New student discount card survives red tape

Legislative procedure almost prevented USUAA’s first bill of the spring semester from passing. The proposal to give $3,000 more to the Student Discount Program was approved at student government’s meeting Jan. 21 after two bylaws were bypassed. Without waiving the bylaws, the cards’ release would have been delayed three weeks. The cards will give students access to discounts at supporting businesses.

Student government gave $1,500 from its discretionary-use fund to the program last fall, thinking that money would be enough to cover the cost of printing the cards and shipping them. Senators later realized $1,500 would be enough to print the cards and put them into envelopes, but another $2,400 was necessary to send a letter along with the cards and to mail them out. Also, university services decided not to allow USUAA to put the cards into one of its mail-outs as tentatively agreed, said Michael Blanton, USUAA vice president.

The two bylaws waived to speed up the cards’ delivery required:

• approval of the bill by the finance committee before the bill was presented to the general assembly, and

• reading the bill a second time to the general assembly a week after first introducing it to the general assembly.

The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Elizabeth Percak-Dennett, said she isn’t generally in favor of waiving the bylaws, but in this case it gave students an advantage.

“I think it’s important to serve students above anyone else,” Percak-Dennett said.

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Blanton said the bylaws should only be waived because of time constraints and unforeseeable circumstances. This situation was one that merited a waiver, he said.

“To keep the cards out of the hands of students would not only be folly but a waste of my time and students’ hard-earned money,” Blanton said.

During discussion, Sen. Kortney Hintsala said many bylaw waivers were used in the fall and waiving them on the first bill of the spring semester would set a bad precedent. She asked what three more weeks of waiting would do to students.

“When you want money you have to wait for it. I don’t think three weeks would make that much of a difference when students have already waited this long,” Hintsala said. The required second reading for bills is intended to give senators the opportunity to learn their constituent’s views on the issue, Hintsala said.

“It’s not that I’m against the bill, I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” she said.

Sen. Chris Bauer supported the waivers and said the program needed to maintain momentum.

USUAA President Chris Hall reminded senators their first obligation was not to the USUAA constitution and bylaws, but to their constituents, the students.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of waiving bylaws,” Hall said. He also said past student governments had been afraid of breaking with procedure so they didn’t do as much for students.

“I don’t think waiving the bylaws has such a negative connotation as people think,” Hall said.

Lindsay Eberhardt, speaking on unofficial behalf of the bill, said the assembly needed to remember the purpose and reason for the ability to waive the bylaws.

Sen. Samantha Barnhill said although she knows students want to use the cards as soon as possible, USUAA also needs to abide by the constitution that was approved by the student body.

“There’s really no reason. Unless you’re on a serious time constraint, just get the stuff in on time,” Barnhill said.

Blanton said the program was ready two months ago and the design of the program had been completed, but contracts with the participating businesses had not been signed.

The cards will be mailed out Feb. 2 and 3 and should be in students’ hands by Feb. 5.