At least one Student Association senator has already questioned the constitutionality of new rules passed Tuesday for this year’s SA, Marvin Center Governing Board and Program Board elections.
The Senate passed the Joint Elections Committee Charter Act with little opposition Tuesday night in the Marvin Center. The JEC charter, which outlines the rules for the SA, MCGB and PB elections, was postponed from the Oct. 24 Senate meeting due to a lack of consensus.
On Tuesday night enough senators worked out their differences to pass the charter, but Sen. Brandon Sherr (CCAS-G) said new spending limits placed on candidates in this year’s election not only violate the SA constitution, but also the U.S. Constitution.
“The JEC charter tramples on a student’s freedom of speech,” Sherr said. “If the University adapted such a provision, students would be protesting.”
In the charter, specific spending limits are established for candidates running for SA president, executive vice president and the Senate. The charter also encourages MCGB and PB to establish spending limits for candidates running for positions in those organizations.
Sherr said he will bring this issue to the SA Student Court, which handles issues of constitutionality within the SA.
Other senators defended the bill.
“Nothing the SA does is perfect,” said SA Sen. Kevin Kozlowski (ESIA-U), a sophomore. “Obviously, there is a structure in place (to deal with this issue). He has a right to do what he wants.”
Another point of contention on the legislation was its classification. Some senators were unsure if the act’s classification as a resolution instead of a bill had an impact on whether or not the act was enforceable.
“Just because it is a resolution doesn’t mean that it does not have to be followed,” said SA Sen. Chris Rotella (CCAS-U), a junior. “The JEC is going to adapt the charter as law. The JEC is part of the SA constitution. It will be law.”
According to the SA constitution, legislation can only be considered a bill if it is a proposed amendment to the constitution, an amendment to SA bylaws, the annual budget or a financial allocation from the SA.
“Technically speaking, it cannot be a bill,” said SA Executive Vice President Josh Lasky, a senior. “I think we need to use common sense here.”
If the legislation is approved by SA President Lamar Thorpe, a senior, the JEC can be formed. The JEC consists of five members with a representative from MCGB, PB, two representatives from the SA and one representative “appointed by the respective processes of all three of the former,” according to the charter.
Once the JEC is formed, the committee can set a date for the election. The election has typically occurred in March or April.
In past years, some students begin campaigning for positions in the SA as early as December. Traditionally the majority of students announce their candidacy at the beginning of the spring semester, but this year some candidates may announce early.
Rotella, chair of the Rules Committee, said he hopes that Thorpe will approve the act quickly and have nominees for the JEC ready for the Rules Committee to approve when the group meets again Nov. 29.
If the JEC nominees pass the Rules Committee, the nominees will be brought up for a vote at the final SA Senate meeting of the semester, which is scheduled for Dec. 5.
Rotella said it is unlikely that any of last year’s JEC members will apply for the committee since most have either graduated or will be graduating this year.
Having a JEC charter ready earlier than in past years is very beneficial, Rotella said. Last year, the process of passing the charter delayed the start of elections.
“The JEC is going to need this time,” Rotella said. “We need the JEC in place so we can get them ready.”