A bill coming to the senate floor tonight proposes changes to the Associated Student Government (ASG) constitution. These changes would remove Article III, which concerns the duties and composition of student court, and redefine the checks on the power of senate and its committees.
As is, Article III says that ASG related student court responsibilities include conducting ASG officials’ impeachment trials, interpreting the ASG constitution and ruling upon Student Body President Election campaign violations.
The impeachment trial duties will be moved entirely under the purview of the Oversight Committee, but a different check will be necessary for issues raised on how ASG will monitor Elections Committee or Funding and Audit Committee decisions.
Parliamentarian Max Mellot, with senators Chelsea Kao, Edith Lui and Benjamin Waugh, authored the bill. It proposes a judicial council composed of seven students: the student body president, the student body vice president, the secretary for on-campus affairs, the secretary for off-campus affairs and three senators. These senators will be selected by the Speaker of the Senate and approved by the senate. They cannot serve on the Elections or Funding and Audit Committees.
Speaker Cole Hankins said student court hasn’t needed to interpret the constitution in recent memory.
“We never really write legislation that challenges what’s in the constitution,” Hankins said. “The U.S. Senate sometimes challenges what they’re allowed to do in the Constitution. That’s never happened with student senate. We’re trying to get, you know, more forks in the dining halls.”
“The constitution almost never applies to day-to-day affairs and student government,” Mellott said. “Ultimately, we think we want that legislative power to still remain vested in the senate. Senate can then decide later on, for instance, if they don’t like this reform, they can change it.”
The constitution states that amendments must be approved by two-thirds of the senate, and then presented before the student body for a vote.
Should the changes pass senate, they will come before the student body for approval April 29, coinciding with the elections for off-campus and academic senators for next year.
“Because everyone has a major and a division, everyone will be eligible to vote in those elections, so we’re going to have the constitutional referendum alongside that,” Hankins said.
Voter turnout for constitutional referendums has been historically low, and no one expects this year to be an exception.
“I think that just reflects the reality that most people are not super interested in the details determining the ASG constitution,” Mellott said. But I’m not sure that turnout is going to be lower in this senate election timeslot than it would have been in the presidential election. Everybody still has their opportunity to vote.”