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SGA passes first bill of current academic term

The SGA Senate heard 24 pieces of legislature during Wednesday night’s meeting, all pertaining to the organization itself. | File Photo/The Cougar

In its second meeting of the semester, the Student Government Association Senate passed its first bill since the beginning of the 2016-17 academic term. The Senate, however, has yet to pass a bill not primarily affecting the organization itself.

Twenty-four pieces of legislation were included on the agenda for Wednesday night’s meeting, including adjustments to the election code and a required anti-hazing and non-discrimination amendment to the SGA Constitution.

“As soon as you log into student organizations it says, at the bottom, ‘This has to be in your constitution verbatim,'” said College of Technology Sen. Christopher Sanderson. “And it’s not in ours.”

The Anti-Hazing and Non-Discrimination Clause is a requirement to the constitutions of all registered student organizations. The clause specifies that the SGA will not condone or participate in hazing activities, nor will they deviate from the University of Houston’s policy to provide equal treatment to all persons.

“It has to change,” said Andrew Bahlmann, who formerly served as chief of staff for the current administration. “It’s not a negotiation.”

The reason SGA has been allowed to proceed without the clause, Bahlmann said, is because SGA’s constitution states that constitutional amendments must be addressed at the end of an administration.

SGA voted to approve both this amendment and another that allows SGA to join the Texas Student Government Coalition, in which student governments at various universities to advocate to the Texas Legislature on behalf of their schools.

The Coalition’s current agenda includes pushing for the expansion of the Good Samaritan Policy, tax-free textbooks and sexual assault reform. SGA Director of External Affairs Delaney Catlettstout said that if the sexual assault reform is successful, it will prevent registered sex offenders from living in on-campus housing, among other regulations.

The Senate voted to table a constitutional amendment concerning the appointment of justices in order to revise it further. The bill would give the Senate power to appoint three associate justices if there are none. Additionally, the Senate would have the ability to vote in the senior-most justice as the chief justice, in the absence of one.

“This is our biggest issue as an organization – not having justices,” said Sen. Paul O’Brien. “As long as there are not seven justices there, we can do whatever we want.”

SGA has only operated with a full court of seven justices for a few weeks during the entire administration, O’Brien said. He then questioned why the Senate has allowed the president to continue without having enough justices to make the judicial branch functional.

The bill was tabled after multiple senators raised concerns over giving a power, which currently belongs to the president, to the legislature. However, the Senate did vote to confirm two associate justices later in the meeting.

In preparation for the upcoming election, the Senate heard 20 bills to amend the election code. Most notable was an approved amendment preventing the direct solicitation of votes within on-campus housing.

“These are student’s homes; this is where they spend their time studying. They don’t want to be bothered by candidates,” said SGA Election Chief Election Commissioner Austin Turman. “They don’t care, and more than likely, they won’t vote for you.”

The Senate voted to table a bill concerning the power of the vice president to make appointments to University committees. Though this is how SGA currently operates, the bill clarifies that the power is not currently laid out in the organization’s bylaws.

Though they will only be in office for the remainder of the 53rd Administration, which concludes at the end of April, both the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the C.T. Bauer College of Business received new senators.

Camille Corales, a marketing junior, was approved to the Bauer seat after speaking on the need for better accommodations for visitors to the college, and an increase in the tutoring hours currently offered to Bauer students, especially at peak times.

The Senate also approved Chelsea Cheung, a mathematical biology junior, to the remaining NSM Senate seat. Cheung spoke on the importance of teamwork in the educational setting, because it prepares students for professional collaboration, and suggested modeling the Bauer College’s approach to group projects where possible in NSM.

Nine students were confirmed to various University committees during the meeting. Appointments were made to the Health Center Policy Board, the Scholarship and Financial Aid Advisory Committee, the Hearing Board and the IT Advisory Board, and others.

College of Technology Sen. Harold Garcia was approved to join the IT Advisory Board. He said he would like to introduce an app to allow students to check their Wi-Fi connections, in addition to bringing the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid back into the department’s live-chat feature.

“They should be included every semester,” Garcia said. “It would remove congestion from students having to ask small questions and get even simpler answers.”

Economics senior Edrick Rougeau, appointed to the Bookstore Advisory Committee, the Hearing Board and the Traffic Court, similarly spoke on easing the strain on students.

During his appointment to the Hearing Board, Rougeau said his motivation came from an incident which occurred before he transferred to UH. Rougeau said he was brought before a hearing board concerning alcohol paraphernalia.

“I thought that was really odd, because they could have just opened it and they could have smelled that it was Pine Sol,” Rougeau said. “They were going to ruin my life forever and not allow me to go forward. I don’t think that’s fair.”

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