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Sunday, December 17, 2017

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Senate passes two bills, speaker announces resignation


The last SGA meeting of the fall semester ended abruptly when the senate did not meet quorum and could not proceed on any business.

Speaker of the Senate Fahad Rehan said either Wednesday night’s meeting or the next one will be his last as speaker. | Nabil Ahsan/The Cougar

The semester’s final Student Government Association meeting ended early Wednesday after several senators left early, leaving the chamber short of the number of senators required to meet quorum, and the speaker of the Senate announced his plan to resign.

The 32-member chamber needs a minimum of 16 senators to hold a meeting, but several members left during the night, putting an early end to the last meeting of the semester.

“People keep leaving without notifying me, and I told you guys, please notify me when you leave,” said Speaker of the Senate Fahad Rehan.

Former Elections Commissioner Kendrick Alridge, who authored a bill that senators could not vote on, said SGA’s next meeting in late January is likely going to be the busiest in several years, with a large swath of Wednesday’s agenda put on hold.

Speaker steps down

After the meeting adjourned, Rehan announced that either Wednesday evening’s meeting or the next one in late January would be his last as Speaker of the Senate. He said an opportunity arose for him that forces him to leave his position.

In a short speech, Rehan said SGA has been his life for the past two and a half years and thanked senators for the work they have done alongside him. He asked the senators to push their colleagues to “step up their standards” and stay at the meetings.

“I really appreciate everyone’s honesty for when they didn’t think I was doing a good job,” Rehan said. “Some of the stuff that people told me I need to improve on and compliments — I remember those things, and I really appreciate those things.”

Shifting senator requirments

Senators passed two bills and confirmed five committee appointments.

Integrated communication junior Davis Mendoza Darusman was confirmed and sworn in as an undergraduate-at-large senator.

A bill dubbed the Townhall Act, authored by Rehan, passed. It requires senators to host semersterly town hall meetings for their college’s students.

“I think it’s very, very important for us to get input from our own constituents on what we are working,” Rehan said. “This will help us understand our constituents better.”

Rehan said his office will fund senators wishing to serve food at their town hall meetings, which can be held anywhere a senator wishes. He said he could not guarantee future speakers would also fund food for the meetings. 

The Senate also passed the Reasonable Act, which will allow graduate and professional student senators to avoid the obligation to join a Senate committee. Graduate-at-Large Sen. Cameron Barrett, who authored the bill, said it is necessary to help graduate and professional students’ schedules hinder them from participating in SGA.

All bills within SGA must pass through one of four committees — Student Affairs, Internal Affairs, Academic Affairs and Administration and Finance — before being considered by the entire Senate. Each senator, until now, was required to be part of one committee and attend each of its meetings.

Barrett said he would consider providing accommodations to College of Technology senators too because many of that college’s courses are taught at the UH Sugar Land campus. 

“I’m probably not going to run next go-around, but I’m trying to think of what the person that follows me is going to need, what other graduate students are going to need,” said College of Law Sen. Andrew Freeman, one of four graduate senators who supported the bill. “And this is badly needed for the future.”

Others such as College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Sen. Andrew Trinh and Honors College Sen. Garrett Clark questioned any precedents the bill may create regarding commitment to SGA.

“Further down the line, that precedent will still stand, and other colleges will ask for the same exemptions,” Trinh said.

Election concerns

Alridge, who served as elections commissioner for the 2013-2014 academic year, said SGA’s lack of an attorney general, who appoints a chief elections commissioner for upcoming February elections, may create issues.

The SGA attorney general appoints the chief elections commissioner, who then appoints two associate elections commissioners. Together, the three commissioners organize and run the annual SGA elections. All of the positions need approval from the Senate.

Alridge said even if these positions are appointed over the next few meetings, there still won’t be a lot of time for elections commissioners to do their jobs with elections around the corner.

College of Education Sen. Ayodele Shofoluwe said this the situation is out of line and “very unprofessional and unfortunate.”

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