Student Government: Boca House reviews draft of 2021 budget

Joshua Rutledge was sworn in Friday as House Speaker after one of his predecessors graduated and the other was removed.

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Student Government: Boca House reviews draft of 2021 budget

Seven representatives being sworn into the House by Speaker Joshua Rutledge (left).

Seven representatives being sworn into the House by Speaker Joshua Rutledge (left).

Seven representatives being sworn into the House by Speaker Joshua Rutledge (left).

Seven representatives being sworn into the House by Speaker Joshua Rutledge (left).

Israel Fontoura, Managing Editor

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Editors Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Rep. Jerry Lazarre was not impeached but removed by student court.

In the first House meeting of the semester last Friday, House Speaker Joshua Rutledge stood at his podium with just House Secretary Savannah Havens. But there was space reserved for positions that have yet to been filled yet: pro-tempore and parliamentarian.

“For too long already this year, we’ve [been] in disorder and confusion,” he said.

House members tried to find their footing after last semester’s changes in leadership, looked at the 2020-2021 academic year’s budget and viewed an additional resolution. The budget is what every student’s Activity and Service Fee goes toward — and next school year, over $900,000 of it will go toward SG, different programming and club sports.

Next school year’s budget

The House then viewed the 2021 budget deliberated by the Campus Budget Allocation Committee (CBAC), where chairman Edward Perez told the House this was “the most important bill you guys will vote on.”

Students pay a $12.32 Activity and Service Fee included in their final tuition cost which is then allocated by CBAC and approved by SG officials. For 2021, CBAC found an extra $109,056 to be allocated to the 13 campus-wide entities after confusion with their requests. A total of $934,108 was allocated to SG, Multicultural Programming, and club sports.

Most accounts saw an increase in their budgets, including the House which will have $5,140 for their projects fund in 2021, a $514 increase from this year.

“If the House doesn’t spend their money this year, then who knows who the next CBAC chair is going to be. For all we know, they could cut the entire House. So, please please please write bills this year and actually spend money because I’m not gonna be CBAC [chair] next year,” Perez warned.

And for the first time in six years, the House budget hasn’t been cut by the Campus Budget Allocation Committee (CBAC), according to Rutledge. The legislative body was criticized by CBAC for underusing its project budget at only 20 percent, which instead, could’ve been used for other SG entities.

But Rutledge vowed to change that. “In this House, we’re going to utilize all of it,” he said. 

Dealing with changes

Since the Boca House met last November, former House Speaker Steven Robinson graduated and his replacement, pro-tempore Jerry Lazarre, was removed by the student court because of in-house election violations. 

As former parliamentarian, Joshua Rutledge became the most senior officer and was sworn in by Chief Justice Jonathan Marr the first week of school as the new House Speaker.

He explained that one of his priorities for this semester was for the representatives to write more pieces of legislation and use the House project fund to better the campus and student body.

“We’re going to make it known to every single student on this campus that we are here for them. We will be the change that they have been waiting for,” he added

But the changes in leadership have only been a distraction to the House members from fulfilling their responsibility of creating legislation, according to Rutledge.

“The truth is, the students out there don’t care who’s the Speaker of the House, the students out there they don’t care if some of us have been fighting each other, they don’t care even if we all like each other,” Rutledge said. 

Afterward, Rep. Marvel Joseph requested multiple points of information regarding the process of the Speaker’s appointment, to which Rutledge responded were “inflammatory.”

“I am your Speaker of the House. You don’t have to like me, you can like me very much. But I hope that you respect me as much as I respect you,” he answered.

In October, the legislative body deliberated for hours on seven candidates to fill four positions, but since two spots have become vacant, the House called for another election in the coming weeks.

At the October meeting, Rep. Jerry Lazare won the pro-tempore seat with a total of 13 votes and the first student court case of the Fall semester was filed against him, stripping him of his title the following month. 

Stephan Schneider, a student and paralegal, sat in on the in House election and believed that Lazarre persuaded his constituents to vote for him because he passed out pamphlets. The court ruled that Schneider’s arguments were substantial and remanded Lazarre.

New Rec center admissions

The body also viewed a resolution recommending that students can bring loved ones to the recreation center once a week, authored by former House member Alex Suarez, who resigned prior to his impeachment hearing in January 2019. Suarez leveraged the resolution in his speech to gain readmittance into the House last November but did not receive enough votes to be sworn in.

Suarez authored the resolution as a non-SG affiliated student with the aide of Rutledge and Robinson.

Rutledge explained that the resolution was good at its core but multiple representatives questioned its fiscal implications and so the bill was tabled until the Jan. 24th meeting for voting and further deliberation by the Campus Action committee. 

By the end of the meeting, seven students were sworn into the body, bringing meeting quorum to 24 representatives.

Israel Fontoura is the managing editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @israelofontoura.