“This is the lowest point in my senate career,” senator Ryan Ruzic J.D. ’11 said at the Student Assembly meeting Tuesday.
Senator Dallen McNerney ’14, in an effort to subvert the two-week legislative committee process and prevent earmarked funds in the Student Activities Reserve from being used, introduced Using Student Money to Benefit Students Act on the senate floor for discussion and a vote, inducing anger and debate amongst senators.
“It was disheartening that this senator decided to attempt some bizarre secret ambush on the floor of the senate to revoke a bill that passed with a 13-5 vote two weeks ago simply because he wants more money to spend,” Ruzic said.
McNerney described this bill as a partial repeal of a previous Permanent Safety Improvement Act passed April 5th and sponsored by Ruzic.
“I felt I was acting in the best interest of the student body,” McNerney said in defense of his decision not to notify Ruzic, the sponsor of the origional bill, about this repeal bill. “I did not feel Ruzic’s bill was debated enough by the senate.”
The Permanent Safety Improvement Act allocated $21,800 toward achieving greater disability services in academic buildings with 24-hour computer labs, namely Morton Hall, Tyler and the Marshall Wythe School of Law. The Act has led to the installation of additional card swipe machines in these buildings, and plans to add wheelchair ramps were suggested.
“$21,800 is quite a bit of money, even for the Student Assembly, and compared to other expenditures that the Student Assembly has used money for,” McNerney said.
McNerney also objected to including the narrow usage of the student ID card swipe machines, since the academic buildings are open to the public during the day, and the likelihood that the wheelchair ramps will not be installed.
“Adding another card swipe to these entrances would have a negligible improvement in security,” McNerney said.
McNerney has since said that he has received indication from Facilities Management that, due to expenses, no plans are being made for new wheelchair ramps.
“What most students don’t realize, though, and what I suppose Dallen has never actually had to deal with yet, is that the administration always says ‘no’ first when asked to spend money,” Ruzic said. “This act … takes a small but real step toward improving access on our campus for students with a physical impediment … rarely does the SA get to make a lasting difference.”
In response to McNerney’s argument that the bill was not debated enough within the Finance Committee since it came to discussion only two times and did not allow for longer senate debate on the bill, Ruzic replied by saying that the Committee met about the bill three times, and the senate debate lasted for over half an hour.
McNerney’s legislation was forced by a 14-5 vote to undergo the two-week legislative process.
Budget strains experienced by the SA were discussed repeatedly throughout the meeting.
“Please keep in mind that we have no money left,” Chair of the Senate Finance committee Noah Kim ’13 said in his Finance Committee update.
Currently, SA reserves total $14,000.
A financial recommendation by Kim toward a bill funding free STI testing in the next academic year raised concern that the SA budget could be negatively impacted.
“This should be something that the College should directly support, especially with seven of the 10 big schools fully or partially providing this, but has been controversial in recent budget-crunch years,” Ruzic said.
The free STI testing bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Other proposed bills involved election code changes and executive summer spending in relation to the recent SA election controversy and to the past spending violations of the SA president.
While the first two amendments for the Election Code Update Act, which added intent to deceive to the language of designated election violations, passed with unanimous consent, a roll call was necessary for the third amendment, which gave the election commission the power to mitigate election violations depending on the candidate’s intention to violate election rules.
“This is another example that we are increasing rules for no reason,” senator Curt Mills ‘13 said. “I hate what we do … We suck on an active level.”
The third admendment was passed 13-5.
An additional executive spending bill will restrict significant executive summer spending by including a notification process for certain amounts through the Finance Commitee.
“I disagree that this places an unreasonable burden on the executive,” Kim said. “This is a very low threshold of restrictions.”
The third amendment passed by a 13-5 vote.
The SA will vote soon on a bill that will restrict individual publications from asking the SA for money, with the intent of re-establishing the Publications Council as a unit preventing interaction between campus publications and the politics of the SA.
“Where I think the people in this room have good intentions, I wanted to note that 1/5 of our bills used to be procedural, and now 36 percent of our bills are procedural,” Felitto said. “People wonder why people are diverting from the SA, and I think it is because we are diverting from helping students.”