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SA moves to revise process for blanket tax review

By Molly Chiu     11/12/13 6:00pm

The Student Association Committee on Constitutional Revisions proposed a set of bylaw amendments at the Nov. 11 Student Senate meeting that will revise the blanket tax review process. The changes include stricter standards for recommending that funding be reduced or eliminated, more diverse representation on the blanket tax review committee, and more clearly defined steps for the review process, according to SA Parliamentarian and committee chair Brian Baran.

These amendments come in advance of the complete constitutional revisions, to be presented at the Dec. 2 SA meeting and placed on the ballot in the spring General Elections for ratification by the student body. The committee proposed these amendments for review early so that they would be able to take effect in time for this academic year's blanket tax review, Baran, who is a Thresher copy editor, said.

The revisions detail a more clear procedure for the review process, including steps to ensure adequate documentation is submitted to the review committee. The new procedure ensures that organizations have a chance to meet with the review committee and submit appeals or corrections prior to finalization of the committee's recommendation, according to Baran.

The committee can then recommend that the organization undergo further review. In that case, a contingency committee would be created for that particular organization. The contingency committee would include blanket tax organization officers and the adviser of another blanket tax organization. This committee then has the power to make a recommendation to the SA to reduce funding if issues are found.

"The procedure, as it stands, was not clear in how the committee was supposed to be composed and how the process was supposed to work," Baran said. "[The procedure] left it open for the government to make, on the basis of not a whole lot of information, a recommendation to defund an organization based on a single year's review."

The revisions add a requirement which states that organizations must be found in violation of blanket tax criteria for three years in a given four-year period in order for the review committee and the Student Senate to recommend a change in funding, Baran said.

Campanile Editor in Chief Anastasia Bolshakov said she thinks the new requirement will be helpful for blanket tax organizations because it will give them time to fix any problems that arise.

"If you just look at it at on a year-by-year basis, there could be a bad president or person in charge," Bolshakov, a Duncan College junior, said. "Taking away an organization that serves the whole student body just because one person messed up one year seems to be extreme."

The criteria for properly using blanket tax funds include ensuring that funds go toward the organization's mission, purpose and goals and that spending follows Rice rules and regulations. The constitutional revisions add a provision that organizations should use student money with student interests in mind, according to Baran.

The last major change proposed is to adjust the representation of the blanket tax review committee. The new rules would require both blanket tax organization officers and general student body representatives to be on the committee. The SA treasurer, SA parliamentarian and the associate director of Student Activities would also sit on the committee.

Baran said he welcomes student feedback.

"The reason we presented [the revisions] was so we can get feedback and make [the new process] work as well as possible for all of the students and organizations affected by this process," Baran said. "We are open to feedback and to making adjustments if people have concerns or suggestions."

The Senate will vote on the bylaw amendments at its next meeting Monday, Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. in Farnsworth Pavilion. The Committee on Constitutional Revisions plans to present the entire revised constitution at the Monday, Dec. 2 Senate meeting.

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