SGA meeting discusses overturning a presidential veto
Written by Colleen Holden on April 27, 2023
NORMAL, Ill. – Tensions were high at the Student Government Association’s unplanned meeting on Tuesday, where the members of SGA voted on the job security of its secretaries with the polarizing powers available to Student Body President Patrick Walsh.
SGA recently moved to revoke Walsh’s ability to fire a secretary without approval from any other members and no official listed reason. Walsh vetoed the council’s motion to remove this power from him, which caused this last-minute meeting to take place. This impromptu meeting was called to debate the merits of keeping or overturning Walsh’s veto and ended with a vote needing a 3/4 majority to overturn.
The meeting began with the President of Assembly, Braxton Myers, explaining the purpose of the meeting, and reminding the council to remain civil, despite the veto’s controversy. Almost every member of the Association shared their thoughts, with the overwhelming majority of points made being points of affirmation towards overturning the veto.
The points of affirmation featured a plethora of reoccurring thoughts, the first of which claimed that this an extreme and unnecessary power for any member of student government, no matter the rank of their position. Senator Cobi Blair was one of the few who stood against the veto and countered the point by emphasizing the sanctity of the president’s position.
“The president is one of the only positions we have in our organization that’s elected by the entirety of the student body,” said Blair. “I don’t believe it achieves it’s purpose in the way it believes it does. It says that requiring the consent of the vice president and or the chief of staff in order to remove a secretary, or as it was originally proposed, the unanimous consent, it believes that it would protect potential abuse. Please also keep in mind the president and the chief of staff are all people hand picked by the president as a ticket. Additionally, we have avenues in place in order to prevent abusive power in that instance.”
Myers followed this by reminding Blair, as well as the rest of the council that the student body president is not the only position chosen by the student body, invalidating one of Blair’s claims to why the president should keep this power.
Other points of affirmation addressed the lack of morality of terminating anyone’s position at any time, given that it is a paid position that people depend on, as well as the lack of morality in subjecting secretaries to the threat of spontaneous loss of this dependency.
Additionally, the affirming members perpetually stated iterations of the phrase, “if you can’t convince one other person that someone should be fired, you are the one who is incorrect,” in reference to the president not needing to state a reason for terminating a secretary. This claimed lack of morality prompted a handful of members to ask those against overturning the veto to plead their case, which Senator Matt Setnan did.
“To answer the question ‘why vote no’, I’ll be voting no today. Because I think it’s important for the president on the executive ticket to have authority and somewhat of an influence on having non-partisanship in SGA,” said Setnan. “If someone is acting in a partisan way, that’s not fair to the student body as a whole. I think having that control and authoritative influence is important for the president to hold.”
Following this, several members affirming the veto questioned Setnan’s claim of non-partisanship and claimed that keeping the veto would in fact be a partisan decision. Multiple members then chose to yield their time to public comment. All three of these public comments agreed with previous narratives of affirming opinions.
Shortly after public comment, Senator Ethan Larson moved to end the debate, and Vice President of the Assembly and Senator Jimmy Holmes seconded the motion. A roll call vote was taken, and despite the majority of the comments in the debate being points of affirmation, a 3/4 majority was not reached, meaning the veto remains in place. The meeting was adjourned, at which point any positive or negative remarks about the results of the vote were free to be shared and were shared by many members with pride or hostility. Senator Zoe Smith commented on the monumental ruling this veto comes with.
“Last meeting, we passed an amendment, that I wrote, with a 4/5 majority. This amendment took the power away from the president to fire their secretaries for any and all reasons, they don’t have to give a reason at all,” said Smith. “Our president vetoed that, and to overturn a veto we need a 3/4 majority. We did not get that, so if you are wanting to be a secretary in student government you have to be comfortable being fired at any moment for any reason, or no reason at all.”
The next SGA meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 3 at 7 p.m. in the Bone Student Center.