SGA's budget will go to Supreme Court
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 01:09
The Sam Houston State University Student Government’s budget war continued during Tuesday night’s meeting after the Senate unanimously passed their own budget after refusing to pass the president’s.
Student Body President Ramiro Jaime Jr. presented a revised budget to the Senate after reportedly refusing to appoint a committee to do so, as mandated by the Senate on Sept. 3. No Senator made a motion to approve the budget, which according to tradition, means the budget did not pass. It’s unclear as to how SGA by-laws stand on the issue, however.
“The intent of the budget is to efficiently run student government,” Jaime said. “All the budget is, is to say what we should do, or my suggestion of what we should do. This is what we plan to spend; an idea of what we should do.”
He said during his speech that the Senate uses an approximate number that the budget states for “whatever it deemed necessary.”
“My point is… that we have a budget, and this is what we should use,” Jaime said. “But we don’t always go by that budget, and that’s perfectly fine. And that’s what the Senate’s job is to do: to appropriate that money that is deemed to the Senate.”
Jaime said that while the budget is important, whatever it states is not set in stone. He said that the Senate is in charge of spending the entire budget however it deems necessary except for Officer Stipends and Administrative Wages.
Jaime’s revised budget differed slightly from his original proposal. Compared to Sept. 3 proposal, he lowered the Executive Student Assistant Wages by $415 (4 percent), raised the Bearkat All Paws In budget by $1,000 (20 percent), and lowered the Senate Discretionary fund by $585 (4 percent).
Senator Steve Perry (CHSS) presented Senate Bill F13-02 after Jaime’s presentation that highlighted an allocation of funds by the Senate and varied slightly from his budget presented on Sept. 3.
The bill kept the Officer Stipends the same as they were last year, while Jaime’s offered pay raises to the president, vice president and chief of staff and pay decreases to the treasurer and secretary. Compared to FY 2013, it raised ESA Wages by $3,000 (67 percent), raised BAPI by $1,500 (30 percent), raised University Affairs by $250 (33 percent), and decreased the Senate Discretionary fund by $1,450 (11 percent).
“F13-02 was written by a broad coalition of Senate members who wanted to ensure that the Senate fulfilled its obligation to be good stewards of the financial resources,” Perry said after the meeting. “In order to assist the Senate in fulfilling that obligation, the SGA Constitution and the Rules and Procedures empower the Senate to consider and pass bills allocating funds.”
WHO’S GOT THE POWER?
The discussion shifted early on from arguing numbers to arguing powers granted to the president and senate in their constitution, and rules and regulations.
Jaime made a point of order during the meeting stating that the Senate did not have the power to propose a budget.
Even after Senator Spencer Copeland pointed out to the president that the Senate had the power to allocate funds according to the rules and procedures, the president didn’t relent on his position, saying the constitution explicitly gave him the powers to create and present a budget.
Perry quickly argued with the president and moved to overturn his ruling as allowed by Robert’s Rules of Order. The motion passed unanimously.
Rules on money and the budget appear three times in SGA governing documents.
The SGA Rules and Procedures (Rule 5, Section A, Subsection 1) states the Senate has the power to “entertain various types of legislation, including (1) Senate Bills… Such bills shall include: allocating moneys…”
“As is stated in the Rules and Procedures, only the Senate has the authority to enact legislation allocating Student Governments financial resources,” Perry said after the meeting. “During this week’s meeting, the Senate considered a number of factors before it unanimously approved F13-02 as SGA’s official operating budget for this fiscal year.”
Jaime refuted this statement saying they have to be first given the funds.
“What [the rule] allows them to do, is it allows them to allocate money given to them,” Jaime said. “So, it’s the money I give the Senate… After that, whatever they vote on, that’s the power they have to allocate money.”
In the SGA Constitution (Article IV, Section 4, Subsection [i]), the president has “the responsibility to act as the chief of economics and establish an outlined budget to be presented to the Senate in mid-September each year with assistance of the SGA Treasurer. The budget is to outline revenues and expenditures.”
“There’s nowhere in the Constitution anywhere that gives them any power over the budget,” Jaime said.
Jaime said that he believes that F13-02 is illegal, and he has not made up his mind whether he will veto the bill or not. After the meeting Jaime said he intends to send this issue to the Supreme Court.
Vice President Kolby Flowers sent a statement to The Houstonian on Wednesday, stating the president is “wrong” on the entire issue and even acknowledged SB F13-02’s legitimacy during the meeting.
“I raised a point of information to the Senate on Tuesday, clarifying that regardless of whether or not (Jaime) believes the Senate has the right to pass a budget, the Senate has the power to do what it thinks is necessary,” Flowers said citing the “necessary and proper clause” in the governing documents. “(Jaime) agreed with this point of information during Tuesday’s meeting, that once the Senate passes a bill it is law, until otherwise decided by the Supreme Court. Senate Bill F13-02 is the law as acknowledged publicly by Jaime during Tuesday’s meeting by agreeing to this point of information.”