When the 325th session of the Student Assembly senate convened Oct. 31, the room was filled with superheroes, a slice of pizza, a piece of bacon and a banana, as well as the usual slew of senators. While the senate celebrated Halloween, those in attendance discussed legislation and behavioral practices to address issues that arose during last week’s meeting.
Prior to the Oct. 24 meeting, SA President Elijah Levine ’18 vetoed the Hobble Wobble Gobble Act, which allocated $3,007 to purchase turkeys for low-income families in the City of Williamsburg. Levine’s primary reason for the veto was that he believed the community service fund, not the SA reserves, was the proper source of funding for the bill. Although there was disagreement about what options the senate had to ensure that money would still be allocated to purchase turkeys, senators voted to overturn the veto during the meeting.
Then, senators had the option to vote on an amendment to the bill that would change the source of funding within the text. Some, like the sponsor of the bill, Class of 2019 President Jonah Yesowitz ’19, said that they believed it violated senate code to amend a bill that had already been passed. Others, like Sen. Colleen Heberle ’18 said that they wanted more time to think about amending the bill and would prefer to address it during a later meeting. After further discussion, a vote to pass the amendment failed.
At the start of the Oct. 31 meeting, Chair of the Senate Alaina Shreves ’18 asked that senators not text or use social media during senate meetings, or talk to their friends while someone else is speaking.
Additionally, Shreves announced that she no longer wanted senators to vote unanimously, but rather to move to vote by roll call or by a show of hands. She said this is because over the last few weeks, bills were passed although not all senators were truly in agreement, and she wants to ensure that no senator is assuming that everyone agrees. If her recommendations are enforced, this means that each senator will have to indicate their opinion on a bill.
Following her suggestions, senators will also have to meet certain criteria before abstaining from voting. Shreves said she does not want senators abstaining from votes unless they have a personal reason or a conflict of interest that would keep them from voting. During last week’s meeting, over the course of two votes by roll call, seven abstention votes were cast.
You should only abstain from voting for personal reasons,” Shreves said.
“You should only abstain from voting for personal reasons,” Shreves said. “Don’t abstain vote because you don’t want to say your opinion out loud or because you feel as if you don’t have an opinion on something yet.”
Another problem that arose during last week’s meeting is that some senators were speaking over each other, or were speaking out of turn. When there were moments where multiple senators wanted to speak, Shreves or SA Vice President Annelise Yackow ’18 assigned an order of speakers and encouraged senators to not speak unless they felt as if their opinion had not been previously stated.
To address this, Yackow reminded the senate about the speaker list, and said that moving forward, it should be followed.
“Don’t keep talking when one of us talks,” Yackow said. “You shouldn’t be speaking after another senator speaks, that’s why we have a speakers list. It keeps us from getting sidetracked and going in circles.”
One piece of legislation, The Service Fund-Reserves Reconciliation Act, was introduced to address whether the senate should transfer funds from the community service fund to the SA reserves to pay for the Hobble Wobble Gobble Act.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Bowden ’18 and Sen. Sikander Zakriya ’19 would transfer $3,007 from the community service fund to the SA reserves to pay for the purchase of turkeys and Thanksgiving food.
“The bill is in response to the veto that the senate overrode last meeting,” Bowden said in a written statement. “It simply moves monies from the service activities fund to the reserves fund since the former fund is a more specific fund for Hobble Wobble Gobble to pull from.”
The bill will be seen by senate committees this weekend, and senators will vote on the bill during next week’s meeting.