The Judicial Board effectively cancelled the upcoming special election, which was scheduled to be held Nov. 28-30. The board, the legal branch of student government, met Tuesday to discuss concerns voiced by Portland State legal counsel Kelly Gabliks over constitutional amendment proposals.
Gabliks and Dean of Students Wendy Endress met with student body President Erin Devaney and Vice President Sa’eed Haji last Tuesday about possible legal problems with the amendments. Devaney negotiated to have those concerns go through the ASPSU process, culminating in yesterday’s Judicial Board hearing.
Gabliks, an Oregon Assistant Attorney General, did not attend the meeting. Instead she provided documents outlining her concerns with the legality of the amendments. Based on these documents and the possibility of losing Gabliks as legal counsel should the board go against her recommendations, a decision was reached to rescind the board’s approval of the amendments for placement on a special elections ballot.
Before any proposed amendment can be placed on a ballot, the Judicial Board must approve its wording to make sure the amendment is constitutional. By rescinding its approval of the proposed amendments, the board effectively cancelled the special election.
The amendments were largely designed to provide more oversight of the Student Fee Committee, which allocates over $8 million in student incidental fee money to student groups including student government, the Vanguard and athletics. Amending the ASPSU constitution has been a major goal of the student senate for the majority of fall term and has occupied much of their time.
Chief Justice Kenneth Godfrey was in favor of postponing a decision until the board had more time to look over Gabliks’ recommendations but with the elections set to start on Monday there was little choice. The board was not in favor of canceling the elections and made clear in its motions its displeasure with the situation.
“This is a big legal mess,” Justice Matt Wallace said at the meeting. “I don’t agree with a lot of the analysis [in Gabliks’ recommendations] here.”
Devaney expressed disappointment at the timing of the legal counsel, calling it “an administrative step-in.”
“I’ve definitely expressed my frustration with a lack of legal guidance throughout this process,” Devaney said. “If this advice had been given weeks ago we wouldn’t be here canceling the election.”
“It was definitely last-minute,” Godfrey said.
Student senator Patrick Beisell called the failed elections “a good wake up call.”
“We’ve obviously been concerned with fixing internal problems,” he said. “It’s taken up the majority of our time. The amendments were very poorly written and researched. There’s a lot of dissidence in the senate right now.”
With vote this semester, senators will regroup and begin reworking the amendments for placement in the general election in March.
“I respect that people had concerns [with the amendments],” senate pro tempore Sarah Hendrickson said. “I think the idea behind the amendments is important. I want to fix the entire constitution.”
Hendrickson said she plans to form a special committee open to the entire student body to rework the constitution.
“I’m going to actually recruit people to work on the constitution,” she said. Hendrickson plans on targeting English students to help work on the Constitution’s language and political science majors looking for some firsthand experience.
Three amendments were scheduled for the ballot next week. Proposed amendment 02-SC would have allowed the Student Fee Committee to allocate new funds to new programs and to adjust the budget of existing programs with a simple majority vote. Amendment 03-SC would have allowed the senate to veto any single item of the proposed fee committee budget with a three-quarters majority vote. Amendment 07A-SC would have changed the process for selecting the committee chair to an election by the committee from within its ranks.