Archive for the legal Category

Legislative Update [Senate] [March 15, 2012 Edition]

Posted in governor, legal, Legislation, president on March 21, 2012 by regikaza

Here’s a recap of Thursday’s SG Senate meeting. This update is brought to you by UP reporter, Michael Miller.

SGSSB-12-01: “University Wide Budget 2012-13” passed by a 4-0 vote. It approved the University Budget and Appropriations Committee’s budget. The bill was written and sponsored by SG Vice President, Robert Huffman.

SGSSR-12-01 “It’s Time to Lobby” was tabled indefinitely by a vote of 4-0. The bill would have created a committee to help students lobby state legislators more effectively. Senators will draft a new version of the bill. The bill was written by Rep. Stephen Jones, Jupiter Governor Alex Lange, Boca Governor Ryan Ebanks, Broward Governor Helen Pferdehirt, and Boca House Speaker Boris Bastidas.

SGSS-12-02 “A New Seal for Student Government” passed by a vote of 4-0. The bill approved the new SG seal and was written by Bastidas, Rep. Jad Khazem, Ebanks, Pfedehirt, and Lange.

SGSS-12-03 “Standing for Students” passed by a vote of 4-0. The bill states that the Senate opposes any increases in A&S fees, before the final state budget cuts are published. They propose to create a committee which will discuss A&S fee allocation and increases. The bill was written by Bastidas and Khazem.

SGSS-12-04 “911 Safety Resolution” passed by a vote of 4-0. This bill declares the Senate’s support of a university policy granting amnesty to students who call for medical help in cases of drug or alcohol overdose on campus. Currently, FAU’s policy against drug and alcohol users keeps students from calling for help.

This bill is modeled after the Florida State Legislature’s “911 Good Samariton Act” which recently passed in the Florida House by a vote of 117-1. It grants immunity for drug users who seek medical help from drug possession. The bill was written by Sabrina Koramblyum of Students for Sustainable Drug Policy.

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Parking, pot, and sex(ual orientation)

Posted in elections, legal, Legislation, president, Summer 2011 on August 19, 2011 by Chris Persaud

In July, Boca’s House of Reps passed 4 bills that would collectively add these six questions to the Boca campus’ fall ballot:

In August, SG President Ayden Maher vetoed all of those bills. He sent SG Vice President Robert Huffman to the House’s Aug. 5 meeting to explain the reason for the vetoes. Huffman told the House that Maher vetoed them because he “felt it was more of a university wide issue, than a Boca issue.”

Because of this, Huffman said, Maher wanted the bills to go through the Senate. This would put the questions on every campus’ ballot.

The House overrode the vetoes, and now the bills await VPSA Charles Brown’s signature (or veto).

A few hours before that House meeting, the Senate passed three bills that would put these questions on all campus’ fall ballots…

…And Maher vetoed two of them (highlighted in red).

So, why did he veto those two bills?

I’ll start with SGSS-11-10. Earlier this week, Maher told me he vetoed because:

  1. “At my last Board of Trustees meeting, I asked [Equal Opportunities Programs Director] Paula Behul and [General Counsel] David Kian, and they informed me that the amendments will be made, and that it’s going to be presented to the Board of Trustees to vote on. So, in effect, this legislation would have given students a voice to vote on regulation, but the university has already gone forward with changing the regulation.”
  2. “Additionally, I vetoed it because Student Government isn’t in the business of writing [university] policy. Student Government is in the business of advocating for students, and this legislation here is stating a question that–definitely in my opinion, people should not be discriminated against based on sexual orientation. Especially this group of people, because they are apt to discrimination and harassment. So I do think they should be protected by the university policy, but I don’t believe Student Government is in the business of writing policy.”
  3. “And, also, if students did vote on this, and they voted ‘no,’ I think it would put us in a quagmire that has students condemning the protection of people with different sexual orientation … If you make students for or against an issue regarding sexual orientation, there’s going to be a winner and a loser. I don’t think we should be in the business of condemning sexual orientation and/or approving through a student vote.”

Maher said Kian would be sending him an email regarding FAU amending its Anti-Discrimination and Harassment policy. At 1:56 p.m. on Thursday, he sent me a text that said, “Just wanted to let you know that I should be getting an email from legal council [sic] soon regarding the sexual orientation b [sic].” As of this writing, it seem he hasn’t received it yet. Or, if he has, he hasn’t sent it to me.

Now, on to SGSS-11-11. Maher said he didn’t want to risk a “no” vote on the sexual orientation question, but was confident students would vote “yes” on SGSS-11-11’s questions. “Well, I think the general consensus of the student body would vote in favor of having a warning system for tickets. I don’t think there’s one group students that are impacted by the vote of ‘no.'”

Maher said his reasoning for vetoing SGSS-11-12 was similar to his reasoning for vetoing SGSS-11-10: administration is already taking care of the problem. He got this email from IRM Chief Technology Officer Mehran Basiratmand, and forwarded it the Boca House’s members:

Hi,

As a follow-up to our phone conversion regarding IRM servers and services, we would like to update you on several key initiatives currently underway to improve service delivery to our students:

Blackboard Service:
Blackboard application was migrated to new servers last week in anticipation of heavy Fall schedule and usages. These new servers will improve access to the grade book and will render images much faster.

Google Application:
FAU students will be able to opt-in to use Google application starting September 12th, 2011. There will be a channel in MyFAU providing instruction to students to setup their FAU Gmail and Google apps.
Information related to this service is being developed, and FAU Helpdesk is in the process of receiving training. Each student will have 7GB of gmail storage which is likely to increase as soon as Google completes their infrastructure upgrade within a few months.
This is about 200 times more space than is currently allocated for e-mail messages on FAU servers.

New Registration System:***
IRM is in the process of finalizing server purchases to replace the aging systems supporting the Admissions, Financial Aid, Registration, Payroll and Human Resources applications. New storage has already been purchased, received and installed.
If all goes as plan, the upgrade to the new servers will take place during the Fall term on a week-end with minimal impact on our students and other university activities.

Jason Ball, our CIO will be in the office tomorrow. I think it would be a good idea to invite Jason to provide a briefing on all IRM initiatives to your cabinets and SG Senate meeting in early Fall.
As you might already know FAU new mobile applications are shortly being deployed as well as. Recently, we also launched new web based, easy-to-use graduate and undergraduate admission applications.

Hope this information helps. If you need any additional info, please feel free to contact me.

Regards

Mehran Basiratmand
Chief Technology Officer
Enterprise Computing Services
Information Resource Management
Florida Atlantic University
561-297-0220

Emphasis mine.

That sums up Maher’s stated reason for vetoing the tech ballot question. It seems that MyFAU and BlackBoard will run more smoothly if things go according to plan.

I should also note that the marijuana question (BRHB-11-28) was not brought up in an equivalent Senate Bill. I requested all summer Senate legislation from VP Robert Huffman. None said anything about putting BRHB-11-28’s question on this fall’s university-wide ballot.

In any case, the House bills’ vetoes were overridden, and now await the VPSA’s approval or veto. If they pass, then Boca campus students will get to vote their opinion on more stuff than other campus’ students.

But even if voters feel strongly about a particular issue, that does not mean administration has to comply with ballot questions’ results.

Stay tuned.

Weeded out

Posted in legal, Legislation on February 28, 2011 by sergioncandido

Despite pleas from NORML’s current president and former vice president, resolution BRHR-11-03 “More Sensible Cannabis Policies,” was tabled indefinitely on Feb. 25 at the last Boca House of Representatives meeting.

The vote was 12 to eight.

With this outcome, the legislation will float in limbo until modified and reintroduced to the House.

“We don’t need to have a system that penalizes students as harsh as now,” said NORML President David Aarons during the meeting, whose student organization opposes marijuana prohibition. “We need to be at the standard of other states.”

During his speech to try to convince representatives to pass the resolution, Aarons presented 500 petitions signed by FAU students and professors in favor of a change in the current on-campus penalization system.

NORML’s former vice president also named universities that have passed similar legislation.

But the resolution also faced strong opposition from representatives and from other student organizations.

“Violent criminals and non-violent criminals should be penalized the same way,” said Jon Taylor, president of FAU’s Republican club, referring to people found in possession of marijuana. “They are all criminals.”

The resolution called for students caught with one ounce or less of marijuana on campus to be reprimanded in the same way as a student found drinking alcohol.

Currently, a student smoking marijuana inside the dorms could face expulsion while those illegally drinking alcohol will get two more chances to redeem themselves.

According to House Speaker Boris Bastidas, the legislation could be reintroduced once students get to vote on the issue, something which was scheduled to happen during these Spring elections but didn’t happen because SG wasn’t following the statutes on polling procedures.

As of now, there’s no set date for the students to be polled on the matter.

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.

Legislative Update [June 4, 2010 Edition]

Posted in legal, Legislation on June 10, 2010 by Brandon

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.

The State of SG / Upcoming Coverage

Posted in ayala, blog-related, Constitution, elections, legal, Legislation on February 1, 2010 by Brandon

See? I told you we’d be back  in mid-January at the start of February.

Frankly, there hasn’t been much going on yet — although I will mention that Student Body President Tiffany Weimar recouped some first-floor parking spots in Parking Garage 1 (by the library). Originally regular decal spots, they were converted into visitor/metered spaces last year. Weimar lobbied and got them back for us this semester.

Anyhow, things will start to pick up — starting now, the first business day following the deadline for declaring candidacy in the spring election. SG officials take a few days to review eligibility, but according to the election timeline, a list of candidates will be available at 5:30 p.m. on “Monday 2/3.” For those of you who can tell time, that translates to “Wednesday 2/3.” (Editor’s note: Someone in SG must’ve looked at a calendar over the weekend, since this error has been corrected as of 11 a.m. Monday, after I’d initially written up the post.)

So, I’ll have that official list up Thursday morning. But by Wednesday I’ll also have up a short list of likely (but not certain) contenders for executive office. I’ve heard some hearsay about who is — and surprisingly, isn’t — running, but that won’t factor into the list; there’s no real point in such speculation since the official names will be released late Wednesday.

Following that, expect an election preview in print, and perhaps some discussion here on the blog of legislation in the Boca House. The re-examination of the SG Constitution will begin in the coming weeks, too, so expect something more on that.

For those wondering what happened to the Ayala case, the short answer is: not much. It’s quickly coming up on a year since Ayala was arrested on statutory rape charges, and the case has not proceeded to trial yet. There have been a few hearings, and Ayala’s deposition — pre-trial testimony, essentially — has been taken. Another hearing is scheduled for Feb. 25, and maybe a trial date will be scheduled then. I’ll try to attend.

Ayala, who has been under house arrest since last June, also managed to get a traffic infraction in November, and a hearing is scheduled about that just days before the other hearing — whether this will impact proceedings, I don’t know yet. Stay tuned.

Lastly, I’m going to retroblog (that is, retroactively post) a couple of my favorite “SG Quotes of the Week” from this semester so far. So you didn’t miss these posts; I’m just putting them up belatedly.

Ayala Given Three More Months to Prepare for Trial

Posted in ayala, legal on September 4, 2009 by Brandon

So, I saw Chris Ayala on Wednesday.

I know some readers want an update on the case surrounding him, and others would rather I never mention the guy again. You, of course, might not know anything about it.

Basically, the ex-Boca Raton Student Government treasurer was arrested in April and charged on three counts for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. If you want the back story, check my cover from April. (Be warned that there are graphic details directly from the police report.)

I’ll quickly sum up what I know has happened since I wrote that, and then I’ll tell you what happened when I saw him this week. (Anticlimactic as it is.)

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