madeline Fleming reported $2,200 in the Senate budget and reminded students that each organization is allowed to receive $200.
McGee introduced a new tool on the Student Portal called the SGA Portal. On this portal, students can view all past legislation and minutes from past Senate meetings from 2013 to the present. Students can also view an SGA calendar and see when different organizations are having upcoming events.
Several announcements wrapped up the session. ResLife’s annual events Stand Up for Your Sister and My Brother’s Keeper will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. The Blank Slate Improv team will have their first show on Feb. 16.
Senators had mixed reactions about the new policies being enforced, but Caleb Morgan, sophomore communications major and an SGA officer, supports the new rules.
“I think it might come across as too strict, but in reality, these changes are going to make Senate run smoother,” Morgan said. “I think Josiah will do a great job, and I look forward to seeing the enforcement of the rules take effect.”
Legislation and organizational announcements can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.