This semester’s student government term ended with a legislative fight — and that fight might not be over.
Conflict over funding reform
Wednesday night, the senators of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico held their final meeting. There, senators voted 11-9 to pass legislation that will dramatically change the way ASUNM entities, called student service agencies, are funded.
At the conclusion of the meeting, ASUNM President Noah Brooks told the Daily Lobo he planned on vetoing the legislation Thursday.
If Brooks follows through with the veto, this semester’s senate would have to call a special meeting for an override, an unlikely hypothetical.
Instead, a veto override will likely have to wait until a Senate meeting next semester.
If the legislation gets across the executive desk, the process by which ASUNM entities access balance forward funding would change drastically.
Balance forwards, a consistently controversial issue through this semester’s ASUNM term, are excess money not used by student service agencies. Currently, agencies retain 80 percent of their end-of-year surplus, and the remaining 20 percent returns to the ASUNM general fund.
The new legislation will cap the amount of balance forwards available at $75,000 — about 30 percent less than the current amount received through balance forwards.
This year, the Finance Committee approved over $100,000 in extra funds that will be redistributed throughout ASUNM. Specifically, $18,877 will be going to Lobo Spirit, $19,736 to Student Special Events and $18,157 to the general government account.
Lobo Spirit organizes events like Red Rally, and Student Special Events coordinates numerous speakers and concerts and the general government account primarily pays for salaries and scholarships for the executive office.
In addition to capping the amount of balance forwards available, the legislation will also require agencies to attend a Finance Committee hearing like regular student organizations do.
Pushback against the bill came from agency concerns about appropriate funding, specifically access to funding for student salaries, which are often funded through balance forwards.
“There’s a way to write this bill in such a way that we can all have a productive discussion and level playing ground,” Brooks said.
Combined, student service agencies receive over $370,000, which cover the cost of all ASUNM agencies. As a whole, ASUNM entities receive $510,000 — 74 percent of the available student organization funds.
The total includes the agencies’ budgets, Senate budget and payroll for the executive staff.
While the legislation would not directly change the amount of funding agencies receive, it would make the funding process more transparent, supporters said.
“We want events that (ASUNM agencies put on) to happen, but we want to fund them through the regular budget process,” said Francine Briones, the bill’s author.
Wednesday, the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico put their discussion on the pro-life/pro-choice debate to an end.
At the meeting, senators passed a neutral resolution supporting students’ right to free speech, regardless of their diverse viewpoints.
Two other resolutions — one supporting pro-life students and one supporting the reproductive rights of students — failed after the legislative body decided to stay away from the controversial topic of abortion.
The passed resolution was framed as a “neutral” middle ground on the contentious issue.
The resolution gave support to the undergraduate student opinions, saying “the ASUNM Government encourages an environment that is conducive to where all students feel comfortable to voice their opinions.”
At the previous full Senate meeting, the representatives received sharp criticism for their vote to fail the previous resolution supporting the Students for Life movement on campus.
Brendon Gray is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.