Last Monday, the Student Assembly at the College of William and Mary passed the 2009 Omnibus Code Update Act, a measure that reforms the current SA code.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ben Brown ’11.
“The current code is extremely outdated and hasn’t been updated in a few years,” Brown said.
Although no current senators assisted him, Brown said that former Sens. Matt Beato ’10 and Ryan Ruzic J.D. ’11 were extremely helpful in making revisions.
The legislation strikes repetitive sections of the code, as well as any superfluous language. References to bills of which the SA no longer has record were also deleted.
In what appears to be the most substantive change to the code, the Senate Outreach Committee, in conjunction with the Executive Outreach Department, is now required to compose quarterly reports detailing the proceedings of the SA. These reports will be e-mailed to all students by the president during the fall, winter, spring and summer breaks.
Originally a requirement of the Accessibility Act, these newsletters are aimed at notifying students of SA activity. Each report will contain information on passed and pending legislation, the location and times of upcoming SA meetings, current projects and opportunities for student involvement.
This addition to the code is aimed at increasing the SA’s transparency by giving students greater access to the most detailed information possible. In the past, the SA had attempted to send out weekly e-mails to students. These efforts, however, were unsuccessful.
Students will also have a greater chance to voice their opinions at senate meetings. There will now be time reserved at the beginning and end of each meeting to allow public comment from members of the College or other outside observers. Previously, tome for commentary was guaranteed only at the end of the proceedings.
A number of sections in the code were expanded, but not substantially changed. Language was clarified in clauses pertaining to the veto process, the confirmation of the Public Affairs secretary and the appointment of the executive.
Other changes simply reflect procedures that the SA has already put into practice, and the code was modified to bring it into agreement with the SA’s present actions.
“Bills have been passed during my time here but they haven’t even been included in the Code,” Brown said. “When you look at the old one, it looks like it is for a completely different organization.”
Sections outlining the more recent Executive Department additions of Student Outreach, Student Rights and Student Life were added to the code.
The title of “Independent Agencies,” those not under the authority of a single branch, was changed to Joint Agencies.
The rules guiding the election of committee chairs and secretaries are also clarified in the new code. Committee elections were previously conducted “as the committee shall see fit.”
“This left the door wide open for a potentially unfair or undemocratic election,” Brown said.
In the confirmation of executive appointees, the president must now submit a brief summary of the reasons behind each individual’s selection.
A new requirement has also been implemented for sponsors of bills that are requesting funds. These sponsors are now required to verbally disclose whether or not they are members of the organization for which they are requesting funds when they introduce the bill on the floor.
The terms regulating how SA elections are to be conducted were also adjusted by this legislation, and the term “campaigning” was further defined. Only declared candidates themselves can solicit individuals to serve on a campaign staff.
“This is to prevent campaigning activities from snowballing into generalized campaigning,” Beato’s comments on the revisions explained.
In response to events of the election in March 2009, Beato and Brown saw fit to specifically ban the destruction of another candidate’s campaign materials. This change does not apply to erasing campaign messages written on chalkboards.
The legislation also provides candidates with a mechanism to withdraw their candidacy at any point 24 hours prior to the election. Candidate tickets for president and vice president can change up to seven days before the election.
Although there appear to be a considerable number of changes, Brown emphasized that he did not write a completely new SA code.
“I just want to clear up the fact that we did not re-write the Student Assembly code at all,” he said. “We just want it to represent our current organization. It is the overall effort of the bill that is extremely important.”