SGA proposes 70 amendments to bylaws, constitution
The Student Government Association proposed 70 changes to its bylaws and constitution Monday night.
While SGA Vice President Michelle Vanhala said the changes were desperately needed, a select few have proven to be controversial among members in the SGA Senate.
“We looked at our bylaws and constitution and made the changes that needed to be changed,” Vanhala said. “To be honest, they were a long time coming.”
The House voted unanimously to approve all changes to the bylaws Monday night. The Senate did not reach quorum Monday night, delaying the vote to an unspecified time.
Article 10 of the current SGA Constitution states, “Changes to the bylaws do not have to be put to a vote before the student body,” meaning that changes can be made by a two-thirds majority vote of the SGA House and Senate.
Amendments to the SGA Constitution must first be approved by a two-thirds adoption by the SGA Senate and House and then must be placed before the student body at large. This traditionally requires placing a referendum on the ballot. For a referendum to be placed on the spring ballot, signatures equal to 25 percent of the number of students who voted in the previous spring election must be attained.
The SGA Elections Committee has determined this amount to be 125 signatures. Vanhala said she is confident the number will be attained by Friday, the set deadline. If the signatures are not attained, and the bylaws are passed by the Senate, changes in the bylaws will not fully align with the SGA constitution.
The majority of the changes, including 35 grammatical and 18 formatting corrections in both the constitution and the bylaws, do little to change the meaning of the documents.
Other changes do make alterations to SGA procedure.
Sen. William Joseph, a Brighton junior, raised concerns about two specific amendments, which he said would have a negative impact on the SGA as a whole.
The first, an amendment to Section 3 of the SGA constitution, originally read, “The Senate shall consist of Senators who will be elected by the student body at-large.”
Because of confusion over the precise meaning of the clause, the committee decided to clarify the section by adding, “Or by a ballot vote within the General Board as specified in the bylaws.”
Joseph said the clause makes a student body vote seemingly unnecessary.
“The wording, if you read just the constitution, says you can just hold elections in general board,” the Brighton junior said. “… This can lead to more corruption, keeping general voting away from the public and allowing people to pick who they want to be their senators within the SGA.”
Vanhala said during Monday’s meeting that the specific procedure, enforcing the spring ballot, is laid out in the bylaws, and the wording of the proposed amendment makes that distinction clear.
“I understand your concerns; those are legitimate fears,” Vanhala said. “But the wording in the bylaws makes it clear that a spring ballot vote needs to take place.”
Joseph said the problem lies in the constitution, which does not specifically spell out the process and relies on the bylaws to do so instead.
“My concern is the constitution is supposed to have higher priority than the bylaws,” Joseph said. “I think the argument can be made that what the constitution says overrides what maybe the bylaws say.”
Joseph also raised objections to two amendments in Article 2, the first in section 1, which pertains to “Senate Leader elections may be run at the discretion of the Vice President,” and the second in section 2, which says that “House Leader elections may be run at the discretion of the Treasurer.”
Joseph said the amendments allowed the vice president or treasurer the ability to abuse their powers, withhold elections and take over the Senate or House.
Vanhala said the scenario is incredibly unlikely and was not seen as an issue that needed to be addressed. Balances of power, like the ability to impeach, were also in place in case should that scenario occur.
Senate Leader Sean Kolhoff said he does not share Joseph’s concerns and said the vice president would not have the ability to stop Senate elections, as they would be held to the same restriction that Senate leaders are held to.
“Senate elections are initiated and held by a Senate vote,” the Mount Pleasant senior said. “The Senate leader is a non-voting member of the Senate, unless there is a tie. The vice president simply would not have power to impede that process.”
Kolhoff said he does not foresee any difficulties passing the amendments in the Senate.
“Those views are not held by the senators at large,” Kolhoff said. “It is very much a minority view held within the Senate.”
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