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Accountability bill causes tension in SGA senate meeting

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A new bill to increase officer accountability had senators in disagreement concerning SGA officer safety during controversial votes. | File photo

In the second official senate meeting of the 59th Student Government Association administration, members debated a new bill that would ban secret ballots.

The new bill, the Officer Accountability Act, serves to make voting records of each senator accessible on SGA’s website, along with eliminating secret ballots. 

Before diving into a moderated caucus, senators questioned the bill author President Joshua Martin about his past experiences with secret ballots and his push for involving the University of Houston Police Department in regards to their safety.

Martin explained that this bill will prevent senators from hiding their votes when it matters most, and said in past situations this is how the secret ballot was used.

“When it comes to the secret ballot, it has been used in situations where students want to know how their senators are going to vote,” Martin said. “So when it comes to that, yes, I do believe it’s been used in situations where it shouldn’t have been used.”

Martin believes that the enactment of this new bill will encourage people to become more involved in SGA and promote transparency, with senators devolving into disagreement and claiming they believe it puts their safety at risk.

In response to those concerns, Martin said that their concerns for safety can be directed to UHPD when needed.

“Moving forward, we need to leave the feelings, personal feelings, at the door,” College of Technology senator Dylan Thompson said. “Whenever you come in here, you’re a representative of your school, not a representative of yourself.”

Other senators claimed that while they are representing their constituents, their safety should still be put as a priority.

“Josh says that getting threats is part of the job, but where did we as senators sign up for that,” said undergraduate at large senator Alex Westerbeck. “It’s literally a matter of our opinions versus our safety.”

The Officer Accountability Act was sent to committee, along with election code and bylaw revisions.

Three new senators were appointed, Susan Osawe was voted in as the new UGAL senator, Issac Benedict for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Christian Medrano for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

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