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SGA passes Officer Accountability Act despite concerns

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

During Wednesday’s SGA meeting, the last before the organization transitions into summer session, the Senate passed a landmark bill aimed at addressing issues of transparency and accountability with regards to how student representatives cast their votes.

Dubbed the Officer Accountability Act, the bill removes the ability for student representatives to call for a secret ballot when voting on proposed legislation or appointments. It also requires SGA to upload their vote records online for access by the general student body. Previously, secret ballots allowed for senators to vote anonymously, with the intended purpose being to shield SGA members from potential harassment.

Joshua Martin, SGA president and author of the bill, introduced the legislation to the Senate floor toting a black poster emblazoned with a quote relating to accountability. Martin then gave a short speech in appeal to the assembled senators outlining the importance of vote transparency.

“The days of hiding are over, and the days of transparency are just beginning.” Martin said.

After a short questioning period, the bill was passed despite objections from the minority of SGA members opposing the legislation.

Undergraduate at large Sen. Alex Westerbeck voiced his dissent towards the bill, citing skepticism towards UHPD’s ability to keep SGA members safe, as well as what he saw as a lack of time allotted for senators to discuss the bill.

“That bill took literally maybe five minutes to pass,” Westerbeck said. “None of you heard any of our concerns.”

In response, several representatives who voted in favor of the Officer Accountability Act voiced their support for the legislation and the idea behind it.

Another senator representing the undergraduate student body at large, Zachary Schroeder, challenged the idea that student representatives should ever be able to hide their votes from the public. He went on to emphasize the crucial nature of accountability in representative government and questioned whether or not those who voted against the bill were really cut out for SGA.

“I’m not going to make a gross overstatement and say that no one has ever gotten any threats,” Schroeder said. “But if you’re too scared to put your vote up over fixing sidewalks, then maybe you’re not cut out for student government, and you need to quit.”

No matter the case, students can expect to soon be able to see a register online detailing how their representatives are voting on key issues. While an exact date has yet to have been set in terms of when this system will be in place, Vice President Derek Layne said the SGA hopes to have it running by the start of the summer session.

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