Senate loses quorum twice during special meeting

Senator Sabrina Self asks prospective 2019-2020 executive cabinet members questions.

By Noah Thornburgh

After the exit of five senators, Saturday night’s special meeting of the Senate came to a standstill.

The meeting, held in the Holmes Student Center Illinois Room booked from 5 to 10 p.m. to make up for the cancellation of Easter’s meeting, saw several senators leave early throughout the course of the proceedings. When asked why the senators left, Speaker of the Senate Tristan Martin said the unusual Saturday night timing made it difficult for senators to attend or stay the entire time, and there were conflicting events that night.

Under Senate rules, a quorum of members must be present and seated in the Senate seats in order to vote on any motion.

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Quorum was lost a first time before the hearing of a bill to appoint next year’s cabinet members. Senators appointed to the 51st session had to recuse themselves, causing the meeting to lose three members.

Following this, the Senate voted to hear the bill. Once the bill was on the floor, Election Commissioner Brandon Lesnicki left the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. With Lesnicki and the three senators of the 51st session not in attendance, quorum was lost.

Deputy Speaker Cassandra Kamp called Lesnicki and asked him to return after a brief period of discussion. Lesnicki returned, restoring quorum for a period of time.

Quorum was lost a second time due to the early exit of senators. Senator Layla Werner suggested calling absent Senators and asking them to resign in order for the Senate’s total membership to drop, thereby reducing the number of senators needed for a quorum.

Historian Michael Kane and Senator James Holmes agreed.

Deputy Speaker Cassandra Kamp disagreed and said such actions are unethical.

“If calls are made asking Senators to resign, I will resign from my seat on the Senate right now,” she said.

Kane alternatively suggested a five-minute recess, during which he and others could make calls to absent Senators who live nearby in an effort to get them to the meeting to meet quorum and get through the remaining agenda items.

Ultimately, no Senators were asked to resign.

At 9 p.m., after 17 minutes of discussion and debate, enough of the previously exited Senators returned and quorum was restored — but, with eight items left to hear on the agenda and Senators who could only stay briefly, the Senate tabled the remaining items to be heard Sunday at the final regularly scheduled Senate meeting of the 50th session.

The Senate heard all of the legislation at Sunday night’s meeting. Kane said he was impressed with senate’s ability to get through the items tabled from the previous meeting.

“I was shocked we were able to get through this much done,” he said. “We probably handled — and handled appropriately — a record amount of legislation and change in a single five hour meeting.”

Speaker-elect Ian Pearson and Senator Layla Werner said they did not want to table the agenda items and would have preferred restoring quorum and finishing the meeting.

Warner said she was upset with the absentees, saying “we shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.”

Kamp said she opposed asking students to resign from the Senate, preferring instead to go through the normal disciplinary processes for Senators who miss mandatory meetings.

“I think we need to be encouraging people to be here, and there are other disciplinary actions that should be taken before we immediately ask someone to resign,” she said. “They should be resigning only if they no longer want to be a part of the Student Association or if they have not been following their responsibilities as Senator.”

Speaker of the Senate Tristan Martin said this was the first time the 50th session has lost quorum at a meeting. He suggested calling and asking for resignations because it has been done in similar cases by previous sessions of the Senate.

In the 47th session of the Senate, nine senators were called on the phone and asked to resign in order for a meeting to start, according to a May 6, 2016, Northern Star article.

At closing announcements, Holmes and Martin acknowledged the meeting had gotten “heated.”

“It was absolutely irresponsible of us not to find a quorum,” Pearson said, before the meeting ended.