Legislative Council met last night for the first time since the Associated Students Special Election and the failure of the A.S. base fee increase initiative.
A.S. Leg Council members, who did not meet last week in support of Coalition of University Employees’ strike, primarily discussed a bill which would eliminate voting by phone.
The bill proposed by Off-campus Representative Sarah Hooper at a previous meeting on Oct. 2 was brought before Legislative Council again for consideration. Hooper’s bill sought to completely eliminate the phone voting procedure that allows legislative members to vote on an issue over the phone.
The phone-vote procedure was used over the summer to pass the Special Elections measure through Legislative Council. Due to problems contacting Leg Council members for the vote, two members were unable to vote on the Special Elections measure.
Citing the California Brown Act – which mandates that meetings where public business is discussed must be public – during the debate and in the bill, Hooper said she was concerned that students could not be involved and did not have a chance voice their opinions.
“It’s inherit with phone conversations that it’s just two people, and there is no chance for a Leg [Council] debate,” Hooper said. “I think the reason student government was started was to give students a voice, and with the [phone] vote procedure, we don’t give them that.”
Off-campus Representative Gustavo Mendoza suggested the bill be tabled for revision before it was brought before the council, but Hooper declined and wanted to keep the bill as written for a vote by Legislative Council.
Off-campus Representative Scott Talkov attempted to add an amendment to the bill, but was unable to because the meaning or intent of a bill cannot be modified during Legislative Council meetings. Only the wording of the bill can be modified during meetings according to A.S. Legal Code.
“I was trying to amend the bill so that the phone vote procedure could only be used via presidential veto for the time being until any further changes are made,” Talkov said.
Representative-at-Large Fernando Ramirez agreed that there are problems with conducting votes by phone, but still opposed the bill.
“There are problems with the phone voting procedure, but I think it’s there for a good purpose: in case of emergencies. We’re not trying to hide anything,” Ramirez said. “To base a bill on one phone vote without looking at the past [phone votes], I think it’s wrong.”
Off-campus Representative Anthony Flores suggested the bill be held until a later date.
“In my opinion, what the smart thing to do is to hold it for another week, or withdraw it and rewrite it and spend another couple of weeks on it,” Flores said. “But she decided to go forward and completely eliminate the procedure, which, I think, is not prudent because we don’t have anything to replace it with.”
“I don’t think, per se, there is an inherent problem with the system, but it has caused problems among some of the leggie members,” Flores said.
The bill failed by a large majority. After the vote, Finance Board Chair Manuel Silva, who is sitting in as a proxy for Off-campus Representative Edward Yan, called Hooper’s bill to a point of order, stating that the bill was illegal according to the A.S. Constitution. Because the bill was out of order it became invalid for a vote or even debate by Legislative Council and caused the previous vote on the bill to be nullified.
During an open remarks session shortly before the adjournment of the meeting, Hooper said, “The constitutionality of my bill is not as big an issue as the vote that occurred over the summer.”
“When you have issues that deal with student money, then [the students] need to be involved in them,” she said after the meeting.
“I think our phone vote procedure has problems,” said Off-campus Representative Alexis Krieg, who voiced her opinion during the debate. “[Students] need to be able to hold us accountable and they can’t do that [with the phone voting procedure].”
A.S. President Chrystine Lawson said A.S. needs to look more critically at its voting procedures.
“I think at the end of the discussion, people came to realize the real issue [is to] look critically at the phone vote procedure and look to see if there need to be any corrections,” Lawson said. “I personally think the phone voting procedure needs to be looked at, and that with the Constitution and by-laws, with other Leg Council members, executive staff members, people who are well-educated in the area and are willing to do research as well. And I think that’s the main issue, it was prompted by the phone vote over the summer, but [the summer vote was] not the main issue.”
In other business, an amendment to the A.S. Program Board Code was in the agenda for the meeting, but was tabled indefinitely.
It was also announced that the A.S. Finance Board will meet Oct. 28 to discuss raising funds to help alleviate funding shortages for groups seeking funds from the finance board.