Following critiques of this spring’s Student Assembly elections, the senate passed the Elections Review Commission Act, but not without various amendments and debate.
The Elections Review Commission will serve as a temporary commission composed of students deemed qualified to investigate and report on all matters pertaining to SA elections.
“I felt it prudent to have a bill to create this organization to invest with it certain powers at senate committees and at the senate,” Senate Chairman Noah Kim ’13 said. “This acts as a senate committee to the extent that you could refer bills to be considered by the committee … [and] it empowers [the committee] to at least review those [bills] and offer recommendations on them.”
Sen. Zach Marcus ’12 introduced the first amendment to the bill, which would remove former SA presidential candidates Kim and Dallen McNerney ’14, as well as SA Vice President elect Melanie Levine ’13, from the commission for reasons of bias.
“I’m a little concerned about the fact that there are three people on that list that were investigated by the review board,” Marcus said.
Some disagreed with Marcus’s view, stating that those who were most intimately involved in the recent election process will offer insight into the changes that need to be made.
“I think that it’s really important to have people with the knowledge and who have been through this to be on that commission,” Sen. and former SA presidential candidate Grace Colby ’13 said.
Sen. Jimmy Zhang ’15 agreed with Colby, stating that other members of the committee do not share the experiences of these three.
“They themselves were subjected to the code and they themselves could add valuable input,” Zhang said. “We have a diluted perspective and that may impede the full capacity of this commission.”
Marcus later repealed his amendment.
Next McNerney introduced an amendment to add two members, Lee Tankle J.D. ’13 and Gabriel Walker J.D. ’13 to the Elections Review Commission per the suggestion of incoming SA president Curt Mills ’13. Tankle served as student senate president at Dickinson College, and Walker served as undergraduate student body president of Virginia Commonwealth University. Mills emphasized the benefits of their student assembly experience on other college campuses.
“They have experience that nobody on campus has,” Mills said. “They have really good, solid ideas and would bring more views outside this organization. … They have very strong working knowledge in addition to being law students, and I think they would make great additions to the commission.”
Kim expressed misgivings about how efficient the elections review commission would be with the addition of two members.
“I think that expanding this commission for those reasons that have been stated is unnecessary,” Kim said. “It’s a fairly large group as it is, and I think that poses its own problems. It’s going to be difficult enough to come to a census with this particular group.”
Various senators suggested removing other members from the commission in order to include the two law students. However, Kim was unwilling to affect anyone on the list but himself.
“I am willing to remove myself,” Kim said. “I am not willing to remove anyone else.”
After discussion, McNerney revised his amendment to remove himself and Kim from the Elections Review Commission to be replaced by Walker and Tang. After voting, the senators passed the amendment.
Sen. Ben Huber ’12 then proposed an amendment to make the deadline for the commission’s review and proposals April 24, the last senate meeting of the semester. The senators also passed this amendment.
“I was hoping that this commission [would be] able to present something by the end of the semester,” Kim said. “Given the necessary element of obtaining feedback and the size of the commission … I thought maybe it would be wise to allow them to go beyond this semester. … However, we now have this resolve clause. So, good luck. I’m glad I’m not on it.”
Following this amendment, Marshall-Wythe School of Law Representative Andrew Chan ’09 J.D. ’12 submitted an amendment to remove himself from the commission as well, and it was accepted.
The Elections Review Commission Act, including the three additional amendments, passed with a vote of 13 to 3.
The senate also passed two other pieces of legislation during the meeting Tuesday.
Kim introduced the Student Assembly Accountability Amendment, a constitutional amendment to hold unelected appointed members of the SA subject to possible impeachments. Currently, only elected officers and members of the SA can be impeached.
The Graduate Council and Undergraduate Council will review the bill and either sign or veto it by majority vote within 30 days. As a constitutional amendment, the bill does not require the signature of the SA president and cannot be vetoed by the president.
Lastly, the senate passed The GOTV Act and the General Assembly Knowledge Act.
The GOTV Act allocated $118.70 to pay for door hangers, pamphlets and other miscellaneous items promoting voter registration for the upcoming Williamsburg City Council elections.
The General Assembly Knowledge Act allocated funds necessary to bring state senator John Miller, D-1, to campus to discuss current issues in the country with students.
“It’s a good thing we have him here to actually talk about issues and not just a campaign,” Secretary of Public Affairs Keenan Kelly ’14 said.
Sen. Mike Wagner ’12 also introduced his first bill of the session, the Curt Mills Fiscal Responsibility Act, which called for the digging of a hole in an undisclosed location in the Wren Courtyard where the cashed funds of the Student Activities Reserve would be buried for safe keeping. After extensive debate on the intricacies of the bill, the senate voted 9 to 5 against it with two abstentions.