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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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Last call

Election+Commissioner+Paige+Rigsby%26%23160%3Bpresents+the+Election+Regulations+Update+Act+to+the+Student+Senate.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Photo by Luke Henkhaus

Election Commissioner Paige Rigsby presents the Election Regulations Update Act to the Student Senate. 

It was a race against the clock Wednesday night, as student senators made their way through the final acts of the 70th session, stalled at times by disagreements on two key bills.
Since no legislation can be passed during next week’s joint session with the 71st senate, any bills or resolutions that senators wanted to pass had to be voted on before their time in the student governance hall expired at 10:30 p.m. On the agenda were six bills from the Rules and Regulations Committee, each aiming to adjust the operations of Texas A&M’s Student Government Association.
The Election Regulations Update Act, presented by Election Commissioner Paige Rigsby, introduced a host of new rules looking to clear up previous issues and areas of ambiguity in the student body election process.
The bill established an official start time for online campaigning – an area largely unregulated in previous elections. Students who start campaigning online more than two weeks before their candidate meeting can now be issued a violation once they officially enter the race.
“This levels the playing field in terms of when a candidate can begin posting on social media and with this start time, with every other form of campaigning there’s already a designated start time, so I think it makes sense to have it on social media as well,” Rigsby said.
Also included were provisions specifying the election commissioner’s ability to approve additional ballot items assessing student opinion on a topic, similar to the “Vote Rec” poll included on the Spring 2018 ballot.
Specific penalties for candidates who fail to include an item on their campaign expense reports were also included. In future elections, these candidates will receive a major violation, which includes a 15 percent deduction from their campaign budget.
“The fair market price of the item will be taken out of their budget,” Rigsby said. “But if they left enough room in their budget, also taking into account the 15 percent deduction, then the candidate will not be disqualified.”
Significant portions of the original bill did not make the final cut, including a rule that would have allowed the election commission to automatically disqualify candidates who willfully exclude a purchase from their expense reports.
Also removed was a section giving the election commissioner authority to choose an appropriate office for write-in candidates who win multiple positions. In the final bill, the decision is left to the candidates as long as they make their choice known within 24 hours of being notified.
A bill redistributing Student Senate’s seats for the 72nd session proved to be another sticking point. The allocation of seats to each of the senate’s caucuses was adjusted, including the creation of a new caucus for the Texas A&M Health Science Center, which currently lacks Student Senate representation. 
“They are considered part of the Texas A&M campus, so whenever we talk about total student population at Texas A&M and we use that 66,000 number, they are factored into that already, so they deserve to have representation because the numbers are already being used that way,” Senate Speaker Jasmine Wang said.
The redistribution of senate’s 39 seats for college-specific caucuses was based on the bill authors’ consideration of Fall 2017 enrollment numbers for each college, with the requirement that each caucus meet a two-seat minimum.
Though the bill was ultimately passed as written, the allocation of seats to the Health Science Center was called into question by Rules and Regulations Chair Ben Johnson, who said the current status of the center’s student leadership should be considered.
“My only concern with this is that right now, they are their own separate entity governed by themselves and we can’t represent them until they’re fully integrated on Texas A&M’s campus,” Johnson said. “That’s why they have their own student government association.”
Between lengthy periods of debate and four recesses to discuss amendments or consult senate rules, the assembly was left with little time for open session, limiting opportunities for additional legislation. Student Body President Bobby Brooks said he was disappointed by what he described as a pattern of disrespectful behavior on the part of many student senators – particularly in their response to Rigsby’s election regulations.
“Paige Rigsby has been working on these regulations for a year,” Brooks said. “Three senators spoke to the election commissioner in the past few weeks, barely any showed up the committee meeting and then within the last thirty minutes of this process, people want to play political games.”
The only act to emerge in open session was a resolution written by Off-Campus Senator Zach Heubschman honoring the Late Barbara Bush and expressing gratitude for her contributions to the university.
“The 70th session of the Texas A&M Student Senate offers its sincerest condolences and support for the Bush family,” the resolution read. “The Student Senate will commemorate and recognize First Lady Barbara Bush for her lifelong dedication to selfless, public service and her fight for civil rights.”
Editor’s note: The article has been updated to include additional details on the reapportionment of senate seats based on enrollment numbers and a two-seat minimum for caucuses.

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