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Sunday, May 31, 2020

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SGA finishes fall semester with new appointment, no bills passed


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Political science sophomore Sarah Rehman was approved to join the SGA Senate as a College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences senator. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

In the final fall meeting of the Student Government Association Senate, a lengthy discussion resulted in a new College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences senator and two existing senate members being sworn in just outside the Senate Chamber in an impromptu session.

The Senate heard three new bills and gave updates on many campus initiatives.

“Being present, especially in local and student government, is something that’s so vital because just being present with your constituents and with students is how things happen,” said political science sophomore Sara Rehman, whom the Senate appointed as a College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences senator.

Rehman, who said she volunteers with nonprofits at UH and throughout the city, spoke of a history of activism and how that experience will help her succeed in advocating for her constituents.

Showcasing different accomplishments and projects within the college, Rehman said, is something she would focus on as senator. During her address to the Senate, Rehman said she would create a weekly spotlight in which students can come together and encourage an open dialogue throughout the college.

Christopher Caldwell, a political science junior who currently resides on multiple University committees, was added to consideration for the seat after an impromptu nomination from Sen. Christopher Sanderson.

The Senate debated whether it was appropriate for Caldwell to have heard his opponent’s speech before the Senate. Traditionally, opposing appointments step outside the Senate Chamber during others’ speeches.

In the end, Caldwell’s nomination was heard. He then proceeded with his address to the Senate.

“My goal is to go out and hear what they want,” Caldwell said. “So that’s the first thing I want to do as a CLASS senator.”

Caldwell said that one of his priorities as senator would be mending the poor availability of CLASS advisers to the college’s students.

“I’ll start working next week. I’ll start working tomorrow,” Caldwell said. “I just have to have the chance to do it.”

The line of questioning and discussion that followed ultimately led Omar Jamal, Speaker of the Senate, to step in twice to maintain order and remind senators of their responsibilities in deciding between the two candidates.

After nearly 20 minutes of discussion, prolonging the meeting by nearly an hour, Rehman was approved to the CLASS seat with a two-thirds majority vote.

One senator wondered whether Rehman would be able to vote on bills on the meeting’s agenda. The Senate concluded that Rehman could not vote before being sworn in.

Recently appointed Sen. Ashley Jain brought to the Senate’s attention that she and fellow College of Technology Sen. Harold Garcia had also not been sworn in.

Rehman, Jain and Garcia were promptly sworn in in the hallway.

Throughout the meeting, SGA committee chairs and members gave updates on their current initiatives.

Andrew Bahlmann, a student representative on the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee, briefed the Senate on impending efforts to rebuy parking permits from graduating seniors.

Bahlmann said that most students aren’t aware how, when they turn in a parking pass, they can get a partial refund from Parking and Transportation Services.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that when they turn their pass in, they actually get it prorated back to them,” Bahlmann said. “So there is a benefit to turning those passes in when they graduate.”

Three bills were read before the Senate before being tabled for further revision.

If approved, the bills would set a time limit for appointments to committees dealing with student financials, including the Student Fees Advisory Committee, and change the duties of the Speaker of the Senate.

Another bill, a constitutional amendment that the student body would need to vote on, would modify the amount of time allotted for a presidential veto on Senate bills.

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