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SGA begins final steps before drafting new constitution

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The Student Government Association’s fifth constitutional convention session was held Monday, Aug. 13.  The committee completed their preliminary look through the constitution, finishing the Senate by-laws from Article IV to Article IX and set a date for the final draft of the new constitution.

The meeting was live-streamed in the SGA conference room via the SGA Facebook page. SGA President McKenna Stone, Vice President Corai Jackson, Chief of Staff Angel Lovett, Attorney General Lauren-Hunter Gaudet, Treasurer Matthew Keller, Senate President Pro Tempore Caroline Carney, Election Commissioner Katie Rogers, Judicial Board representative Ruth Ann Reeves and Judicial Board representative Reid Renfroe attended the meeting.

A self-imposed deadline for the draft of the constitution has been set for Thursday, Aug. 30 as suggested by Keller.  He suggested August 30 since the first senate meeting will be held Thursday, Sept. 6, giving the committee a week to edit before voting would take place.

If the draft is ready by Sept. 6, it will go to vote in the Senate floor and then be put to a student body vote during the homecoming election.

When asked if the Senate majority votes against the new draft of the constitution, Stone explained their worst-case scenario is the new draft would not be put to the ballet with homecoming. Homecoming, she clarified, would result in a better voting turn out. After approval from both the Senate with two-thirds votes and the student body with majority votes, the document will be sent to Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett for his approval.

“[The new draft] wouldn’t be put to a [student body] vote until Senate passed it,” Stone explained. “If Senate decided they were not going to pass [the new draft] at all, it wouldn’t go to a student vote.”

The committee also touched on the impeachment process of senators. Jackson proposed the addition of Article X in the Senate by-law that was made by copying excerpts of Article V section 11 which has to do with executive officer impeachment.

Moving from the senate by-laws back to the constitution, Keller explained that, as the constitution sits now, there is only one section pertaining to SGA finance. Keller proposed Article VIII, Budgets, be renamed finance with the addition of new sections. The first section he proposed would be called “treasury,” would consist of the original budgets section in addition to a new section devoted to spending.

SGA’s new finance article would also hold section two called the student fee advisory committee. Keller said the idea was shown to him by representatives of the University of Central Arkansas while a student government conference in Colorado late July.

The committee’s job would be to hold meetings with university departments on any new fee proposals and to advise the administration on whether they believe they should or should not accept a fee proposed by any university department.

“They don’t really have any power, but it is a good way for students to get their voice out there,” Keller said. “The proposed structure would be headed by Keller and filled with four SGA members and four students with no affiliation to SGA.”

Stone agreed the committee may not have any tangible power, but she believes it will be influential overall. She also said she has been approached recently by three different departments about adding student fees.

“They were great fees and the money would be put to a great use, but at the same time that opens the door for every department to want a fee,” Stone said, “That is a really big decision for one person to make.”

Stone explained that the student fee advisory committee would be much like the Senate in that they both ultimately make recommendations, but final word goes to President Bennett.

“[Senate resolutions] end up on some important desks, and sometimes it’s not implemented,” Stone said. “But there is still a very large presence of power in the Senate because they are very respected by the administration.”

The committee also touched briefly on the new code of ethics the SGA, that Gaudet had worked. Gaudet had she had researched and found inspiration from other student governments, but did not go further on the subject. She instead asked the committee to have suggestions ready for the next meeting.

The committee also went through formatting, verbiage and small deletions or clarifications within the Senate by-laws, as well as, small additions to the constitution as a whole such as SGA values, which would be similar to the mission statement attached to the constitution.

The next constitutional convention session will be held early September and will focus primarily on drafting. As of Aug. 15, the minutes to the fourth and fifth constitutional convention sessions have not been posted, but Stone urged the minutes for both would be on the SGA website by the end of this week.