Legislative Update [June 4, 2010 Edition]

Three items were on the agenda this past week, only one of which was new business:

Over-ruled

As I mentioned earlier this week, the committees which were meant to meet and discuss the two resolutions from the previous week didn’t meet quorum, and so when this meeting came up, they had problems. The rules say, if you send it to committees, you can’t do anything else with it until the committees get the chance.

Mmmm, 208 pages of parliamentary rules. (In the "concise" version.)

But the rules also say if there aren’t enough people at a meeting, you can’t have it. And there weren’t enough people.

So, in order to revisit the legislation and make decisions without waiting at least another week for the committees to consider them, they had to get somebody to undo the decision to send it to committee from the previous week.

As you can guess, the rules have something to say about that, too: only someone who voted for sending it to committee in the first place could undo — or “rescind” — the decision.

This means the people who wanted to consider the legislation in the first place had no say in choosing to consider it the following week. This is so that the opinion of the majority can’t be overruled, even if, technically, it’s no longer the opinion of the majority.

Don’t you love arcane rules?

Anyway, they spent some time figuring out who could make that motion for each of the resolutions and eventually passed them both.

A Frezzo Intermezzo

The new item considered last week was BRHB-10-23, meant to spend $200 on a plaque and a tree on campus in dedication to Mark Frezzo of FAU’s sociology department.

Mark Frezzo is a cool guy. So cool that he doesn't even have an official FAU photo, apparently.

According to the bill,

Dr. Mark Frezzo has not received tenure and he will be leaving FAU shortly[.] [T]his departure will start a reign of immense sadness and depression throughout the campus without his teachings and leadership.

This follows a petition from last year — which currently has 139 signatures from students and fellow professors — to lobby FAU on Frezzo’s behalf. It was started by this Facebook group.

Frezzo’s been immensely popular at FAU, as you can tell by his RateMyProfessors.com ratings: he has 27, only one of which is negative. This places him in the top 6% of the 1,783 FAU professors listed on the site. (I only have three ratings after teaching six classes, myself.)

The bill was sent to committees without much discussion, and will probably pass this week without much objection.

Speeches about speech

BRHR 10-08 didn’t get much more discussion last week, but BRHR 10-09 sure did. Representative Boris Bastidas gave a lengthy speech in defense of the resolution (which I quoted a little on Monday). Representative Guilherme Massetti raised concerns about the clause which mentions Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) — a conservative group trying to form a chapter on campus — which he had never heard of.

That clause reads:

WHEREAS: On March 3rd, 2010, Florida Atlantic University campus officials shut down an informational meeting about starting a conservative organization, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), on campus and violated their First Amendment right to assembly and discriminated against the contents of their speech, and;

Massetti wasn’t convinced that the group being kicked out of a Student Union room which they hadn’t reserved had anything to do with the First Amendment, and went back and forth with Bastidas:

Massetti: “I fully agree with you with what you’re talking about with the UP, but with the YAF, they were kicked out because they did not do the paperwork, is that correct?”

Bastidas: “My problem is that police officers were called, not that they were asked to leave.”

Massetti: “I think these are completely different incidents and I don’t know if they should be in the same bill. They don’t really go along with each other.”

Bastidas: “This is about the First Amendment: freedom of speech, freedom of press is the First Amendment. I think we could’ve had two bills, but they are somewhat related.”

Just for the record, there are five freedoms protected by the First Amendment: speech, press, assembly, religion (which also protects freedom from religion), and freedom to “petition” or dispute your government. A lot of people only know a couple of those.

If you’re interested in more about the YAF incident, you can read their original press release here and one about the legislation here.

Following that discussion, Bastidas motioned to undo something else from last week — an attempt to soften up the language of the resolution so it wouldn’t sound bossy to Student Affairs. Last week, they amended the text to read  as a “request that the university administration acknowledge” state and federal law, rather than “abide” by it.

Representative Dean Hasan objected, saying “It’s rude, and we’re acting like we’re higher than [Student Affairs]. We’re supposed to give them a chance…”

Representative James Shackelford, co-author of the resolution and YAF organizer, said he “spoke with Dean Mena and [Student Media Director] Marti Harvey on this and they both feel abide should be in the bill.”

The amendment passed 12 to 6. The resolution also passed, with four people voting against it: Hasan, as well as Speaker Pro-Tempore Nicholas Scalice, Parliamentarian Amanda Phillips, and one of the new representatives, Fawaaz Diljohn. (Yes, Representative Hakeem Haye, who so vocally criticized the UP the previous week, voted in favor of the measure.)

Despite the dissenting votes, I think it’s cool that the House took action on this issue before Student Affairs Vice President Charles Brown and FAU President Mary Jane Saunders each got letters about it (here and here) from national journalism organizations. Especially since Gov. Charlie Crist just signed a bill from the Florida House reiterating First Amendment protections, too.

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