Fourth-year Media Council representative Astra Yatroussis proposed the Legislative Transparency Amendment Bill on March 28 at the Associate Students of Whittier College (ASWC) Senate weekly meeting. This bill directly amends two parts of the ASWC Senate Bylaws. According to Article I of the Senate Bylaws, which outline their Purpose, the Bylaws are meant “to provide a specific and efficient outline of procedure and basic organization in keeping with the general provisions of the ASWC Constitution.”
This bill was formed in response to the Student Feedback Forum held by ASWC on March 5, where a number of constituents argued that the Senate Table could be more transparent and senators more accessible. The Feedback Forum came at a particularly tense moment, as conversations regarding student funding for media organizations were taking place at the time. To see more on this controversy, visit thequakercampus.org to learn more about “Breaking Down the Budget Bill.”
The Quaker Campus reached out to Yatroussis to understand more about the creation of this bill. “This bill seeks to improve transparency in the ASWC Senate’s Legislative process by switching the paradigm of information distribution,” commented Yatruoussis. “It is my belief that Senate should make greater efforts to reach out to the student body regarding legislation on the table, rather than the other way around. It is not enough to passively post a bill on OrgSync; we had ought to be actively providing information to our constituents.”
Why it matters:
— This bill addresses specific concerns constituents brought up at the Student Feedback Forum. The Bill states that “some of the primary concerns brought to the ASWC Senate at the Student Feedback Forum held earlier this semester involved the rapidity with which bills and amendments are passed and dissatisfaction with the workability of OrgSync as a platform for information distribution.”
This shows that members of ASWC have taken direct action to correct the systemic function of ASWC to better inform students of new bills. At the Student Feedback Forum, Senator Jacob Eccles said he had not spoken to his constituents regarding the Budget Bill because the legislative cycle took place in the middle of his scheduled meetings with his constituents. This highlights a previous lack of formal obligation that senators have to discuss bills with their constituents.
— The Bill also slows down the process of adopting bills and returns them to committees after a second reading. Currently, bills are voted on immediately after the second reading. Extending the time required for table readings increases the time senators have to discuss proposals with their constituents. This allows for a more thoughtful process where senators can continue constituent outreach and formulate necessary amendments to best represent their constituents.
What it does:
— It amends Article IV, Section A of the ASWC Senate Bylaws. This change includes the addition of a new bill being submitted to the Vice President of ASWC Senate three days prior to the first reading of the Bill. Previously, the Campus Relations Director had been responsible for assigning a number, date, and title to the Bill. That is now the Vice President’s role. By including the Vice President of ASWC, it breaks up the administrative responsibility of introducing the Bill.
— It addresses that the Bylaws currently do not have a written requirement for how bills are distributed to the campus, beyond posting them on OrgSync. This Bill now requires the Campus Relations Director to email every new bill presented to the ASWC table to the student body via Poets email at least one day prior to the first reading of the Bill. This is important because if a student wants to raise a concern with a bill, they can read it before the Public Voice section of the ASWC Senate meeting.
— It also amends Article IV, Section G of the ASWC Senate Bylaws requiring a mandatory tabling after the second reading, where bills return to committees. It will extend the process by an additional week, where bills are read a third time, and amendments will be considered after the third reading immediately preceding voting. Previously, the third reading of the Bill was merely procedural, and this amendment to the Bylaws adds another week before the Bill is voted on.
What it does not do:
— It does not overturn or undo any part of the Budget Distribution Bill, though Yatroussis was the sole ‘no’ vote for that Bill. The Transparency Bill seeks to amend the process by which bills are introduced, discussed, and voted on in the future.
— A trend we have seen with both voting on bills and voting on funding requests this academic year is use of the fast track, which allows the Table to bypass second or third readings/requests. This Bill keeps the three-week default for bills, but extends the discussion period to try to reach more constituents. It is important to note that some committees and governing bodies will still not have the opportunity to give input on bills under this new system because some only meet once a month as opposed to once every three weeks.
—This new Bill does not require Senators to discuss a bill with their constituents. The hope is this Bill will increase communication and input from various subcommittees and governing bodies, but there is no guarantee Senators will use the extra time to do so.
The Legislative Transparency Amendment Bill will be voted on at the ASWC Senate meeting on April 15, held at 7 p.m. in Villalobos Hall. The Bill can be found on OrgSync as a downloadable attachment.