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Students, Senate vote in favor of constitutional amendments despite setbacks

After weeks of delays and work, the Student Government Association and students have passed the New SGA Act, a bill that would overhaul the current SGA constitution. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

After weeks of delays and work, the Student Government Association and students have passed the New SGA Act, a bill that makes sweeping overhauls to the current SGA constitution.

The process for Senators to vote for the Best SGA Act was complicated. Due to miscommunications and missing materials, last Wednesday’s SGA meeting was fraught with recesses and intermissions.

Voting for the Best SGA Act was supposed to occur during Wednesday night’s meeting but was tabled because senators did not have access to materials relating to the bill. Recesses also occurred during the meeting as committee appointee materials and other bills’ texts were not submitted to voting senators promptly. 

“I asked for the bill to be tabled because I was under the impression that no one has had the chance to read it thoroughly,” said Speaker of the Senate Sophia Wilson. “Part of why this is happening is because there’s not good coordination between President Benjamin RIzk and I.” 

According to Wilson, Senators were not actually able to read the bill until close to an hour prior to voting. She said Rizk is solely responsible for uploading the bill’s text for the senators to read.

Senators almost unanimously voted in favor of passing the Best SGA Act this March 24, and students voted on its implementation in a referendum held on GetInvolved last week.

The constitutional changes will be active when President-elect Diego Arriaga steps into office.

This result came after many long nights of calls between Rizk and economics junior and co-author of the Best SGA Act Micah Erfan to elaborate their ideas for a revamped SGA Constitution. The two previously faced off in a court dispute that resulted in an initial draft of the proposed constitutional reforms being struck down over procedural concerns. 

“We started going through the old constitution and listing all the things we wanted to change, and we thought that we should change them,” Erfan said. “We joined on a call together and kept doing that every night until 3 a.m. for the past three weeks.”

According to Rizk, counsel from former members of SGA, such as former SGA Presidents Charles Haston and Cameron Barrett, was also integral to the creation of the new constitution.

Members of both major parties of SGA have also come out to support the adoption of the new constitution, with both Students Unite and the For All Cougars party expressing their support through Instagram.

“Arriaga and Vice President Austin Craig’s input into the constitution was necessary, and they were happy to promote it,” Rizk said. “It also makes the efficiency of the SGA as an organization a lot better.”

According to Rizk, his intentions to consult with SGA matters with Erfan will not end with his presidency and may continue into the next semester.

“There’s a lot we want to do even after I leave office,” Rizk said. “The beauty of no longer being the president is that I can focus on initiatives that I am very passionate about.”

Rizk contributed to drafting the new changes after their conflict in the Supreme Court, and according to Erfan, the constitution will lead to less division and vacancies and more accountability.

“I think that out of SGA we’ve been getting outcomes that are subpar,” Erfan said. “We’ve gotten tons of divisions, tons of vacancies, and not a lot of university bills, which is the stuff that matters. And if we want to fix that, we’re gonna have to start changing the fundamental institutions from the foundations for everybody’s incentive.

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