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Saturday, November 25, 2017

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SGA passes two bills about itself, confirms CLASS senator


SGA

College of Business Sen. Jonathon Daniels advocates for his Freedom in Voting Bill, which was sent back to committee Wednesday night. | Michael Slaten/The Cougar

The Student Government Association passed two bills and appointed a senator to an open College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences seat in a 5-hour meeting Wednesday night.

The first bill that passed was the SGA Transparency Act, which will require SGA officials to report all transactions of appropriated funds to the rest of the SGA within 30 days of the activity.

“Senators would be a liaison to the student body with all matters relating to records,” said College of Education Sen. Ayodele Shofoluwe. “If they had any questions about how the allocation of student money is being spent within SGA, then they would go to senators, and we would have the information to provide the answers.”

The Senate narrowly voted down an earlier version of the bill on Oct. 12.

On Wednesday, Honors College Sen. Garrett Clark argued against the updated bill. He said questioned whether breaking down every purchase line-by-line would be worth SGA members’ valuable time.

“If you actually work in the business world, people’s time is valuable, and you have to do a cost-benefit analysis when you’re using people’s time,” Clark said. “Is going through and justifying every Post-it note purchase beneficial to the cause?”

The bill was able to pass this time in part because of its language, which will allow SGA leaders to report their transactions in any manner they please, compared to the previous version of the bill, which specified the information would need to be available via a Google Doc on the SGA website, Shofoluwe said.

Compensation changes

The Stipend Policy Readjustment Act also passed, closing a loophole that allowed acting committee appointees to be paid, said Graduate at Large Sen. Cameron Barrett, who authored the bill.

He said former President Shane Smith paid an appointee with funds from the discretionary budget, even though the appointee ended up not being confirmed by the Senate.

“Obviously, if you are paying someone using discretionary funds, that’s money that’s not going towards student programs or outreach,” Barrett said. “Instead you are just putting money in someone’s pocket, which is not OK because they were voted down by the Senate.”

Smith would still not have been able to be punished under this bill because he paid the acting committee appointee on his last day in office, and no punishment would be able to be imposed on him that late in his term, said SGA President Winni Zhang.

“He’s not required to pay it back. There’s no repercussions,” Zhang said.

Barrett conceded that the bill would not be able to punish someone breaking the bylaws by paying an acting committee appointee.

“Eleven months out of the year, you prevent acting appointments from getting paid,” he said. “That’s a lot of stipend money you are saving for the students.”

With the new bill, acting committee appointees are eligible for probated wages until they are confirmed.

New senate appointment

Andrew Trinh was appointed to an open CLASS Senate seat. His main focuses will be working on the CLASS mentorship program and increasing awareness of graduate school opportunities through forums, he said.

“This allows students to understand what graduate school is, what it takes to go to graduate school and how they could succeed in graduate school,” Trinh said.

Trinh said the forums and seminars would promote graduate programs at UH and other universities.

Focus on SGA

The focus needs to shift from SGA matters to bills related to what students care about, Zhang said.

“There’s nothing that students want to hear about at these meetings. Largely, we are debating about bills of internal structure, for seven months into this administration,” Zhang said. “If this entire term is about why we operate, what have we done for the students? And why are we here?”

Previous SGA administrations, she said, passed many bills that mattered to students, and those type of bills haven’t been done to the extent she wishes this year.

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