Last week’s ASUCD senate meeting saw an urgent piece of legislation that will allocate $1,500 from senate reserves to the La Raza Cultural Days account. The allocation of this money, though vital to the week-long celebration of Chicana/o culture, was introduced and approved by the senate with minimal student input outside of ASUCD.
Under normal circumstances, bills must first be referred to commissions before their introduction to the senate for a vote.
Urgent bills, however, can be written and introduced within hours of each other, often without ever reaching the students, whose quarterly contribution supports senate reserves. With regular spending bills, concerned students could attend senators’ office hours during the week before a bill is introduced to voice their approval or disproval. That way, a senator could make a truly informed vote at the following week’s meeting.
Bypassing this system takes advantage of ASUCD’s legislative process. It is right for students to ask the senate for money for their events and projects – allocating money in this manner is one of the most important roles ASUCD plays at UC Davis. However, urgent bills exclude students from this democratic system and compromise ASUCD’s transparency.
The issue has become increasingly problematic, too. During this academic year, ASUCD has introduced seven urgent bills; five of which were urgent spending bills.
Bills like urgent Senate Bill 56, which sought to allocate $580 from senate reserves to Students for Sustainable Agriculture, ask for money that has been collected from students every quarter. When organizations request funding without giving the public proper notice, it not only shows a lack of organization but a lack of consideration for their non-voting peers.
In general, these urgent spending bills should be carefully monitored and reduced in number. They should be reserved for emergencies, not lack of planning by organizers.
Granted, informed voters probably would not oppose funding La Raza Cultural Days – we certainly agree that the UC Davis community greatly benefits from events such as this one. Yet in general, all organizations that ask for funds in an urgent bill risk closing off valuable discussion from the public about where their money will go.