Fili-busted ASG meeting

ASG was wrought with interruptions, intense political strategy and high emotions as a result of a filibuster, which kept the senate in chambers for nearly four and a half hours Tuesday night.

The protest by Senator Blake Pennington began after the Senate spent nearly an hour debating proposed amendments to Bill 10, the April 2006 RSO Funding Act.

Bill 10 recommends giving moneys to numerous Registered Student Organizations. The appropriations committee, which reviews all fiscal requests from RSOs, made the recommendations.

The first amendment, to give the Booster Club an increase of nearly a $1,600 was approved after the RSO presented its appeal to the Senate. The appropriations committee originally proposed giving the Booster Club only $750 dollars for events because “the standing rule” of the committee is to not to fund more than one event for a group, said Robbie Jones, chair of the Appropriations Committee.

The Booster Club made the appeal to the Senate in order to use student money to fund more than one pep rally for Razorback games. The Booster Club said the senate was taking away a tradition not only from the students but from the community.

Friends of India, who did not receive money for their annual banquet because they failed to follow procedure during their application, requested $28,425 in another appeal to the Senate. The Diwali Banquet is an annual event that has consistently brought more than 2,000 people. Despite intense debate, their appeal was not approved in an amendment.

Another close vote concerned an appeal by Megan Bright to get $5,000 to bring a speaker to the UA campus in conjunction with University Programs. The amendment failed.

Jones defended the actions of the Appropriations Committee.

“It’s not a matter of us wanting to kill any tradition. It’s a matter of being fair and having viewpoint neutrality,” Jones said. “We would love to fund everything that comes before us, unfortunately we don’t have the pockets to do that. We made cuts across the board for RSOs that requested [sharing expenditures] with ASG.

“If we make this exception then other groups that we denied funding to can sue the university for giving groups preferential treatment.”

Moments before the bill was up for debate and vote Senate Chair Kris Zibert made an unprecedented speech to the Senate voicing his disappointment with the attempted amendments. “We’ve taken fairness and quality out thrown it out the window.” Zibert said. “I hope we won’t have to learn our lesson because we got sued but maybe that’s what it will take.”

Zibert’s remarks were quickly followed by Pennington’s protest.

After a brief attempt by senators to quiet Pennington for breaking parliamentary procedure, Pennington spoke for about two hours about principle, ethics and a variety of other topics in an attempt to get opposition to agree to scrap the proposed amendments.

“We have rules and we need to follow them,” Pennington said. “I feel like I’m being a good leader by following code. We just kicked the entire [ASG] code to the curb. What we’ve done tonight is irresponsible. I’m sorry it had to come to this but we have rules to follow.”

Senators in the hall began to stand up and either move to the back of the room or gather directly behind the senate’s closed doors to discuss ways to get around Pennington’s protest. Pennington said he was practicing what he believed to be true leadership by standing on principles in which he believed.

Conversation in the hall reached an exceptional volume, with people discussing the issue in groups, talking on cell phones or working on homework. Zibert told the senate to maintain order several times.

Because the senators were debating an appropriations bill, a sergeant of arms was placed at the door and no one was allowed to leave until the bill was settled. Two senators were granted permission to leave for personal reasons.

After an hour of discussion and strategizing, a group began to collect signatures from senators in order to ensure a 50 percent plus one vote to strike all the amendments from Bill 10 and pass it as it originally read. The petition was presented to Pennington who immediately ended his filibuster and the Senate voted to approve the bill without any of the amendments.

Members of the senate said the RSOs that appealed to Senate Tuesday could apply for emergency funding with a senator two weeks before their planned events take place.

The last time a filibuster occurred in Senate was two years ago, before the complete reconstruction of the legislative body, said ASG advisor Jacob Murdock.

– Arkansas Traveler, April 27, 2006

[Original piece available here.]

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