This spring semester will be the first semester that the new Senator’s Project Act, which the Undergraduate Student Government senate passed Dec. 4, 2014 by a vote of 15-2-0, will take effect. The act will require each of the 22 senators to take on a project aimed at “strengthening the campus community” each semester.
Executive Vice President James Alrassi proposed the Senator’s Project Act this past fall, which is officially called the My Senator’s Keeper Act.
The act requires each senator to propose a project within two weeks of the start of the semester and to give a monthly report on his or her project. The act also prohibits senators from carrying over projects into a second semester.
“Senators are expected to achieve the goals they proposed at the beginning of the semester,” the text of the Senator’s Project Act states.
Projects must be approved by the executive vice president, in consultation with the Executive Council and the administrative director.
Senators also can drop old projects and take on new ones with the approval of the Executive Council.
Much of the enforcement of the Senator’s Project Act would depend on the executive vice president. If a senator does not fulfill his or her responsibilities, the executive vice president can withhold the senator’s stipend by not signing the check.
“Thus, if a Senator does not fulfill his or her requirements, two office hours, Senate meetings, committee meetings and now Project progression reports, I will not sign their stipend because they have not done the work required of them,” Alrassi said in an email.
Alrassi originally proposed another bill, the Senator’s Compensation Act, which was designed to pay senators for the workload increase caused by the Senator’s Project Act.
The Senator’s Compensation Act would have raised each senator’s pay from $50 per week to $65 per week and the president pro tempore’s pay from $60 per week to $75 per week. But Alrassi said in an email he decided to scrap the Senator’s Compensation Act altogether.
“After talking with some Senators, they were okay will [sic] maintaining their current stipend,” Alrassi said.
Had the Senator’s Compensation Act been passed by the senate and signed into law, the raises would have brought the annual total cost of senator stipends from $35,520 to $46,080, according to Treasurer Kathryn Michaud, who is also the chair of the senate’s budget committee.
“Funds could be added to that appropriation through an appropriation act that would have to go through my committee from the unallocated funds,” Michaud said in an email. “However, this would result in the decrease of funds eligible for clubs that move up to line budget status for the spring semester and therefore programming for the student body.”
The senate held a “symposium” on Jan. 20 and 21 to discuss the implementation of the Senator’s Project Act.
President Garry Lachhar said at the symposium that the senators should not get stressed by working for USG because “it’s just student government.”
Keith Olsen contributed to reporting.