Well This Can’t be Legal…

In order to better serve my constituents and be as transparent as possible I want to post something real quick about a peice of legislation certain 18th session council members (Representative Akubeze, Representative Billeaux, Representative Magallon) are trying to slide through during finals week.

Here is the legislation entitled “Save WISPIRG” in which the above council members are looking to add $128,378.59 into ASM’s internal budget in order to fund WISPIRG in full.

At first glance this seems to me to be highly illegal and could be some of the the most blatant corruption I’ve seen in my now 4 years being involved in the organization. After being denied funding through SSFC this year and then the Student Judiciary upholding this decision, two of the three bodies in ASM have ruled on this case and I see this as skirting the entire funding process and the checks and balances of the organization to take this to council.

If this is not illegal I see two possible options of council moving forward with this.

1)  Council will have to cut $128,378.5 from the budget from other services, positions, or grant money in order to pay for WISPIRG.

2) This would have to go to SSFC and seg fees would need to be raised. (something, if I remember correctly, these individuals campaigned against)

Regardless of all of this I would like to know where the transparency and outreach was on this issue? A majority of the elected council members this session ran under the “I will Vote” slate who shared a common vision. I’m not too sure if they are holding up to their campaign promises. What’s possibly the most ironic is that only a few months ago current ASM Chair, then WISPIRG Secretary Allie Gardnar criticized ASM for not doing outreach and not being transparent on big ticket issues.

As always please post your thoughts, reactions and questions below.

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4 responses to “Well This Can’t be Legal…

  1. Sarah Neibart

    This is the most inappropriate thing to be put onto the agenda.

  2. Michael Billeaux

    As a cosponsor of the legislation, I feel I should comment.

    I have not been convinced by any argument so far suggesting that funding WisPIRG via the internal budget is illegal; nor is it without precedent (membership in USSA was paid for this way). The discussion tomorrow will allow all arguments re: legality to be fleshed out in full, and I am very open to the possibility that we, the sponsors of the proposal, have all missed something. I will leave this here, as I’m sure we will have ample opportunity to discuss this tomorrow evening.

    The argument that the legislation is corrupt is, of course, altogether different and unrelated to legality. And I disagree with this argument as well. Firstly, it was abundantly clear to everyone that WisPIRG was lobbying, as they attempted to meet with just about every representative on council. This is the right of any group (including, if they were so inclined, CFACT, whose proposal I would also have considered). Second, the timing of the WisPIRG issue is a matter of urgency; this is not an issue which could have been taken up in the Fall (which, believe me, is a scenario I would have personally much preferred). Third, although you don’t make this particular point in your post, the focus on Chair Gardner and her former association with WisPIRG is misplaced. It is we, the names you list in your post, who decided to take this up, and so it is against us any claims of corruption or ineptitude must be leveled. Moreover, I hope there is no implicit assertion here that chairs or other representatives should have had no former connection to other organizations and should have no personal preferences. I am an active member of the TAA, and my affiliation with that organization will, I’m sure, be reflected in some way in the decisions I make as a member of the council.

    I look forward to the discussion tomorrow, and I hope this all can stay at the level of disagreement over interpretation.

  3. You’re not actually supposed to have this debate tomorrow. The idea behind section 3.04(4) is to make sure the full text of a proposal is out and available for longer than 24 hours, which is really not enough time for the public to know what’s going on.

    Under open meetings law, 24 hours is the minimum – and if something is so important that it needed to be done that day, 3.04(4) has a clause that let that happen. But that’s the exceptional case.

    Otherwise, the idea was that at the meeting A, proposals would be introduced and briefly explained so people were aware that they existed, and then taken up for real at meeting B, usually a week later. That way, people have plenty of time to read it, talk to other students, think of questions, and get the word out about the proposal, so people for or against something have more than a just a few hours to find out.

    It’s actually modeled (and, in fact, some of the text is taken verbatim) from the Madison City Council ordinances, which introduces new legislation at the end of their meetings. They normally refer it to other committees right away, the whole process takes 30 seconds.

    Having a long Q&A and debate on the night of goes against that spirit of transparency that was behind 3.04(4), even if it meets the letter.

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