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Debate over finance appointment highlights senate training bill

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A Student Association debate over a Board of Finance appointment Wednesday night highlighted a need for better senate training according to some within the organization.

SA President Jerlisa Fontaine sought to appoint Moises Urena to the BOF following the resignation of Mark Anthony Quinn, the former chair of the Appropriations Committee, whom she appointed to the board last year.

A debate ensued on whether Fontaine could make the appointment.

Freshman Sen. Isaiah James said the debate Wednesday night highlighted the need for senators to receive mandatory training.

The proponent of a mandatory training bill that was passed last month, James said debates like the one last Wednesday would be better understood if senators had training on issues concerning the constitution and bylaws.

“With us having knowledge and making sure that we understood the bylaws and constitution, things like this wouldn’t happen,” he said.

According to the SA constitution, the president is allowed three appointments to the BOF whereas the senate chair is given four – two of which must be members of the Appropriations Committee and include the committee’s chair.

Quinn, who did not become appropriations chair until September 2017, was appointed to the BOF by Fontaine in May the same year. His resignation last month has led to a debate over who gets to fill his vacancy.

Due to confusion, senators voted to debate Urena’s appointment at a later date.

“This isn’t a yes or a no thing,” said Liberty Terrace senator Paulina Hatzipetrakos who called further debate over the appointment absurd. “Give us sometime so all the senators…who are all arguing at 10:46 at night about complex bylaws that a majority of us haven’t even read over.”

James’ recently passed bill, which was supported by Senate Chair Jarrett Altilio, and Brandon Holdridge, chair of the Rules Committee, requires mandatory training for all senators before the first senate meeting following an election.

Prior to the bill’s passage, rules of the senate and responsibilities for senators were not required as part of the brief training session covering the organization’s procedural rules – a session not mandatory until now.

“When new senators are elected, we have one practice bill,” said James. “We do have access to the constitution and bylaws since they’re public, but besides that, that’s the only type of training we get.”

According to Altilio, senators not understanding the bylaws, constitution, and senate procedural rules is a “two-tiered issue.” Blame, he says, can be accredited to a lack of senate training and individual responsibility.

“It’s a culture that’s persisted beyond me even being here,” said Altilio, who described his training as a freshman senator four years ago as a brief PowerPoint presentation regarding procedural rules of the senate. “Since then we haven’t done a whole lot in the way of training and that’s a mistake. That’s something I take responsibility for.”

James, alongside Holdridge and Altilio, is currently working on creating a training handbook containing brief explanations of the organization’s constitution, bylaws, and procedural rules to supplement future training.

“This is the responsibility of everybody to know the bylaws and to know the constitution. It’s sad seeing that they don’t,” said Holdridge. “Hopefully next year, with the right leadership, we’ll be able to implement the handbook…and really fix the problem of the education of all these senators.”

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Chad Arnold is a reporter for the Albany Student Press covering Student Association affairs. He is also an die-hard heavy metal fan.

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