Last week the SA senate voted in favor of revisions to the constitution. It is unclear, however, if enough senators voted for the legislation for it to pass with a 2/3 threshold required to pass referenda. The senate will be meeting this Tuesday to reconsider the constitutional changes.
The senate will also reconsider the student fee increase. Rejected by the senate last Tuesday, it has been redrafted to raise the fee by 50 cents rather than the initially proposed one dollar increase.
Some SA enthusiasts questioned in this blog if the president has the power to veto referenda if appropriately passed by the senate. In a comment to the blog posting “Did it Pass??” law school senator Joe Henchman argued that the constitution does not require an executive approval to be put before the students. Hence, Henchman argues that SA President Audai Shakour does not have the power to veto any referenda passed by 2/3 of the senate.
Henchman wrote, “The President, like every other executive I can think of, does not have the power to sign or veto a referendum. The Constitution states that referenda are called simply by the submission of a petition or by the action of two-thirds of the Senate.
“Only executive officials are claiming a power to sign or veto, and there are no constitutional provisions or comparative governments they can point to for evidence. Practically, a veto would be silly if two-thirds is needed to pass it in the first place. More broadly, constitutional amendments arise from the people which is why they approve or disapprove them – which makes them different from ordinary legislation where the president’s approval or veto is useful.”
Henchman is saying that the constitution nowhere clearly gives the president power to veto referenda. He says that the veto would be practically “silly” because it already requires a 2/3 vote to pass through the senate. An executive veto can be overridden by the senate with a 2/3 vote.
Jeff Goodman, the SA vice president of judicial and legislative affairs, believes differently. He says that the constitution only states what the president is not allowed to veto and since referenda are not mentioned in that no-veto area, Shakour does have the power to veto.
“The constitution enumerates all matters that do not require presidential signature and nowhere does it mention constitutional referenda,” Goodman said. “Therefore, the President is implicitly guaranteed the power to veto any amendment to the constitution.”
Last year former SA President Omar Woodard vetoed two referenda, one to raise the student fee and one to change the constitution. Shakour is in a very similar situation this year where he may have the power to veto both referenda if passed by the senate.
The question that the constitution is somewhat ambiguous about is if Shakour has the power to veto the senate-passed referenda.
Last year Woodard vetoed the student fee because he thought a one dollar increase was too drastic. This year the senate rejected a one dollar increase, which was Shakour’s idea, and will vote on Tuesday for a 50 cent increase instead. The plan currently before the senate is an amended version of what Shakour initially proposed, so he may veto it on those grounds.
Shakour has also said, however, that student organizations need money now and has called for a speedy decision to be made on the student fee increase, so he may support the increase regardless of how much it is for.
It is unclear if Shakour would sign the constitutional revision referendum. It is also unclear if Shakour even has the power to veto the referenda. This legislation has a number of major changes including redefining the election rules and role of the SA’s executive vice president.
Stay tuned to Hatchet coverage on Thursday for analysis of Tuesday’s senate meeting including if the referendas pass and what these changes mean to students. If the senate passes the referenda students may have a chance to vote on the changes in a special election as early as this month.