Archive for July, 2010

Smoking out FAU’s new policy

Posted in Rules on July 26, 2010 by Brandon

On Friday, Wellness Director Rosemary Dunbar showed up to the Boca House to assure them I was totally wrong about FAU’s forthcoming smoking rules being already planned out.

“Some of you may have heard that we already made the decision [to ban smoking] and you have to go along with it,” said Dunbar. “That’s not true at all.”

She then announced that there would be a “task force” to assess things, and half of its membership would be students.

FAU's Wellness Director Rosemary Dunbar's not joking about smoking, and a light-up could mean a write-up. But who knows? (Not her!)

But there’s no mention of such a task force in the proposed policy statement and implementation plan attached to the legislation last week, nor any mention of it on their website. There is a pre-existing Wellness Task Force which has, at my count, one student member — a grad student. But that’s not what Dunbar was talking about.

“Half of this task force would be made up of students. We will listen to you. This is not rubber-stamped,” said Dunbar, who then went into a persuasive schpiel about how bad smoking is for you, how so many other schools are already changing, and how second-hand smoke is worse than smoking itself.

“We want more students to tell us what you want. This is your world,” she added. But the last thing she said before leaving drew looks of consternation, chuckles, and murmurs of shock from the House:

Smokers do not have rights. We believe a smoker does not have rights.

Nice PR, there.

The “half student” membership thing is standard procedure at FAU; appointed students often make up a small majority of committees that make decisions directly affecting students on campus. This allows the administration to say the student body supports the decisions made, even though every student on a committee would have to be united in opposition to the administrative stance on whatever issue the committee was addressing.

And as my editor has documented of at least one supposedly majority-student committee, reasonable students appointed to the committee don’t always agree. Or care. Or show up. But decisions are made, nonetheless.

So barring a major student outcry on this issue, there probably will be a complete smoking ban on campus next year, and fines for violations —  although Dunbar says “ramifications” are “to be decided.”

Of course, she also said UF would be a model for our policy, and UF’s doesn’t fine people for smoking as the already proposed FAU policy would do. You can compare their policy to the last page of this document and see a clear emulation of UF, with an FAU twist: charging people who already spend too much money on cigarettes. (And speaking of PR moves and cigarette prices, check out this neat UF chart.)

Well, at least we know administrative dealings won’t take place in smoke-filled back rooms anymore.

Legislative Update [July 16, 2010 Edition]

Posted in Legislation on July 21, 2010 by Brandon

[NOTE: A version of this post runs in this week’s print edition of the UP. If you’ve read that, you’ve read this. For new print readers coming over here, click the official numbering of the bill below to see a scanned copy of the legislation for yourself.]

No action was taken on the free speech resolution because the student court is currently addressing it, but there was one new item this week which was sent to committees after some debate.

Student Government wants your opinion on something the university may have already decided.

In a new bill put forth last Friday — ironically called “Let the Student’s Decide” [sic] — Boca Governor Allison Gentry proposes polling students in the fall SG election on “whether or not they support Florida Atlantic University becoming a smoke free university as of July 1, 2011.”

The purpose statement attached to the back of the bill, however, makes this “proposal” sound finalized already:

To promote the health and well-being of our students, visitors, and employees, all Florida Atlantic University facilities will be tobacco-free starting July 1, 2011. Visitors, students, and employees will no longer be able to smoke or use tobacco products on any Florida Atlantic University campus.

To be clear, the ban itself is a university initiative, not Gentry’s. But it makes your opinion seem kind of redundant, doesn’t it? Especially if you voted against this the first time…

Smoke and mirrors

If you feel like you’ve been asked about this same exact thing before, you have. The bill cites a student poll from over a year ago, taken during the Spring 2009 SG election. While the bill gives you percentages from that, though, it doesn’t offer the hard numbers from the two questions:

I support limiting smokers to using designated smoking areas at FAU — 1376 votes
I do not support limiting smokers to using designated smoking areas — 428 votes

I support a smoke-free university — 1172 votes
I do not support a smoke-free university —634 votes

The former policy, dubbed the “Breathe Easy” campaign, went into effect in January. It obviously had more support than the latter — the students who voted supported it 3 to 1, while a complete ban of smoking was only supported 2 to 1. Still, FAU is eager to keep pace with “similar [ban] policy being enforced at eight colleges and universities throughout Florida,” according to the purpose statement.

But those numbers only reflect the opinions of roughly seven percent of the student body, and some House Representatives took issue with that during the debate last Friday.

A truth campaign?

Last Friday’s meeting presented an uncommon diversity of viewpoints on the issue: for, against, problems, suggestions.

Representative Peter Amirato was the first to speak out against a ban backed by a low-turnout poll: “I don’t really like this, to tell you the truth.”

He gave two reasons — one, addicts following the rules would have to trade parking for smoking. “So many people would avoid coming to FAU just because they’re addicted to smoking,” said Amirato. “You’d have to drive 10 minutes to get a smoke and then try to find a parking spot again.”

Amirato, a non-smoker, said the designated areas for smoking are fine, but the ban is “extreme” — like the people who he says would vote for it: “Not many people vote in this [SG elections] and the people who will vote are extremists who want to ban smoking.” He suggested that a large marketing campaign would be necessary to validate the poll’s results.

Gov. Gentry’s response was true, though it’s not clear whether or not it helps her case: “Are you aware that more students voted in this poll than people voted to elect any of us to our offices?”

Representative Guilherme Massetti agreed with Amirato, and added that, “As long as smoking is legal in this country, we should be able to have it at this university.”

Guy Murphy, a representative who co-sponsored the bill, said the ban might actually fix the turnout problem — after the fact:

“Voter participation is something everybody has complained about,” said Murphy. “People won’t learn until they have something taken away or until they get pissed off. People might become involved just because this passes.”

Kevin Stantz asked about enforcement. “How would we enforce a smoke-free campus if we cannot enforce the breathe-easy zones we have now?”

The policy statement attached to the bill does address that problem, which the UP has covered before, here, here and here. Starting in January 2012, anyone caught smoking more than once would be entered into an FAU database and fined $10 each time.

Dean Hasan thought “this whole bill or resolution is just to follow other schools.”

Representative Boris Bastidas and House Speaker Josh Pollock both agreed that the current policy has made things worse by condensing smoke into designated clusters, but they differed on what to do about it.

“These designated smoking areas have concentrated the smoking in certain areas that are heavily traveled,” said Pollock. “But is it really helping keep second-hand smoke away from non-smokers? Before these breathe-easy zones I didn’t notice it, but now I do.”

Bastidas said he’d like “going back to the way it was,” while bill co-sponsor Pollock argued for the ban, saying, “You can’t subject other people to an unhealthy lifestyle.”

Student Body President Ayden Maher didn’t comment on the issue during the meeting, but told the UP his views while campaigning for office in the spring semester:I do not support the smoking ban on campus,” but, “I don’t support smoking. I’m not a smoker.”

Got a light?

Here’s a few additional resources for you guys. FAU periodically offers a free, six-week quitting program which you can learn more about here.

If you’d like to voice your opinion to Boca Gov. Allison Gentry, you can e-mail her at fau.bocagov@fau.edu. If you want to go over SG, the FAU administrative contact for the smoking program would be Wellness Director Rosemary Dunbar, who you can reach at rdunbar@fau.edu.

Legislative Update [July 9, 2010 Edition]

Posted in Constitution, legal, Legislation, president, Rules on July 15, 2010 by Brandon

Nothing new in legislation this past week, but one item was vetoed and the House sent it back to committee. Let’s mark that with…pink. If it becomes a regular occurrence, I guess I’ll update my little key below.

As I said earlier in the week, this passed on June 4 but wasn’t vetoed until June 24, the day Boca Governor Allison Gentry received it. This led to a debate in the House among SG leadership last Friday.  The governor and Student Body President Ayden Maher felt a veto was necessary, while one of the bill’s authors called FAU policy unconstitutional. The other author, along with the Speaker of the House, tried to mediate.

Let’s start with what Gentry said about why she vetoed it:

I vetoed this because I think it needs to go to committee. People seemed kind of confused and just kind of frustrated when it came up a second time. I know people admitted they just wanted to get out of here. Also, just the whole clause about YAF is very vague, and doesn’t really prove anything. I don’t think the average student reading this bill would get anything.

The vague clause about Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is the second one. It makes some strong declarations without explaining what actually happened, saying the group’s speech was “discriminated against” and their rights were violated.

As Gentry says, the average student who had only this bill in front of them wouldn’t understand the March 3 situation referenced there. The only real accounting of that situation was done here, in a press release that quotes House Secretary and bill co-author James Shackelford — after misspelling his name in the first instance.

Gentry, who isn’t an average student, was aware of the account. She said calling it a First Amendment violation is “kind of situational and a stretch” since YAF didn’t follow university procedures for reserving the room, as any student group would be expected to do.

Shackelford argued that the resolution was clear enough:

This resolution is not hard to understand. It explains what it is. I would hope everyone at the college level would understand their First Amendment rights. I don’t find how this is confusing. It is the responsibility of our hired officials to defend our constitutional rights. I’m very disappointed to see it in vetoed business.

You can brush up on your First Amendment rights here, but that won’t explain YAF at FAU. Because Shackelford brushed over that part, Gentry thought he was calling FAU’s policies on how student organizations run were unconstitutional: “Are you saying that regulation 4.006 and COSO and the rules and policies they have are unconstitutional?”

Shackelford paused, and then said yeah: “There are some things at this university that are unconstitutional. 4.006 has its good and has its bad. But I always suggest that if it’s too vague to the average person, it needs to be revised.”

The bill’s other co-author, Boris Bastidas, also waded into the argument. He said the House had already been over this the first time the bill came up, and they passed it.

“A lot of you had concerns with the YAF portion. I mentioned that me and the co-author had some discussions and disagreements and that [the YAF clause] would get away from the part dealing with the UP,” said Bastidas. “But there’s something called compromise.”

“There were a lot of questions that were asked and then we went to a vote. Some of the folks who questioned the bill voted for it. But the House passed it,” he added.

House Speaker Josh Pollock was one of those people who originally questioned the bill before voting for it, and he said something similar:

I was very outspoken against this bill, but I also voted for it. I thought the language was too harsh and YAF didn’t belong in the bill. But I voted for this bill because I believe in free speech. You don’t have to vote against something just because you disagree with certain parts of it.

Ultimately, the bill was sent back to committees for further review. But Bastidas had complaints about how long the process takes, and the way statutes were interpreted to justify the delay. He said, “So much damn delay since I’ve been here. I don’t care who it is, I’m just tired of delays.”

On that note, he said he would be contacting Chief Justice Mike Burdman to organize an official proclamation of the student court’s interpretation of the statute discussed Monday.

That’ll happen next Tuesday, July 20 at 4 p.m. in his Student Union office. From Burdman’s announcement of the meeting:

At this time the court feels that an official hearing is not required for this matter; however a meeting of the court is required to make an official interpretation of the statutes and to resolve this matter in a way that would prohibit it from reoccurring again.

You can read Bastidas’ petition for an official ruling on the legality of the veto and the interpretation of the statutes here.

The Quirks [July 9, 2010 Edition]

Posted in appointments, idiosyncracy, Legislation, president, Rules on July 12, 2010 by Brandon

It’s almost like the House felt obligated to cram two weeks of weirdness into one, to make up for canceling their July 2 meeting.

Student Body President Ayden Maher reappeared, Boca Governor Allison Gentry announced she vetoed the free speech resolution that passed the House a month ago, my editor-in-chief Karla Bowsher faced off with House Speaker Josh Pollock, and Representative (?) Hakeem Haye resigned but continued to act like a representative. We’ll take these one by one.

The president’s back, planning to tackle branding and food vouchers

As I said, Maher returned this past week. Before that, the last meeting he attended was June 11. He acknowledged the near-month absence by saying, “I feel like it’s been too long. Sorry I couldn’t be here.”

So far, this is the longest span he’s gone without attending a meeting — but he’s still got the best presidential attendance record in at least the past three years, and as regular readers will know, he hasn’t missed much.

He mentioned that the July 21 Board of Trustees meeting will “most likely be [including] the stadium finance vote,” and encouraged everyone to attend. The agenda for that meeting is not available online yet, but then, FAU hasn’t posted a BOT agenda since March or meeting minutes since February. (Some of these agendas have been e-mailed to the press — let me know if you want any of them. Don’t have the missing minutes, though.)

He’s also taking up the initiatives of other SG leaders, including Representative Boris Bastidas’ effort to get language on sexual orientation into FAU’s anti-discrimination policy and the open-ended collective effort to “rebrand” SG.

Maher also mentioned that “the final details” of those vouchers he promised for SG representatives — the ones that will get them free food from Chartwells — are being worked out.

The governor vetoes, the Speaker slips, and statutes are all over the place

I’ll speak more about the rationale for the veto and the discussion that took place about it in the legislative update later this week. In short, Gentry thinks it’s confusing and the House voted on it just to get out of a long meeting. President Maher chimed in to say he would have vetoed it too, if it got to his desk.

But Gov. Gentry, in explaining her veto, clarified an issue I raised a couple weeks ago about statutes. If you haven’t read about that, this might get confusing.

She agreed about 458.312, saying, “It really is one of the statutes that’s not really clear.” She said she spoke with Chief Justice Mike Burdman about it:

I vetoed it the day I received it. So I asked the chief justice his interpretation of it [458.312], and they said it’s seven days from when I received it[, not from when it passes]. If this was breaking the Constitution or anything, I would’ve just signed it. So that’s not the intent of this at all.

Which is a fine interpretation that precludes any broken rules on Gentry’s part in the current situation, but I thought: it doesn’t fix the statutory problem. Would this allow for the Speaker to hold onto legislation indefinitely — giving one person the ability to absolutely halt legislation the House has already passed, if he chooses?

That would be almost like a super-veto, because at least a veto can be overturned by a two-thirds vote of the House. It’d be a substantial gap in the legislative process, a hole legislation could be dumped into never to emerge again.

To be clear, I’ve never seen anybody in SG do this, and I’m not suggesting Speaker Pollock would. But I do think that would break the system.

Fortunately, though, I found out this gap doesn’t exist, at least not anymore. There’s a plug for it — in an entirely separate section of statutes, the 700s:

[The Speaker of the House] Shall forward all legislation approved by the House of Representatives to the Governor within five (5) business days after approval. (702.212.i)

This provides a limit on how long the Speaker can hold legislation, and there’s already a limit on the governor’s timeframe to veto. So it’s not the governor who broke the rules: it’s the Speaker.

The resolution passed on June 4. Gentry vetoed on June 24, “the day I received it.” That’s 14 business days if you just count Monday through Friday.

Speaker Pollock did explain why this happened, back on June 18: “The bill signing sheet I passed on to the governor was slapped together very poorly. I had trouble doing it and it looked horrible, and so I’m going to get to [redoing] it next week.”

I should  note here that Gov. Gentry also made two more appointments: Angela Moormann is the new director of the Peer Education Team, and Ralph Landau is now a university-wide senator, the position President Maher previously held.

Moormann announced that the university is implementing some kind of alcohol awareness test incoming freshmen will have to take, “like a driving school program.” Not a start that’s going to win her brownie points with freshmen, even though it’s not her program.

Editor in chief vs. Speaker of the House

Speaking of Pollock and broken statutes, my editor had it out with the Speaker on Friday. You can read her take on events here if  you haven’t already.

Bowsher’s already known for being blunt with the House. When the free speech resolution was initially coming to a vote, she said to anyone who objected to it, “you shouldn’t be in any government in this country, and you should probably go home and pack your bags for Cuba or Venezuela or China.”

So when Speaker Pollock called her out for taking photos from a location he considered against the rules, Bowsher sat down next to me and asked me to pull up the 700s. Scanning through them, I couldn’t find anything that backed up exactly what Pollock was saying — though that’s when I noticed the section I cited earlier in this post.The only relevant bit I saw was this:

After the Presiding Officer has called the House of Representatives to order, Representatives shall sit in the Assembly which is the first four (4) rows of the Senate Chambers, or other alternate meeting room in which a House meeting may be held. (702.340)

Which, of course, designates the location of the assembly and says nothing about people walking around the periphery of the room. But there are some past circumstances that weren’t fully explained in Karla’s blog or my own. They might affect your judgment or might not, but I should in fairness raise them.

  • UP photographer Mike Trimboli does sometimes attend House meetings, and has been called out of by the Speaker for taking photos within a few feet of people speaking at the podium.
  • The Speaker has smacked down Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena for interrupting and walking up to the front to speak out of turn during a meeting before. And even at this day’s meeting, a non-representative seated in the fourth row was asked to move.

Those things suggest to me that, right or wrong, it wasn’t anything personal. But make your own call. They did let one guy who wasn’t a representative continue to sit in the first four rows this meeting, after all.

Well, he said he wasn’t a representative anymore. But Hakeem Haye kept sitting there and talking. He announced his resignation this way, from the front of the House:

I would like to resign from the House, effective immediately. Um. Bye.

Then he walked back to his seat and continued to interject questions and comments. At one point, Parliamentarian Amanda Phillips stood up and declared, “Point of order: you’re resigned.”

Which people laughed at, but they let him keep sitting there and talking.

One last quirky announcement from the Speaker: he wants to buy 5000 vuvuzelas for FAU football games. He thinks it’ll get FAU some positive (?) media coverage: “I guarantee we’ll make ESPN and national headlines.”

[CORRECTED] Legislative Update [June 25, 2010 Edition]

Posted in Legislation on July 1, 2010 by Brandon

CORRECTED: Breaking news — I’m a moron.

The item below actually passed two weeks ago, and I even wrote that on my agenda and in my notes. But for some reason when I was typing up this blog post, I got it in my head that it was tabled. It wasn’t.

There was discussion of tabling it to make the language nice for President Saunders, so I guess that’s what I was thinking about. Otherwise, I have no explanation for my sudden-onset stupidity.

Sorry for the error — I’ll double-check my entries against my notes in the future. The original post is below, with the inaccuracies crossed out.

New stuff Monday.

***

One new item, but nothing voted on this week.

This resolution was sent straight to committee to make sure it reads real nice — because it’s a formal invite to FAU President Mary Jane Saunders to come say “hi” to the House.

One of its authors, Speaker Pro-Tempore Nicholas Scalice, called it  “a respectful way to ask her here.”

I’m curious what they’d talk to her about — but I guess it is a nice way to start things off on the right foot.

After all, former president Frank Brogan had a rocky relationship with SG after 2006’s crop of “leaders,” which tried unsuccessfully to shut down Owl Radio and was essentially embezzling student money. It was a funny year in general, but not to Brogan, who called them “sad,” “immature,” and “an embarassment.”

So it’s understandable SG would want to demonstrate some openness and friendliness at the start of Saunders’ “new chapter” at FAU. But Representative Peter Amirato made a pretty good point when the legislation was introduced:

Is there any way we can make sure we have business the day she comes, and we’re not just voting on whether to vote? Because that would be very embarrassing. I would be very embarrassed.

Should be a fun meeting, if and when it happens.