Late night legislation: ASUAF holds special meeting for ballot issues, budget talks
Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Reporter
April 17, 2012
A bill that would place a question about the sustainability fee on to ballot for the spring 2012 ASUAF election was dismissed at a 9 p.m. ASUAF meeting on Thursday April 12, 2012 in the Gruening Building.
RISE board members and students attended the meeting while the senate discussed fees, a senate advisor and the ASUAF budget.
Senior psychology student Kaneyo Hirata asked ASUAF for their support during UAF’s first Asian-American Pacific Islander Week. Hirata asked the senate to allocate money toward coffee and water during the events.
Jeremiah Harrington, Mike Stanfeld, Dorian Granger and Assistant Director for Student Activities Cody Rogers attended the meeting in support of the SIREN fee. KSUA Program Director Rebecca File, RISE Board member Kristine Deleon, RISE Board Chair Brett Parks, RISE Board Vice Chair Wyatt Hulbert, Director of Sustainability Michele Hebert, LIVE Assistant Coordinator Josh Hovis and former ASUAF senator Sophia Grzeskowiak-Amezquita were also there in support of the fee.
Parks had two questions he wanted answered. He wanted to know why the SIREN fee was singled out and why the question on the ballot was worded the way it was, because the question seemed biased, he said.
Jennifer Chambers, ASUAF senate chair, explained that the SIREN fee is one of the few fees that go through student government and is created by students. Chambers did not answer Parks’s second question, stating that it was more of an argument.
Guests remarks were temporarily interrupted when senators Robert Kinnard III and Jesse Cervin set up a laptop so Chelsea Holt could attend the meeting via Skype.
Don’t mess with green
In the past week, ASUAF gained a lot of attention due to the possible repeal of the Student Initiative for Renewable Energy Now fee, also known as the Sustainability fee. Students began paying the student-initiated fee in Spring 2010.
Students taking three or more credits pay the $20 fee each semester. The SIREN fee helps pay for energy-efficient programs at UAF such as the Green Bike program and the water bottle filling stations in the Wood Center and the Moore-Bartlett-Skarland complex.
In the Fall 2011 election, the ballot listed two questions regarding the fee.
The first question asked students if they knew what the SIREN fee was. Two hundred and twenty eight people answered “yes” and 357 people answered “no.” The second question asked the students who answered yes to the previous question whether or not the fee should continue. One hundred and forty one students answered “yes” and 1 97 students answered “no.”
The discussion about a possible repeal
sparked when the question to discontinue the SIREN appeared on the proposed ASUAF ballot for the spring 2012 election.
Jennifer Chambers sponsored “SB 178-014 It’s Not Easy Being Green,” at the request of a student. The bill would add a question to the ballot asking students if the SIREN fee should be repealed.
“I feel like it was a conflict of interest of the senate chair, Jennifer Chambers, sponsoring it because she is also the Elections Board chair,” Kinnard said. “Her sponsoring it herself was very highly unethical.”
“A student asked me to write the legislation about SIREN and I did. I do not see that as being unethical,” Chambers said in an email. “However, had the legislation been adopted and been approved for the spring ballot, I think it would have been unethical for me to have voted (as a member of the Elections Board) on whether or not to include that question on the ballot, since I would have sponsored the original legislation.”
If the legislation was passed by the senate the question could be placed on the ballot and students could vote to repeal the fee.
“What it would do is take away a lot of energy from getting projects done and more people excited about sustainability … it would divert us from moving the campus forward,” Hebert said.
“We’re kind of going into a sustainable world and I feel like this was voted on for the students, it would be against the students to put it into the ballot because they’ve done so much and in such little time, and they’re well organized as well as that,” Grzeskowiak-Amezquita said.
The rules of procedure were suspended and the legislation was sent to First Reading of Legislation. Bills sent to First Reading of Legislation can be expedited, dismissed or sent to a committee. Kinnard made a motion to dismiss the bill. Kinnard was seconded by Jesse Cervin. The legislation was dismissed by a vote of 7-2. Blake Burley and John Netardus voted against the dismissal. After the vote, the room filled with applause.
Attendance in the senate
This semester, attendance has been an issue for ASUAF. In early March, three senators were removed from the senate due to excessive absences. Later that month, Kinnard sponsored a senator accountability bill that would pay each senator $1. Since the payment would be a conflict of interest, the senators could not vote for or against the legislation. The bill was tabled until December, 2024.
Kinnard sponsored another bill regarding absences in the senate. “SB 178-015 Revised Attendance Policy” would amend the current ASUAF bylaws to automatically remove a senator who has excessive absences. It will also create an appeal process so the removed senator can come back on to the senate. With the amended bylaws, senators with four unexcused absences, eight excused absences or two unexcused and four excused absences would automatically be removed from the senate. The removed senator could file an appeal and provide an explanation for his or her absences. After this, the senator could be voted back on to the senator by a two-thirds majority vote. The legislation was sent to the internal affairs committee.
Over the past year, ASUAF has been discussing the possibility of having a senate advisor. Although initially against the proposal, Freitag stated in the meeting that she is now in support of an advisor.
Kinnard sponsored bill “SB 178-016 Help is On the Way,” which would place a question on the ballot for the upcoming ASUAF election. The question would ask students if they think ASUAF should have an advisor.
Kinnard originally submitted a petition for a ballot referendum. Three hundred and sixty students signed in favor of ASUAF having an advisor.
The Elections Board did not allow the petition to appear on the ballot because the original petition was not in question format, did not mention the election and there was conflict about how a paid advisor would affect the proposed budget. Since the petition was not passed by the Elections Board before the April 8 deadline, Kinnard was given an extension and rewrote the petition.
The bill now needed senate approval to appear on the elections ballot. After the senate approved it, ASUAF president and the Elections Board would have to pass by April 15.
Kinnard moved to expedite the legislation. Brown seconded the motion. The senate voted on whether to expedite the legislation. If expedited, the senate could remove the bill from the Executive Committee, allowing a higher chance for the bill to be on the elections ballot.
The bill was not expedited because it did not have two-thirds majority vote. Golub, John Netardus, Blake Burley and Cervin voted against the expedition. The bill was sent to the executive committee.
“Three-hundred-sixty students clearly signed the petition and I think it would be a misrepresentation of the students if we didn’t pass it because their voice wouldn’t be heard,” Kinnard said. “That they didn’t expedite it shows how they’re not aware of what students would like.”
Chambers said in an email that she voted against the bill because she wants students to be aware of the cost associated with hiring an advisor.
During ASUAF’s April 15 meeting, the senate ultimately killed the bill. The question about whether ASUAF should have an advisor will not appear on the ballot for the upcoming election.
“SB 178-013 ASUAF Budget,” sponsored by Jennifer Chambers, was Freitag’s proposed ASUAF budget for 2012-2013. Grzeskowiak-Amezquita asked Freitag why the budget for club council had been cut. Freitag explained that money that ASUAF allocated to a project in the past did not go through. Since there was extra money, it was placed into the Club Council budget line.
“Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the best decision to the dump that much money into there because then it sets precedent to have that much in there, always.”
“I cut it because I felt like student travel needed more, so I just averaged them and rounded it up,” Freitag said.
Brown made a motion to remove $2,500 from the ASUAF summer committee and place those funds into the club council ad hoc committee. The amendment was passed by a vote of 7-2-0. There is now $3,000 left in summer committee. Freitag was disappointed the money had been relocated into club council, she said. “We’re collecting a $10 fee during the summer, from summer students and we should be spending that money on the summer students.”
By the end of the night many of the supporters of the SIREN fee left. Before a vote could be made on the budget, Kinnard walked out of the meeting.