In Rare Move, Tisa Brandishes Veto Pen
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 13:10
GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) vetoed a bill Monday night that had been passed unanimously by the GUSA senate on Sunday, the first time a presidential veto had been used in three years.
The bill would have allowed the Green Revolving Loan Fund, a Social Innovation and Public Service Fund project, to begin issuing loans and grants for green projects to students.
The funding for GRLF came from money left over from a $250,000 allocation in the 2012 Student Activities Fee and Endowment reform for Georgetown Energy to install solar panels on university-owned townhouses. SAFE reform also established the SIPS fund, which manages GRLF.
The bill passed by the GUSA senate would have provided the SIPS Fund Board full fiduciary responsibility over GRLF and authorized the SIPS Fund Board to dispense funds as both loans and grants, as opposed to just loans.
In his veto, Tisa said that this bill did not give proper care to the GRLF.
“The bill passed by the Senate on October 20 does not meet the standards of long-term planning and accountability followed throughout the SAFE process. I am vetoing this item to give Senate leadership the opportunity to produce a better bill,” Tisa wrote in his veto.
Tisa outlined three specific concerns to be addressed. First, the Finance and Appropriations Committee, which led SAFE reform, did not review the bill. Tisa’s other concerns were about the bill’s language, which he characterized as too vague, and that “the bill missed the opportunity to build transparency into the process.”
SIPS board members, however, said that the fund has the authority to change the funding mechanisms of GRLF on its own, and that seeking senate approval for these changes was a courtesy.
“The board thought it might be better for the growth of the fund to have the option on the table. Based on our own bylaws that came out of the referendum, we’re confident that we do have the purview to do what we’re doing, but we want it to be confirmed,” SIPS Fund Managing Director Ethan Chess (COL ’14) said.
Tisa, who was present at the senate meeting, said that the senate passed the bill with little debate.
“The senate hasn’t done their due diligence. At this point we have a whole new generation of leadership in place. Most involved in the original SAFE reform have graduated, but the responsibility of the senate to make sure student money is being spent responsibly hasn’t changed,” Tisa said. “The bill was extraordinarily vague for a document confirming the transfer of $250,000 dollars. It’s so vague that it’s not a legitimate document to help clarify the final steps of implementation.”
GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Seamus Guerin (COL ’16) agreed that debate was lacking.
“SAFE Reform took place a while ago, and the institutional memory wasn’t kept up,” Guerin said. “The problem stems from not knowing which questions to ask.”
But according to GUSA Senator Ben Weiss (COL ’15), Tisa, too, failed to raise any concerns at the senate meeting.
“Nate was at the senate meeting and was granted the opportunity to ask questions, but he didn’t raise the concerns in his veto at the floor,” Weiss said.
Tisa is sending the bill back to the senate, and the senate committee will reframe the bill and present it at the senate meeting this Sunday. However, the senate does have the authority to override an executive veto with a two-thirds majority.
Former GUSA Director of SAFE Reform Implementation Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) confirmed that the original proposal in the 2012 SAFE referendum did not allow the GRLF to give out grants.
“The bill does not respect the clear intention of students when they voted for SAFE Reform,” Malkerson said. “It was made very clear that the Green Revolving Loan Fund could only disburse loans that earned a return and that it could not provide outright grants. That’s because if grants are included, it no longer becomes a revolving loan fund. Instead, it becomes just a fund that doles out cash and eventually becomes exhausted.”
Malkerson, however, added that the SIPS board has the authority to modify its bylaws to allocate grants. He stressed that the GUSA senate had no authority to do so through this bill.
Tisa emphasized that by signing the bill, he would have given up any control GUSA senate had over GRLF.