Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Your mom is blank
The Daily Cal does a story on blank bills, after last week's editorial. This is really the wrong order, and when the editorial hit, it's not clear anyone really knew what they were talking about.
The story is a created one, it seems, since it doesn't seem like anyone has actually complained about the blank bills. If they have, they've done so too spinelessly for us to know about it.
One blank bill, entitled "A Bill to Amend the By-Laws to clarify the procedures for Recall Elections," was submitted at last Wednesday's meeting.I've left out her explanation of what the bill says, just to ask you to figure out the content of the bill from the title. We can probably guess it has something to do with changing the elections By-Laws, but those By-Laws don't mention recalls at all, so which procedures are being clarified are a mystery. If someone is only concerned about certain aspects of recall procedures, they have no way of knowing whether this bill is relevant to them.
"The title of the bill makes it clear what the content of the bill will be," [bill sponsor Christina Oatfield] said.
Cooperative Movement Senator Christina Oatfield, who sponsored the bill, said it will reduce costs for the upcoming recall election of Senator John Moghtader by eliminating unnecessary polling places and workers.I don't know how to get that from the title. The By-Laws currently have no instructions at all about polling locations, so there aren't any to eliminate, and there are dozens of other procedures that the title could refer to.
Since the start of the academic year, five bills have been submitted to the senate with little to no text beyond a title. A sixth, which moved reserve funds to the senate's contingency fund, was submitted with an empty dollar amount because the figure had not yet been provided by ASUC Finance Officer Madelaine Batac.I think there's a fairly obvious distinction here. Anyone who read that bill knew exactly what it was going to do: Move money from one account to another. The only thing unknown was the value, which would almost certainly end up changed in the Financial Committee meeting anyway. It's not really comparable to a blank bill whose topic could be any number of different things.
"There is nothing that explicitly prevents blank bills," said ASUC Attorney General Michael Sinanian. "(But) blank bills run counter to being transparent ... they indicate no discussion has taken place."Whether Public Notice requirements prevent blank bills is an open question, because no one who has complained has actually taken meaningful steps to answer it. But a bill can easily be proposed before discussion takes place, and this seems independent of whether it's blank or not.
"Just because you submit a bill with text doesn't mean that's what it is going to look like out of committee," said Moghtader, who sponsored a blank bill two weeks ago.This is just an excuse, not far from "he started it" in the hierarchy of excuses. It's true, the text may change in committee, but you can typically expect it to address the same issue. There's nothing here to philosophically square blank bills with Public Notice requirements. Moghtader's bill was even worse than Oatfield's, titled "A bill to amend the By-Laws." Does he really want to claim that such a bill is informative enough for the public to figure out what it's about?
Of course, not a single Senator actually mentions the public. Kifah Shah throws a few complaints out there, but they're only about how easy her job is, and not about maintaining transparency or an informed student body. This is a Daily Cal story, so some views might be missing, of course.
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