SA passes new legislation to hold executives accountable

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April 17, 2009

4:41 AM

The College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly senate passed three pieces of legislation and introduced one new bill during its final session before Wednesday’s transition.

The Constitutionally Accountable Executive Act was the first to be discussed. Sponsored by Sens. Matt Beato ’09, Ben Brown ’11 and Stef Felitto ’12, this bill would amend the current SA constitution to allow the senate to impeach any SA member, excluding members of the executive office of the president, for serious neglect of the duties of their Office. Currently, the only way to hold a secretary accountable of wrongdoing is to impeach the president.

“There have been a few instances where we have had a few very bad secretaries, and there was nothing you could really do about it,” Sen. Steven Nelson ’10 said.

Some senators expressed their concern that this bill could be employed in personal attacks against SA members. Beato, however, was not worried about the act being misused.

“In order to impeach someone you would need 17 ‘yes’ votes [out of 22], and that would only happen under extraordinary circumstances,” he said. “[This act will] add another check and balance in the case of something really bad. This accountability will propel people to do their jobs.”

Most senators echoed this belief, and the act was passed.

The Abstention Amendment, sponsored by Sens. Walter McClean ’09 and Beato, was the next to be passed.

This amendment would change the SA constitution to require the concurrence of a majority of the senate to be present and voting in order to pass legislation.

“Under our system, abstentions are basically more potent ‘no’ votes,” Beato said. “A lot of people like to use them as ‘no, please’ votes, because it sounds nicer, when, in reality, it harms the people who really need to abstain because of a conflict of interests.”

The legislation was finally passed after three unsuccessful attempts.

Over an hour of debate was dedicated to the Collegiate Readership Act, which would bring USA Today, the New York Times and The Daily Press to certain areas of campus.

Along with a representative from USA Today, sponsoring Sens. Michael Douglass ’11 and Ryan Eickel ’10 presented the starting number of papers per location, as well as the cost per newspaper to the College: The Daily Press costs 35 cents, USA Today costs 40 cents and the New York Times costs 45 cents.

The issues are currently set to be available at the Sadler Center, the Mews Cafe at Earl Gregg Swem Library, the Commons and the College Law School.

The biggest criticism of the legislation was the increased cost to students, which amounted to six dollars per student.

Sen. Brittney Fallon ’11 was in strong opposition.

“I have a serious ideological issue with raising any student fee in light of the current economy,” Fallon said. “This would be taxing all students for the benefit of a few.”

McClean also said the increasing cost was not ideal.

“I’m not sure this is what the campus needs right now. Especially when all students won’t be able to get all of the newspapers, and when news is available for free online,” McClean said.

However, Sen. Caroline Mullis ’09 spoke in favor of the program.

“Physical papers are targeted toward a different group of people,” Mullis said. “As the program becomes more readily available, students will be able to be more politically engaged.”

Mullis also cited a strong support for the newspapers by students on campus.

If the Collegiate Readership program continues after this year, the sponsors of the bill acknowledged that the price of the program could increase over time. Although a movement to change the funding of the program from student fees to consolidated reserves failed, the bill was passed with a vote of 14-4 with two abstentions.

In new business, the DVD Act was sent to committee. This legislation would allocate $1,000 from thee SA’s consolidated reserves for the purchase of new DVDs to be available for from Swem Library.

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