In an attempt to speed up approval of five proposed amendments to the ASPSU constitution, the student senate called an emergency meeting Monday afternoon, only to have it fail to meet the quorum requirement of 13 senators present.
The amendments are designed to provide more oversight to the Student Fee Committee. Amendment supporters within the senate have been attempting to rapidly push the amendments through for Judicial Board approval so a special election can be held before the end of fall term. If the amendments pass in the special election, they would take effect in time for winter term, when committee budgeting occurs.
The committee, currently two members short and without a chair following former chair Tina Cooper’s resignation last Wednesday, controls the allocation of over $8 million in student incidental fees to Portland State student groups, including the Vanguard and athletics.
“The Constitution is riddled with loopholes,” said Sara Hendrickson, senate pro tempore. “Student groups have no recourse [now] if they feel like they’ve been violated by the SFC.”
The failed meeting Monday leaves much to be accomplished at Wednesday’s regular senate meeting if senators hope to have all five amendments passed to the Judicial Board by their Thursday meeting.
“I’m hoping for that, but I’m not counting on it,” Hendrickson said. “The senate may have to do more work on [the proposed amendments].”
Senators have already spent over 30 man-hours working on eliminating loopholes in the language of the amendments and getting proper wording.
The senate approved amendments 01A-SC, 02-SC and 03-SC last week for Judicial Board review. The Judicial Board must decide if the amendments are substantive, passing them back to the senate where they will proceed to the elections committee for placement on the special elections ballot.
“There is no mention of the procedure for reviewing amendment proposals in the Judicial Board bylaws,” Judicial Board Chair Kenneth Godfrey said. “We have to use the constitution as a guide.”
Of the three already passed amendments, 01A-SC seeks to limit the student body president, vice president and committee chair to one term, while limiting committee members and Judicial Board members to no more than two consecutive terms. The amendment puts no term limits on senators.
The simple majority vote would be restored to the committee with the passing of amendment 02-SC. The amendment said, “Every year the SFC shall allocate funds to new Programs and may adjust the budget of existing Programs by any amount with a simple majority vote of the eligible voting members during the fee allocation process.”
The last amendment to pass on Wednesday, 03-SC, requires the committee to act on the recommendations of the senate within 10 business days and bring a new proposal before the senate. In addition, the amendment allows the senate to “deny any single item” of the recommended committee budget with a three-quarters majority. The amendment also requires the senate to publish its policies each year regarding the allocation of incidental fees.
The five amendments the senate will review Wednesday include an amendment that would make all eight committee positions, including the chair, elected by committee members. Currently the ASPSU president appoints one member and the chair is elected in the general elections.
One amendment adds a clause to the preamble of the constitution declaring the promotion of student involvement in campus life and supporting the cause of student organizations as part of the student government mission statement.
Yet another amendment would lower the amount of student signatures needed to make initiative proposals to the constitution, committee bylaws and student government bylaws to 15 percent of the number of students who voted in the most recent ASPSU presidential election. Currently, 15 percent of the student body is required, which is a figure that amendment supporters say is too high.