Last Tuesday, Senator Olivia Bozarth bought bill SBW 2-18 to the senate floor. The bill, which was seconded by Senator Jennifer Pang, would overturn a legislative policy passed last year allowing the student body to determine Speaker of the Senate position in a general election rather than selected by and from the sitting senators elected in Spring Term. Bozarth defended her choice for proposing the bill so late in the term and so close to the elections process which begins April 2. “I recently heard about it, and I want it revised,” she said per the minutes from last week’s meeting. “Had I heard about it earlier I would have presented it earlier.”
According to the Senator for Education, Health, and Leadership, Kawika Kainoa, who plans to vote against the bill, “The person that seconded it, Jennifer, she originally brought the bill to me before she even brought it to Olivia, so as far as I know it’s not Olivia’s original plan…She wanted someone else to push it with her.” Neither Bozarth or Pang made themselves available for comment.
Andrew Zucker, a senator last year, championed the bill in danger of being overturned: SBS 2-17. Since the bill was passed after elections ended, this would be the first year with the new policy in effect. “[An election of the student body] gives students and senators more power over who represents them,” said Zucker in defense of his bill. “By having to run a campaign you have to put everything on the line. You have to show why you’re the correct choice and get the student body to believe you’re the correct choice.”
He also explained the transition between Speakers can be difficult. “[Historically,] the Speaker elected last meeting of Spring term, leaving no time to prep the Speaker over their responsibilities for the next year before summer term hits.” He continued, “Maybe they were a senator but do they really know all the responsibilities and are they able to get those resources in time.”
When asked how someone with no experience would fair any better than a seated senator, Zucker said that even if someone completely unprepared to be speaker is elected, “they have two months to understand and metabolize their role, work with the senate, and put that information together. If they have two months to do that with the current speaker that’s a lot more time.”
Leo McCaffery, ASSOU Vice President and the head of Elections committee, said that elections will be unaffected no matter which way the Senate votes. “I was going to use the senate application,” he said. “Instead of putting Social Science Senator, you just put Speaker of the Senate. From my side it was not gonna affect much, just another candidate running for a position.” By the current legislative rules, the Speaker is classified as a Senator who must hold office hours, do field work, and run in the Spring.
McCaffery finds the bill and its process interesting he said, “in the sense that its been granted emergency status and they’re meeting during finals week. I’ve never seen that done, and this is my fourth year in ASSOU.”
Although Bozarth’s bill was proposed last week, Kieryn Eagy, the Senate Speaker, granted it emergency status, as is her right per the SOU Legislative rules, and waved the senate body’s necessary two readings.
Speaker Eagy declined to comment on her personal opinion on the bill and did not feel comfortable commenting on behalf of the senate because the minutes from Tuesday’s meeting were unconfirmed. Instead, in an email, she wrote, “It’s difficult to speak to the Speakership as an individual because the whole point behind the Speaker is that they are uniquely positioned to represent the Senate body. Speaker acts as the branch “manager” if you will.”
International Senator and Vice Speaker of the Senate Dylann Loverro is not involved in granting a bill emergency status, but expects that Eagy granted the emergency status “…to be respectful of our guest’s time, senator’s time, and the gallery’s time.”
A senator last year when the body voted unanimously to pass SBS 2-17, Loverro said, “When it was initially passed I was a relatively new senator.” She continued, “Having had time to reflect upon what that change is and now that I am more familiar with bylaws,” she said. “I think I would have voted differently.”
“While I don’t contest that the vote was unfair,” said Loverro. “I contest that I felt bossed around and sort of pressured by some of the people in the executive branch at that time who wanted to see the bill passed.” The senator declined when pressed for comment regarding from whom that pressure came.
Loverro said that she does not know, definitively, which way she will vote, but is, “…considering a positive vote on this bill.” She said, “The election process this bill [SBW 2-18] presents is more in line with the duties to speaker of the senate as the leader, coordinator, and manager of the senate.” Additionally, “It’s more conducive to have someone appointed from the elected senators”
The vote on SBW 2-18 will happen tonight at 6:00 P.M. in SU per the posted agenda. It is unclear which way the body will decide. If passed, legislative rules will revert back to those held last year. If it fails, the speaker will be elected from a vote of the student body.
“I can’t say for sure that my solution is the definitive way, but if we don’t give it a shot we’ll never know,” said Zucker. “By reverting back to the previous system were discrediting the entire senate body from last year, and we aren’t taking the time to fix the solution. Rather we’re reverting to an old system we’re comfortable with because we’re afraid to try something new.” Then he clarified, “By we I meant the senate.”