By Jacob Weissenburg
A “Disclosure Form” bill for Student Association senators was passed by the SA Senate at the most recent session on October 23rd.
The Disclosure Form policy, introduced by Vice Chairman Tanner McCracken, entails a document that lists all affiliations with SA funded organizations (funds appropriated by the senate), which would be filled out by senators when they took office and submitted to the senate chairman, vice-chairman, and the chairs of the various senate committees.
“There is a long standing precedent to abstain from a vote that involves a group with which you would have a potential conflict of interest,” said McCracken during the introduction of the bill. “However, we’ve never had any way to enforce this, until now.”
For example, if a senator were a member of a cultural organization, they would normally be expected to abstain from votes on funding for that organization.
And, while most follow the unwritten laws of the senate, there are technically no ways to actually determine if someone is or is not a member of the club.
The bill came about as a way to get rid of any doubt that senators are being honest about the clubs they are affiliated with or that they are using their office for personal gain, an idea that resonated with the senators, who passed the bill 39-1-5.
“We need to make sure we are disclosing affiliations, for all branches of the Student Association,” said Senator Max Sevor in praise of McCracken’s bill, a sentiment then echoed by several other senators.
It’s important to note that this is a “sunrise bill,” meaning it will not go into effect until next semester, in Spring 2020.
Photo Credit - Nathaniel DePaul / ASP
A UNIFIED STUDENT ASSOCIATION
Another major development at the same legislative session was the Bridge Program, an initiative to create more cooperation between the separate branches of UAlbany’s student government.
The bill, introduced by Senate Chairman Nicholas Chin and passed by a nearly unanimous 44-0-2 vote, will provide opportunities for members of the executive and legislative branches of SA, who are notorious for not working well together in previous administrations, to build bonds with colleagues in other branches of government.
In the previous administration, President Langie Cadesca often sparred with the senate, as the senators who were elected were mostly from the ticket of her opponent in the election she ended up winning after it went to a runoff.
Though there are no political parties in SA, certain factions and schools of thought emerged, depending upon what candidate’s ticket you fell under.
Last year was the most visible example of split government in SA, but vetoes and veto overrides being thrown out often is a constant presence in SA, and the next administration is taking steps to rectify and heal old wounds.
The bill will assign around four senators each to the various executive departments of SA, with whom the senators will work on future initiatives within that department.
“The most important thing for the legislative and executive branch is that they will be meeting bi-weekly,” said Chairman Chin.
The meetings are only required for the executive and legislative branches, but Chin encourages members of the judicial branch to attend the meetings as well.
While the program will have tangible effects, such as new innovative ideas, a main priority of the program is to give members opportunities to build bonds with their political colleagues in other branches.
Other responsibilities of senators under the program will be to maintain frequent contact within their committees outside of the meetings, and both branches are expected to provide more support to the other, according to Chin.
“Senators will be expected to promote and attend events that the executive branch hosts. Executive members can count on senators to sponsor bills that they may have. The bill works as a two way street” Chin said.
The bill had already been negotiated with the other branches of SA, with the executive branch fully supporting the initiative as well.
“I definitely believe that myself, the president, the comptroller, and the SA leadership this year has the opportunity to create a different type of program that will help the SA become merged and more vision oriented,” said Chin.