Senator Shariff Tanious, a junior, introduced a bill that would dissolve the senate and delegate its powers to the Undergraduate Council. The Student Empowerment and Efficiency Act (SB 314) was introduced on the floor of the senate Tuesday, March 20 but failed to pass with a final vote of 2-18-0.
p. The bill would have needed two-thirds of the senate, the Undergraduate Council and the Graduate Council to vote in favor in order for it to be ratified.
p. Tanious, a two-term senator who is not running for re-election, introduced the bill in order to foster greater accountability and awareness among the student body concerning the senate’s activities. He focused specifically on its degree of effectiveness, the legislation being introduced and the issue of personal lobbying for funding of organizations by senators.
p. In the bill, he describes the senate as having “become an inefficient body to convey the needs and priorities of students.”
p. Tanious considers the senate to be an “inefficient middle step” in the process of implementing legislation and responding to the concerns of the student body, and he feels that many of the bills introduced in the senate are “bills of opinion.”
p. “I have not seen something that the senate has done that the idea wasn’t initiated or carried out by someone else in the Assembly,” Tanious said.
p. He proposes that the senate’s power be transferred to the Undergraduate Council to make it easier to implement legislation because enforcing senatorial responsibility for legislation is very difficult. The Council also works closer with the executive branch than it does the senate. Tanious will be running for vice president of advocacy for the Class of 2008 but stated that this had no influence on his bill.
p. “I feel that a lot of senators use the senate as almost a personal piggy-bank for clubs or organizations that they’re interested in, and they use the senate or their positions in the senate to basically fund those activities,” Tanious said. “I don’t find that okay, that they’re circumventing the process that everyone else has to go through [to obtain funding].”
p. When asked to comment on Tanious’s bill, several senators responded that they opposed the bill based on the opinion that Tanious has personally been ineffective in the senate.
p. “It is one of the worst bills I have ever seen proposed,” Sen. Joe Luppino-Esposito, a junior, said. “It is pathetic for a do-nothing senator to propose a bill like this and think that he is making a statement or a point. Had Sen. Tanious done anything of substance this year, perhaps this could be taken seriously.”
p. Other criticisms of Tanious included complaints that he uses his computer to engage in non-senate activities such as watching ESPN and reading the Drudge Report during senate meetings, that he rarely stays until the end of senate meetings and that he has only introduced one other bill this year. Tanious responded that every senator engages in similar computer activities during meetings and that other commitments have sometimes caused him to leave meetings early.
p. “I want the student government to represent the students and actually go out and do something for everyone, not just your group of friends or club, or even worse, no one at all,” Tanious said.