Charges allege senate violated constitution in passing divestment bill

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UPDATE: The hearing to determine the validity of the charges will be held at 1 pm on Saturday, May 4. Location to be announced.

Former external affairs vice president Joey Freeman and former SQUELCH! senator Noah Ickowitz, a former columnist for The Daily Californian, have jointly filed charges alleging that the ASUC Senate violated the ASUC Constitution in its passage of SB 160.

Ickowitz and Freeman filed the petition early Friday afternoon, and it is currently pending review. The charges, if accepted, would lead to a trial addressing the alleged violations of SB 160.

“I strongly believe the ASUC should follow the correct procedures in passing these bills,” Ickowitz said. “Because SB 160 has such an intense conversation around it, to not follow the procedures does a disservice to the campus.”

The root of the charges lies with the language of the bill, which Ickowitz said “presupposes that the bill has the authority to restrict spending and funding without having gone through appropriate channels.”

The charges begin with the fact that the bill was not passed with a two-thirds senate majority, which the ASUC Constitution states is required for deliberations regarding ASUC financial appropriations or revenue reductions.

They also argue that the bill “restricted” the ASUC’s investment practices, a responsibility that lies with the Investment Committee and requires consent from the Constitutional and Procedural Review Committee. The bill, with its “commanding” language, oversteps these bodies and “overextends the powers of the ASUC Senate without due process,” Ickowitz said.

In the charges, Ickowitz and Freeman suggest that SB 160 be sent back to the senate for a two-thirds vote to either follow or suspend the bylaws requiring review by these committees.

Before filing, Ickowitz and Freeman notified Student Action Senator George Kadifa and independent Senator Sadia Saifuddin, author and sponsor of SB 160, respectively, of their intent to petition the bill.

“I’m disappointed that the students who brought the charges didn’t bring these up earlier,” Kadifa said. “I’m a little curious, now that the bill has passed, why they’re bringing this up now. If the petition is accepted, we would rewrite the bill to ensure there are no violations.”

The petition has joined other suits that the ASUC Judicial Council must review in the coming weeks, including charges against Safeena Mecklai, a Student Action senator and external affairs vice president-elect.

ASUC Attorney General Hinh Tran said Ickowitz and Freeman raised some “interesting points,” noting that both of them have a “strong understanding of ASUC policies.” Tran said that should the petition be accepted and litigation begin, a trial would hopefully be scheduled before the end of the semester — if not, it might be held during the summer session.

Ickowitz said he felt that there was a “high likelihood the charges will be accepted,” emphasizing that the arguments were made on legal rather than ideological grounds. However, he did note that ideology was part of the impetus for filing.

Ickowitz pointed to the charges filed by Cooperative Movement Senator Jorge Pacheco and Student Action Senator Mihir Deo against ASUC President Connor Landgraf’s executive order to place the health and wellness referendum on the ballot as an example of people filing “that which is relevant to them.”

Notably, the senators did not charge the Class Pass referendum, even though it allegedly violated the same bylaws as the health and wellness referendum.

“When people sue over legislation, it’s not at all out of the ordinary that legislation is relevant to them,” Ickowitz said. “It’s also coupled with relevance to me and my community.”

View the petition evidence below:

Contact Sophie Ho at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the petition as a charge sheet.