The Associated Student Body Senate passed a resolution at its first meeting of the semester on Tuesday night in support of two bills that failed in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
“Even if it’s killed legislation, they have to know that we didn’t want it killed,” ASB Sen. J.R. Riojas, one of the authors of the resolution, said. “We think that some of these representatives don’t know that the young people are watching. We want them to know.”
Because both of the bills failed in their respective state house committees, there is no immediate future for them in the legislature.
The only way a version of those bills could be introduced to the general floor is if a legislator introduces what is referred to as a “strike-all” amendment. The amendment would “strike out” all of the language in a bill that has been introduced to the legislature and replace it with with the language of a different bill — possibly that of one of the two bills ASB resolved to support.
As of the time of publication, no legislator has taken such a measure.
The first failed House bill the resolution endorses would require each public or private college in the state of Mississippi to have an on-campus voting precinct. The other failed bill would have allowed for first-time voters to participate in online voter registration. Both died in House committees hours before the ASB Senate meeting began.
ASB Sens. Riojas, Will West and Meredith McDonald authored the resolution, and Riojas said that while they have been in contact with the state representatives who authored the two bills, ASB is not aware of why the bills were unsuccessful in committee.
“It’s not easy to adjust with a curveball thrown at you like that, and I applaud (the authors of the resolution) for sticking with it and for making a resolution that I think really does benefit the students,” ASB Vice President Walker Abel said.
Several ASB officials, including ASB Attorney General Austin Fiala and ASB Sen. Sarah Doty, questioned the validity of the resolution.
“We’re kind of caught up in the spirit of the (House) bill and not really how it’s going to impact students,” Doty said. “I just think we’re kind of rushing this through.”
The majority of the ASB Senate felt confident enough in the intent of the resolution to support the idea of expanding voting opportunities for students.
“I’m not sure any constituent doesn’t want their voice to be heard, which is what this resolution aims to do: support a bill that would allow our constituents, our students, for their voices to be heard,” ASB Sen. Abby Johnston said.
In October 2018, the ASB Senate unanimously passed a resolution similar to one of the state House bills, urging Lafayette County to create a polling place on the university campus. However, Riojas said he recently discovered that for the county to do so would go against the state’s constitution.
“With all due respect, one of the big (issues) people have with ASB is we take so long to do some of the most miniscule of tasks,” Riojas said. “This isn’t something that is super difficult. We want to be able to have a reaction in real time to what (state legislature) is doing right now.”