ASUC dodges shutdown with attorney general appointment

Ariel D. Hayat/Staff

The ASUC Senate narrowly avoided its own government shutdown at its meeting Wednesday night, when the senate approved the appointment of junior Kevin Sabo as attorney general.

The ASUC bylaws stipulate that the association must cease operations if the attorney general and comptroller general are not appointed before the sixth regular senate meeting. It can resume normal functions only once those positions have been filled.

According to Executive Vice President Nolan Pack, nominations for ASUC Judicial Council and attorney general typically occur one week before they are confirmed by the senate. The appointment process, however, was cut short because of the campus explosion Sept. 30, which prevented the ASUC from meeting that day.

Sabo’s appointment was met with controversy by senators and former ASUC officials due to concerns that Sabo, who previously served as general counsel to Pack, is closely affiliated with the CalSERVE party. Attorney general is a nonpartisan position, and some senators felt  Sabo could not fulfill that role.

“If I keep myself grounded as a student, I think I’ll be able to remain indifferent to party politics,” Sabo said. “I’ve discovered I don’t agree 100 percent with any one party, and I think being able to remain critical of the different parties allows me not to align with any particular one.”

Sabo previously served as president of the Associated Students of Modesto Junior College during the 2012-13 school year as well as vice president of governance and policy for the Student Senate for California Community Colleges from 2011 to 2013.

Former attorney general Hinh Tran also expressed concern that Sabo, who began working with the ASUC this academic year, does not have the qualifications or nonpartisan mindset to effectively perform the duties required of the attorney general.

“I’m taken aback that the committee would pick someone with no experience with the ASUC and has close ties to a certain party,” Tran said. “As attorney general, your job is not to legislate. Your job is only to give advice, and I think we’ve picked an attorney general who openly said he’s willing to advocate one issue.”

According to Tran, many past attorney generals served as solicitors general or interns for the attorney general before being appointed. Tran supported last year’s solicitor general, David Mkrtchian, as a nomination.

Pack emphasized the importance of respecting the decision of the senate constitutional and procedural review committee that gave its initial approval to Sabo on Monday and argued that an ASUC shutdown was not worth the disagreement.

“If, because of a particular outcome we don’t like, we put the ASUC in a position where it stopped functioning, that would be a really unhealthy thing,” Pack said.

In order to be approved as attorney general, Sabo needed support from two-thirds of the senate. It took two votes for him to reach that threshold. Ultimately, the senate approved Sabo’s nomination, with 18 senators voting in favor on the appointment and two abstaining.

“Given the circumstances right now, I’m pretty comfortable with the selection,” said Student Action Senator Quinn Shen, who serves on the constitutional and procedural review subcommittee.