During last week’s Student Assembly senate meeting, senators voted to overturn the presidential veto of the Hobble Wobble Gobble Act, but failed to pass an amendment changing the source of funding for the bill.
The Hobble Wobble Gobble Act, sponsored by Class of 2019 President Jonah Yesowitz ’19, allocates $3,007 from the SA reserves to purchase turkeys for low-income families in the City of Williamsburg in partnership with organizations such as Campus Kitchen and Greater City. During the Oct. 17 meeting of the senate, the bill was unanimously passed after discussion surrounding on whether it was within the means of SA to fund a community service project.
Just a few days after the bill was passed, SA President Elijah Levine ’18 announced that he was vetoing the bill, because he believed the senate’s community service fund, which is sustained by rolling over unused money from the activities and events fund, would be a better source of funding for the bill. At the time, he and Chair of the Senate Alaina Shreves ’18 said that they believed the senate had three options moving forward: overturning the veto, passing an amendment to the bill or introducing new legislation.
According to Levine, vetoing the bill would allow the senate to rethink the purpose of the service fund. The community service fund is not codified, but has historically been used to fund the initiatives of service organizations on campus.
It became apparent that there wasn’t due conversation about using that channel to fund this initiative, especially since the bill states that it’s for turkeys for Williamsburg residents in need,” Levine said.
“It became apparent that there wasn’t due conversation about using that channel to fund this initiative, especially since the bill states that it’s for turkeys for Williamsburg residents in need,” Levine said. “What is also productive about the conversation on the service fund is that there is not a lot of explicit language around it, it has a patently different use than the reserves for student activities. Essentially, these labels are as good as we treat them, they have the legitimacy that we give them. We can use the service fund to promote service on a larger scale. … Through that, we can expand our efforts on a systematic level as to how we can better support organizations with service at the core of their missions.”
However, the senate code also does not specify the process of vetoing legislation, outside of establishing that the president may veto any bill or resolution. To overturn a veto, there must be a 75 percent positive vote of senators in attendance. At the start the start of the senate meeting Oct. 24, senators were given a chance to overturn the veto.
Yesowitz said that he did not believe the service fund should be used for this event, and that he also believed any concerns over the bill should have been brought up during initial discussion.
“I have never seen a bill written where the funds come from any other place but the Student Assembly reserves, and this bill is no different,” Yesowitz said in an email. “When we wrote a similar bill two years ago, the money came from reserves. The service fund is not there for times the Student Assembly decides to improve its community, but rather for when service organizations have events they want to put on. They are not allowed to apply for money from the activities and events fund, nor do they receive money during the yearly budget process. This service fund is there to offset that issue, not for bills that we pass.”
Initially, Shreves informed the senate that one option was to pass a friendly amendment to the bill, meaning that the sponsor, Yesowitz, would agree to accept an amendment changing the funding source. However, after further discussion, Shreves decided that the only options that would allow further discussion of the bill would be to vote to overturn the veto, or introduce similar legislation at the Oct. 31 meeting.
Senators then voted to overturn the veto, re-allocating the $3,007 to the Thanksgiving initiative. Class of 2018 President Laini Boyd ’18 voted against overturning the veto. Shreves and Sen. E.J. Jackson ’18 abstained from voting.
The next point of discussion was whether or not to amend the Hobble Wobble Gobble Act to change the source of funding to the community service fund. Yesowitz said that he would not support any amendments, so any made would be “unfriendly amendments,” meaning that they were made without sponsor support.
Yesowitz said that he did not believe it was within the code of SA to amend a piece of legislation that had already been passed.
While it is not explicitly written in our code, amendments cannot be made to passed legislation,” Yesowitz said in an email.
“While it is not explicitly written in our code, amendments cannot be made to passed legislation,” Yesowitz said in an email. “This is why we sometimes have to write another bill if the original bill was not for enough money. Therefore, when we overturned the veto, we passed the bill again. That’s why the vote to add the amendment after the fact was null and void.”
Some senators, like Sen. Colleen Heberle ’18, said they wished to wait to vote on changing the source of the funding for the Oct. 31 meeting, which means that senators would wait to vote on a new bill changing the source of funding.
“I don’t want to vote right now,” Heberle said. “I don’t know enough to vote on this right now, I want to talk about it this weekend.”
Others, like Sen. Sikander Zakriya ’19 said it made sense to vote on amending the Hobble Wobble Gobble Act because it was clear how much money was in the community service fund, and there was no need for further discussion.
The official vote to amend the Hobble Wobble Gobble Act failed. Heberle, Sen. Jack Bowden ’18, Yesowitz, Sen. Alexis Payne ’19, Sen. Shannon Dutchie ’19, Class of 2021 President David DeMarco ’21, Sen. Jack Simmons ’21, Sen. Kody Carmody M.P.P. ’18 and Sen. Nicole Josemans M.Ed. ’18 voted against the act. Sen. Brendan Boylan ’19, Class of 2020 President Kelsey Vita ’20, Sen. Abhi Chadha ’20, Sen. Aria Austin ’21, Sen. Ellen Tariku ’21, Sen. Miranda Hughes J.D. ’19 and Sen. Kyle Vasquez ’21 abstained from voting.
Now, if senators choose to change the source of funding for the act, they must pass an additional piece of legislation to do so.
Also at this week’s meeting:
• Senators passed the Second Annual Transgender Awareness Week Act, which was sponsored by Class of 2020 President Kelsey Vita ’20. The bill allocates $5,529 from SA reserves, primarily in order to host activist and writer Jacob Tobia.
• Senators passed the Fall 2017 Transfers & More Community Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Sikander Zakriya ’19, Sen. Jack Bowden ’18, Class of 2018 President Laini Boyd ’18, Class of 2019 President Jonah Yesowitz ’10 and Vita. The bill allocates $600 to purchase food at an event for transfer students and their orientation aides at Brickhouse Tavern.
• Senators passed the Spring Concert Act, sponsored by Zakriya, Sen. Abhi Chadha ’20, Sen. Sarah MacPhee ’20 and Sen. Ellie Thomas ’20. The bill allocates $50,000 from SA reserves to put on the annual spring concert. In the past years, the artists have been The Chainsmokers and Rae Sremmurd. The bill also called for the immediate election of a senator to serve on the committee responsible for choosing the artist. Sen. Shannon Dutchie ’19, Sen. Aria Austin ’21, Sen. E.J. Jackson ’18, Sen. Clare DaBaldo ’20 and Boyd were nominated. Dutchie won the election.
• Senators passed the SA FAQ Week 2017 Act by a vote of unanimous consent. The bill, sponsored by Vita, Dutchie, Zakriya, Thomas and Sen. Alexis Payne ’19 dedicates a week to disseminating information about SA and the Executive Appropriations Committee process to students through social media.