SG Supreme Court hears complaint concerning passing procedure for recent controversial bill

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Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Update:

In an opinion released Tuesday evening, the Student Government Supreme Court declared the passing vote on Assembly Bill 16 null and void. The bill would have established Multicultural Engagement Center representatives in the assembly.

The Supreme Court said the vote “did not meet the requisite super favorable majority threshold.” Trip Davis, one of the bill’s authors, said he was disappointed with the decision but will not give up on the bill.

“I think moving forward … the new assembly has a good chance of passing (the bill) under the stricter interpretation,” said Davis, a communication studies sophomore. “I think doing what’s best for the MEC would be to make sure to refile and keep on track with the legislation.”

Connor Vanden Hoek, who filed the complaint about the passing procedure for the bill, said he was pleased the Student Government rules were upheld.

“We’re really happy to see that the court unanimously sided with us in saying that the rules matter,” said Vanden Hoek, a government junior.

Original story:

A Student Government Supreme Court hearing took place Sunday evening regarding Assembly Bill 16, which SG passed last Tuesday to establish Multicultural Engagement Center representatives. Government junior Connor Vanden Hoek filed a complaint about the passing procedure for the bill authored by deputy director Trip Davis, among others. Vanden Hoek is requesting the bill be declared unconstitutional.

The bill would establish a year-long pilot program for the MEC representatives. Each MEC agency would be given one chair in the assembly.

Vanden Hoek said there was confusion over what the phrase “two-thirds present” means under SG rules. Vanden Hoek said Robert’s Rules calls for a two-thirds present vote, which includes abstentions. The bill, however, was passed with a two-thirds casted vote, which only includes ayes and nays. At last week’s meeting, the bill received 21 ayes, nine nays and six abstentions. This was enough favorable votes to pass the bill under two-thirds casted, but not under two-thirds present.

Communication studies sophomore Davis said he thought only ayes and nays needed to be counted. 

 
“The belief that I was under the impression of, and then that was implemented by the chair, was that in counting two-thirds in the SG assembly, you count the ayes and nays,” Davis said. “Had a question been asked by the assembly members, there could’ve been conversation or debate on that, but no questions were asked in regards to the vote until after the assembly had adjourned and then a complaint was filed with the Supreme Court.”

Davis pointed out that Vanden Hoek had quoted the 4th Edition of Robert’s Rules. The parties involved were to use Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 11th Edition.

“I apologize for wasting a lot of time by not using the most up to date edition, but ... the 11th edition does say that abstentions have the same effect as a negative vote in cases of two-thirds of those present,” Vanden Hoek said.

Vanden Hoek was asked why he did not object at the time of the vote on the bill, and he said he and his supporters “weren’t necessarily aware of the two-thirds present at the time.”

“It was just one of those small words that you didn’t think of necessarily,” Vanden Hoek said. “When the parliamentarian was the author of the bill and the speaker immediately hit the gavel saying it was approved, there wasn’t necessarily time to object nor was there necessarily the case of us being able to ... review those rules before the vote was confirmed.”

Davis countered that there had been plenty of time, as the meeting continued for about an hour and that objections could have been raised at any time. Davis also voiced his support for precedent when it comes to passing legislation.

“If there is a standing of where legislation that was not unanimous was passed and implemented, then either A) the precedent needs to be respected or, B) after a decision is reached here, then that decision needs to be applied to other pieces,” Davis said. 

A decision from the Supreme Court should come within the next few days.