Courtesy of Joshua Kaufman
House and Senate craft legislation, approve student fee levels.
Like the U.S. Congress, the legislative branch of the Associated Students of Oregon State University is made up of two chambers: a Senate and a House of Representatives. These bodies are responsible for crafting legislation—bills that make changes to policy or resolutions that make statements on behalf of students. Before going into effect, bills and resolutions must be signed by the ASOSU president, according to the ASOSU constitution.
According to the ASOSU Constitution, the Senate must contain 12 members who serve two-year terms, and a full House requires 25—20 who pay undergraduate student fees and five graduate students, all of whom serve one-year terms.
The leaders of each chamber are the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. This year, Radhika Shah serves as Senate President, as well as Vice President in the executive branch. According to Shah, her role is that of a facilitator who provides support to the senators and helps them determine what issues students on campus are facing.
“The legislative branch is to help with the more political side of ASOSU,” Shah said in an email. “The bills and resolutions we pass showcase the issues that students face on campus, and help take a stance on those problems.”
According to Josh Kaufman, the current ASOSU Judicial Council Chair and a former Speaker of the House, the legislative branch has total authority to rewrite or refine the ASOSU Statues, the set of rules passed by the ASOSU just below its constitution.
“With the exception of things like the very basic three branches of government and holding elections, all the details below that are pretty much within Congress’ power to change,” Kaufman said. “They also have the ability formally to speak on behalf of the entire student body, so they can pass resolutions that can be signed by the president or overridden by a two-thirds vote if the president vetoes.”
Despite the impact the Senate has had since its original inception in 1940, many students are unaware that the Senate is open to them, according to Shah. As established by the most recent version of the ASOSU constitution, Senate and House meetings are open to the public.
“In the ‘60s and the ‘90s, there were efforts led by these students to raise money and resources during major wars, and to even take stances on what was happening at the national level,” Shah said via email.
In the modern day, the House focuses on fiscal issues and both chambers of the legislature are influential in the student fee process, according to Shah. After the Student Fee Committee – a subset of the ASOSU executive branch – makes its recommendations, a joint session of Congress meets to approve the budgets or send them to mediation.
In the past, according to Kaufman, the legislature was only made up of a Senate. In 2008, the ASOSU constitution was rewritten to include a House of Representatives. Both chambers together must approve each year’s funding levels for student fee-funded organizations, such as Student Health Services, Student Leadership and Involvement and the ASOSU itself.
“In terms of a year-to-year basis, I would say that definitely the largest impact that we have is determining where $50 million of student fees go, or the better part of $50 million of student fees,” Kaufman said. “Some of those are mandatory for repaying bonds, but about $35 million are discretionary and that is stuff Congress gets to work with the SFC to rehash on a year-to-year basis.”
According to Peter Halajian, Speaker of the House, like the President of the Senate, he sets the agenda for the body and leads meetings, as well as coordinates with the other two branches on goals.
“The House will play a large part in the upcoming budget season,” Halajian said in an email. “We will be working with the other branches to spend student fees in the most effective way.”
The legislative branch should be the main branch of the ASOSU because of its direct connection to the desires of students, according to Halajian.
“We have a number of ways to check the other two branches from the Legislature. However, this year, what will be most relevant will be our ability to either vote down, or not highly prioritize agenda items of the executive branch,” Halajian said in an email. “That said, I have been pleased with the level of professionalism and willingness to work together that I have seen from the leaders of the other two branches. ASOSU has a great leadership team this year and all branches are well-directed and well-staffed.”