SG member proposes bill to stop proposing, voting on legislation within same meeting

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Vanessa Cruz, a senior nutrition major and university wide representative, debates a bill which will eliminate fast-tracking during the Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 Student Government meeting.

Photo Credit: Kirsten Hahn | Daily Texan Staff

A Student Government member introduced a bill to eliminate fast-tracking from its code of rules during its meeting Tuesday. 

Proposed legislation normally goes to a committee where members may discuss and amend it before the assembly votes on it. Fast-tracking, which SG has done twice this semester, allows members to propose and vote on legislation within the same meeting.

Zachary Pisarski, a Cockrell School of Engineering representative, said he authored the bill because he believes SG needs to spend days discussing legislation before voting on it. He said it is strange that there is fast-tracking in SG when there’s no fast-tracking in “real government.”

 

“I don’t feel like anyone needs SG for anything,” chemical engineering senior Pisarski said. “From the time constraint aspect, it’s not like something will fall apart if we don’t say anything about it. There’s a certain process of introducing things, asking questions, debating, discussing and looking at things from multiple perspectives.”

The two fast-tracked resolutions involved Austin City Council votes on Riverside redevelopment and Austin homelessness. SG Supreme Court is expected to declare the resolution, which expressed support for Austin’s homeless population, as unconstitutional because SG incorrectly fast-tracked it, said Jakob Lucas, speaker of the assembly.  

Pisarski said he originally thought of this bill during the meeting where SG passed the resolution about homelessness.

“It was very frustrating,” Pisarski said. “We were making strong statements. Generally, these things are complicated issues, and the debate we had wasn’t the core of the actual debate. It was a huge waste of time. (The authors) had their reasons (to fast-track), but as a matter of principle, I don’t think it’s good for the role of SG.” 

Government senior Lucas said SG members, including Pisarski, petitioned against a resolution in support of the homelessness population because procedures were not followed during the fast-tracking process. 

“Both accountability and transparency are important,” Lucas said during the meeting. “It seems sucky to say (I) messed up, but I did mess up. I want to use this to scare future speakers (so they follow the code), and I can say, ‘Hey, this is what happens when you don’t.’” 

Advocacy director Nikita Telang said she wondered how SG would respond to urgent matters, such as protests on campus, if SG repealed fast-tracking. 

“Certain things provoke responses that can be really difficult for students, and as representatives, students want us to respond immediately,” psychology junior Telang said. “In this scenario, (I don’t know how) to feel like we can make them feel heard and respond to them quickly if we can’t fast-track legislation.” 

Pisarski said he believes SG’s responsibility is to debate legislation rather than respond quickly. He said he believes SG’s voice will lose value if it continues to fast-track legislation. 

“Nothing SG does has any direct consequence outside itself,” Pisarski said. “We could pass resolutions all day, but they’re just what we think. I want to open it up more, get more people engaged, disagreeing and discussing things. And we can’t do that if we’re continually abridging the rules.”