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Student senate kickstarts 116th session with leadership elections, legislative actions

USC's 116th student senate elected a new speaker pro tempore and referred one piece of legislation to all committees during its first session on Wednesday.

Senator Isabell Miller, who served as the vice chair of health and safety, and senator Natalia Byer were the two nominees for speaker pro tempore. Both senators talked about their intentions behind seeking the position.

Byer said she wants to establish a positive atmosphere within student senate and expand connections between the student and faculty senates. 

"As speaker pro tempore, I'd want to support our new speaker, Speaker (Maura) Hamilton, and I also want to continue to foster a positive senate environment," Byer said. "Another important thing I'd like to emphasize if I was speaker pro tempore is the relationships we have between the faculty senate and the student senate. So as we all know, the faculty plays such a key role in our Student Government. We would not be able to make nearly as much change as we did without the help of our faculty."

Miller said she wants to utilize her experience as the vice chair of health and safety to establish connections that help new senators feel comfortable asking questions and learning policies.

"Just being that open resource for all the returning senators and the incoming senators," Miller said. "Last year was my first year on senate, so I know I had a lot of questions and just wasn't really sure where I fit in at first."

Byer officially became the new speaker pro tempore after a roll call vote of 17 in favor and eight against with two abstentions.

Byer said she joined senate as a vacant seat senator and wanted to branch out within the organization. 

"I didn't run (to be) a chairperson because there wasn't a specific committee I felt drawn to leading, but I knew that I wanted to take more of a leadership role," Byer said. 

Several senators were also nominated to serve as committee chairpersons, including Lauren Anderson for academics, William Wenzel for finance, Aidan Gruner for health and safety, Laukhika Kasetty for inclusion and equity, Camden Kaye for judiciary, Carson Neeves for powers and responsibilities, William Barnes for student life and Mia LaPinta for sustainability.

All of the nominations were approved.

Also during the session, senator William Wenzel introduced a bill, SBL11601, to allocate funds for Student Government during the 2024-2025 fiscal year. Wenzel said the bill is customary in every Student Government term, as it lays out the budget for the executive branch.

"(The bill is) important because it kind of sets the outline of the budget for the execs for the entire term — basically saying — kind of putting their budget into pools," Wenzel said.

These funds are designated for the Student Government operational fund, Student Government transition fund, Freshman Council fund and Elections Commission fund, with a total distribution of $61,093 among them.

Student Body Treasurer Jacob Vaught and Student Body President Patton Byars presented the budget after Wenzel spoke on the bill.

Vaught said the budget maintains funding levels similar to the previous fiscal year, with an increase of about $5,800. Of this increase, $5,000 is allocated for Uber discounts, while the remaining funds are distributed across various accounts, with overall expenditures remaining largely unchanged.

"Five thousand dollars going specifically to Uber discounts is a commitment that we have made through USCPD and other partners to give students more Uber discounts for other partnerships and getting more, double or triple or even quadruple what we're giving," Byars said. "It's our commitment, partnered with their commitment, that makes student Gamecock discounts for every single home game."

The legislation was referred to all committees.

Byars said he is looking forward to working alongside members of the 116th senate this term.

"The whole exec team, like the last execs, are really together, and we're unified in our mission. And so is Student Government. And I see that with the newly elected senators," Byars said. "I'm excited for us to get to work for students and enhance that four-year student experience that we talked about so much."


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