Senators clash over proposed constitutional amendment

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

The night of Feb. 27 was filled with confusion and angst within the Senate Chambers, as ASUCR senators voted to table a resolution that would support permanently proportioning the number of elected senators to each respective college. The executive cabinet (ECAB) plans to restructure the internal workings of each branch of government. During the meeting, the senate also approved funding to build an additional conference room in the ASUCR office.

At the onset of the meeting, Executive Vice President Armando Saldana expressed the need to regulate weekly senate meetings by limiting excessive debate between senators. He reasoned that meetings are overly extended, which oftentimes results from the lack of preparation by senators who are not familiar with discussed legislation.

Chair of the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) Sai Patadia also mentioned that all legislation should be reviewed by the senate prior to the meeting. In return, Vice President of External Affairs Lazaro Cardenas expressed concerns that limiting debate within the senate would keep the public in the dark about recent legislation. He suggested making the LRC meetings open to the public as one solution to the problem.

“I think we should place a more concerted effort in saying like ‘please come to LRC meetings’ which are for students. For efficiency it’s great…but I think for transparency reasons, we should do more to publicize the meetings,” Cardenas said as he followed up with his own report.

Cardenas plans to institutionalize the external affairs office during the spring quarter by strengthening ties with organizations such as the UC Student Association. The organization is a coalition of UC students who advocate on behalf of the UC system.

The climax of the night’s discussion encompassed a constitutional amendment co-authored by Senators Ian Cavasos and Kristina Morelos. The amendment would officially incorporate the traditional process of proportional representation into the ASUCR constitution and bylaws.

“The idea of proportioning the number of students was the original way senators were elected into the senate and was based on the population of their respective college to get an accurate representation of our campus demographics,” stated Cavasos.

They hope to place the amendment on the spring ballot as a referendum, where the student body will decide to pass it or not. If passed, an additional four senatorial seats, for a total of 20, will be up for grabs during the spring elections.

ASUCR previously moved from a fully college-represented system to a hybrid senate, which consists of 16 senators and four Senators-at-Large. There are two elected senators from the colleges of CHASS, CNAS, BCOE and SOBA.

“[In] the beginning there were 20 votes in the senate but because we changed into a three branch system, some of those senators became ECAB, so we want to change it back to having 20 votes plus the ECAB, in order to make it proportional,” said Senator Morelos.

Prior to placing a student referendum, Senators Morelos and Cavasos needed to gain a two-thirds majority vote from the senate, in order to pass a resolution in support of the constitutional amendment.

Senator Sai Patadia motioned to pass the resolution, but many senators needed further clarification about different aspects of the proposed legislation. Due to a prolonged discussion, senators decided to table the resolution, effectively sending it back to the Legislative Review Committee. The committee will not be able to review the legislation for two weeks.

The tabling of the resolution caused a scheduling conflict because the deadline for student referendums was March 1—an extended deadline that was already made during a previous ASUCR meeting—which meant that the senate could not pass the resolution in time.

At this realization, Senator Cavasos motioned to un-table the resolution, but he was unsuccessful. To clarify the legal proceedings, Christopher Sanchez referred to the Robert’s Rules of Order, which is a highly-used constitutional template in the United States.

“Once a two-thirds vote is reached, that cannot be changed until the next meeting…sadly, that point of clarification should have been brought up before the vote,” said Sanchez. “As you know, a constitutional amendment is a very important thing because you are changing the constitution.”

Senators including Sean Famian expressed frustration over the excessive amount of debate that pervaded the legislative procedures. Many senators showed a lack of knowledge about the resolution, which delayed the overall voting process.

After much confusion throughout the senate, ASUCR President Liam Dow pushed ahead with the meeting. He also reaffirmed a desire to revamp the ASUCR mission statement. A special Legislative Review Committee meeting will be held this week to pass the resolution.

Based on the special circumstances surrounding the legislation, Elections Director Harmony Chai temporarily extended the student referendum deadline for the senate, which intends to place the constitutional amendment on the spring ballot. This is the second deadline extension that has been approved by the senate.

Later in the meeting, Controller Crystal Kim delivered her ECAB report and mission statement to educate the student body. “It came to my attention that a lot of students on this campus do not know…what the student service fees are for,” she said about her plans to send out a mass email, educating students about each fee charged on GROWL.

With a close margin of nine to five, senators approved funds to remodel the ASUCR office through the construction of an additional conference room. Senators also allocated funds for the purchase of a new projector and laptop in order to display club budgets during finance hearings, along with two Macintosh computers.

Highlights:

Discounted movie and amusement park tickets will be sold online starting this week through the ASUCR website.

Scotty the Bear was unsuccessful in his attempt to break the world record for the most hugs by a single mascot within an hour. Scotty received 1,898 hugs on Feb. 26, which fell short of shattering the world record of 2,466 hugs. The event took place from noon to 1 p.m. at the Bell Tower.

The Campus Safety Task Force hope to finish investigative reports on safety by May 22, where they will look for ways to improve campus safety procedures.

Jo expressed concerns about the UCR 2020 strategic plan, which was highlighted during the Provost Town Hall Meeting on Feb. 25. The plan anticipates a total enrollment of 21,000 students by 2020, yet Jo states that there are limited plans to increase faculty and student resources.

“95 percent of trash in the trash cans are not recycled,” according to Jo. As an environmentally-friendly initiative, GCAP members placed new recycle bins next to all campus trash cans.

Cardenas spoke briefly about the Student Lobby Conference, which will take place from March 1-3, where students will learn about initiatives such as fund the UC, Proposition 30 reform and tuition rollback.

Outreach Director Cortni Thomas is altering the mission statement of the outreach committee in order to strengthen K-12 outreach through on-campus student organizations. She plans to draft a web of outreach page, where all upcoming outreach events will be displayed.

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