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Saturday, August 18, 2018

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Semester’s worth of bills vetoed, some senators disgruntled


UH SGA chamber January 24 2018. Five bills were vetoed that night.

Senators at the January 24 senate meeting. Five bills were vetoed that night. | Thomas Dwyer/ The Cougar

Only three major pieces of legislation have been passed and signed this year within the Student Government Association: three bills that supported awareness and University action for DACA students, mental health and climate change.

Five bills the Senate passed in the fall semester were all vetoed in January by SGA President Winni Zhang. Senators expressed dissatisfaction with the vetoes that were debated and passed in many multi-hour meetings. Four of the five bills were passed by large majorities in the Senate.

“I think they’re ridiculous, because all of them except for one was supported by the majority of the Senate,” Undergraduate at Large Sen. Valentin Perez said. “All it’s going to do is come back, and we are going to approve it again.”

The five bills vetoed were the SGA Financial Transparency Act, the Stipend Policy Readjustment Act, Social Media Professionality Act, the Townhall Act and the Reasonable Accommodations Act.

Five vetoes

Reasons for the vetoes vary widely. Zhang said at the Jan. 24 Senate meeting that students were not asking for the Financial Transparency Act. She said the Stipend Policy Readjustment Act did not stop acting appointments from being paid and called the Social Media Professionality Act, which called for a LinkedIn SGA page, a useless bill.

Zhang said she would support the Townhall Act if it was rewritten to not call winter and summer sessions “semesters.” She said the Reasonable Accommodations Act, which would allow graduate senators more leeway with missing SGA Senate meetings, would leave graduate students unlikely to get involved in SGA.

The Financial Transparency Act, the Stipend Policy Readjustment Act and Social Media Professionality Act were all delivered late, entailing an automatic veto, Zhang said. However, she added she would have vetoed the bills regardless.

“The Financial Transparency Act was vetoed that it would be an ‘information overload’ for the general public,” College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Sen. Valerie Campos said. “Some senators and I are going through when that was vetoed, going through more bylaw jargon.”

At multiple Senate meetings, Zhang reminded senators that bills need the proper font, called Crimson, or else they would likely not be signed by her to maintain the professional image of SGA. Crimson is the official font used for university documents, she said.

According to the SGA legislation docket webpage, past administrations have averaged one veto a year. With elections coming before spring break and a new administration beginning in April, little time is left to introduce, debate, pass and sign new bills.

“Nothing really gets done, or the things that seem like accomplishments really don’t meet the actual need of the University,” said College of Education Sen. Ayodele Shofoluwe, who wrote the Financial Transparency Act, which would have required SGA to post its budget online.

No overriding process

Perez said there should be bylaws in place that would override a veto if a bill was passed by a large Senate majority, similar to the U.S. Congress’ ability to override a presidential veto with 2/3 majority vote in both congressional chambers.

“You know, the president has the power to veto bills, but at the same time, if it’s a majority of the Senate saying that they want this, why would there be need for a veto?” Shofoluwe said.

Perez said the SGA bylaws aren’t well written, allowing lots of ambiguity in interpretation.

The next SGA meeting is Wednesday, with the focus expected to be appointing associate elections commissioners to help run upcoming elections. Unless a new bill is passed and signed this week, it will be months since legislation has gone through all necessary steps for approval.

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