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Senators plan to uphold veto

Published: Monday, April 8, 2013

Updated: Monday, April 8, 2013 00:04

After extensive media attention and controversy, some senators said it’s time to put The Religious Exemption Funding Bill to rest. The executive branch and legislative branch of Student Government Association released a joint statement Friday after Student Body President John Claybrook announced his plan to veto the bill.

The press release from Senate speaker Scott Bowen and Claybrook, stated that a motion to postpone a veto override by Senate will be made at the April 17 Student Senate meeting — ending discussion on the bill and upholding Claybrook’s veto.

Bowen said the press release itself is unconventional in that it is usually not the Speaker’s place to step in and request no vote be made to override a veto, but he said in this case the issue is clearly over and the veto would not be overturned.

“The [SGA] constitution requires we hold a vote, but there’s not the will on my part to re-litigate this anymore,” Bowen said. “Maybe it is me stepping a little outside my authority and I probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that if it were a closer margin, but realistically it is just not going to work.”

Speaker Pro Tempore Mariana Fernandez, senior political science major, said any more litigation would only add fuel to the fire.

“I am glad they reached this agreement,” Fernandez said. “[The veto] was obviously not going to be overturned and accepting that is going to prevent Senate from hurting more Aggies.”

Student senator Paige Melendez, sophomore political science major, said the publicity generated by the bill needed to stop because it put A&M in a negative light.

“This entire thing has brought publicity to our University that doesn’t portray what we are about,” Melendez said. “It tells people that we don’t accept our Aggie family, that we are not accepting of everyone. That’s not who we are.”

Melendez also said the atmosphere has shifted since the press release.

“People were gearing up for a second round of debates for the overturn,” Melendez said. “It definitely settled a lot of people’s concerns about the attempt to override the veto.”

Student senator Thomas McNutt, one of the bill authors and a senior political science major, said alienating students was “the last thing anyone wanted to do.” McNutt said he is not fighting the motion and his input was considered when molding the plan introduced by the press release.

McNutt also said there is merit to both sides of the debate, and the controversy is the result of poor communication from all sides about the revisions to the original bill.

“I hopped on this bill late in the game to take the language out of the bill that singled the GLBT [Resource] Center out specifically,” McNutt said. “I was trying to make the bill inclusive for everyone. I was trying to be a peacemaker and compromise between the two extreme sides.”

McNutt said while the bill was “simply trying to protect religious liberties,” he is glad Senate is moving on.

“I’m so happy that the Speaker, [Claybrook] and I have reached a compromise and are putting this thing to rest,” McNutt said.

Nick Burrell, sophomore general studies major, said he was surprised to see senators from both sides express interest in dropping the topic.

“I wouldn’t expect it, especially because it was such a big deal,” Burrell said.

Reid Geissen, sophomore philosophy major, said the senators are making the right decision by thinking about the effect this debate has on the University instead of prolonging the discussion.

“I think people in the University who have positions of authority in relation to this topic should be prioritizing the University’s reputation and are justified in whatever influence they may have to help student government and the University image,” Geissen said.


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