Apr 122009
Authors: Sean Reed

Finally, somebody in student government has stepped up on the side of reason. Too bad the effort didn’t amount to much.

On Wednesday, the Associated Students of CSU Senate voted down a measure that would have undone the damage by an earlier ASCSU Supreme Court ruling that severely limited the ability of the Senate to pass legislation and resolutions. The measure failed, ironically enough, because of the Supreme Court ruling it was aiming to change.

Schrader v. Conrad, a ruling made by the Supreme Court in December of 2005, made it a requirement that, in order to be passed, any legislation must meet its required constitutional benchmark (a simple majority or two-thirds) as a proportion of the entire elected body — not just the members present or voting.

Now, on the surface, this move seems sensible enough, but in practice, it has been a major hindrance of action on the ASCSU front.

What this rule has done, in effect, is to make both abstaining votes and absences count as votes against any measure under consideration by the Senate.

The issue with this, of course, is that under this model, senators who are absent are given votes, and folks who don’t want to go on the record are not given a way to do so without affecting the ultimate outcome of the bill or resolution under consideration.

Even further, it has more or less eliminated the ability of a quorum of senators to do business for their constituent colleges.

A quorum is meant to be the minimum acceptable level of attendance at a given meeting to perform business and vote on legislation. Under the Schrader v. Conrad ruling, however, a quorum of senators is inhibited to the point where it is nearly impossible to get anything tangible accomplished.

In order to pass legislation, a bare bones two-thirds of the Senate quorum requires that nearly every present member vote either yea or nay on any given member with no abstentions.

For a measure requiring two-thirds approval (like an amendment to the ASCSU constitution), all senators in attendance would need to vote unanimously. In fact, if even one senator abstained, the measure would fail.

Now, based on the feedback from my last column about this ruling, there are many within ASCSU that don’t see this as an issue. These must be the folks that are only comfortable taking action when it pertains to the use of the ASCSU logo on university event posters.

Thankfully, though, it looks like these folks might just be a vocal minority.

In the last few weeks, a consortium of intelligent, motivated senators including Vice President-elect Tim Hole and former presidential candidates Shaun Reed and Conrad Miller, sponsored a bill written by Sen. Justin Van Borken that sought to bring reason back to the Senate.

The bill would have cleared up the confusion of Schrader v. Conrad by inserting just a couple of additional lines to clarify to any future boneheads that the language within the Constitution that requires a majority or two-thirds of the ASCSU Senate approve of a given measure should not be taken literally.

It would have done this by specifically mentioning at every instance in which the term “Senate” is used, that only the votes of the present members should be counted and that abstentions, likewise, are to be excluded.

Sadly, the bill didn’t survive.

On its second vote Wednesday, the measure received 12 votes in favor, five votes against with four abstaining. The 12 votes met the Constitutional benchmark of two-thirds of the vote to pass the bill, but this is where Schrader v. Conrad came in.

Under the ruling, the vote count, in effect, was 12-9, thanks to abstentions. In this manner, there was no two-thirds approval, and, therefore, no amendment.

And thus, Schrader v. Conrad lives on.

As frustrating as it is, this effort, in the least, indicates progress. Here’s to hoping the push to change this idiotic ruling doesn’t end here.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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