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The Daily Tar Heel

Congress committee passes bill on election eligibility

A second controversial bill requires more discussion

One bill passed through a committee of Student Congress Tuesday night came in response to controversy.

The other is just plain controversial, members said.

The first bill would make sure certain student government leaders know they cannot run for elected office.

The second bill, which was motivated in part by frustrations with Student Body Secretary Ian Lee’s efforts, proposes reducing the role of the of the student body secretary.

It would strip the position of its stipend and shift its chief responsibility — updating the Student Code — to the clerk of Student Congress.

The two bills will be considered by the full Congress on March 15.

Deanna Santoro, former Congress speaker who stepped down to file a lawsuit challenging the approval of Lee’s candidacy, said she is a fan of the second bill.

“It’s one of the best things we’ve seen so far this year,” she said.

A portion of the bill that was eventually removed by the committee pointed to the student body secretary’s failure to update the Student Code correctly.

It was removed after member Nicholas Sullivan said he thought it approached “personal attacks.”

Santoro complained in the lawsuit that Lee shirked his responsibility to update the Student Code in a timely manner.

Zach De La Rosa, speaker pro tempore, said the proposed changes to the position would complement its evolution.

“The secretary has become kind of a (public relations) person,” he said. “The clerk works for the Student Code.”

Both bills, sponsored by rules and judiciary committee Chairman Evan Ross and Speaker Alex Mills, respectively, were recommended favorably by the committee to the full body.

With the first piece of legislation addressing election law, the committee added a clause that would disqualify a candidate for failing to resign from an executive or judicial branch position. If passed, Congress members said the controversy revolving around the Student Code during this year’s student body president election would not recur.

While the bill was reported favorably by the committee, some members expressed discontent with the failure to allow public endorsements.

Committee member Todd Michalske said he does not believe Student Congress can legislate what students can say.

“It’s kind of ridiculous to say the student body president can’t endorse someone,” Michalske said.

Santoro said student elections are more susceptible to being swayed by major endorsements.

“If the speaker were to come out and say they were against or for a candidate, it would give the impression that every member of Student Congress would agree with that,” Santoro said.

Michalske said the opinions of elected officials like the student body president would be helpful in elections.

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