IUSA president vetoes panhandling bill


Lori Ressor, the Vice President of Student Affairs, gives a brief speech before the IUSA meeting begins on Tuesday. Stella Devina and Stella Devina Buy Photos

IU Student Association President Sara Zaheer vetoed an IUSA Congress resolution to decrease panhandling on Kirkwood Avenue because she said it didn’t represent the community engagement and outreach IUSA should embody.

“Obviously we care about the issue, but I vetoed it because that’s not what I would like for IUSA to be putting out there,” 
Zaheer said.

Congress passed the resolution 21-3-1 on Oct. 25.

The resolution centered on working with the mayor’s office to increase student safety by addressing panhandling on Kirkwood Avenue and in Peoples Park.

The resolution was partially influenced by an online petition written by an IU student that sought to find a place in Bloomington where the homeless population can have “proper shelter and care.”

So far, 685 people have signed the petition.

Zaheer attributed the passing vote to a sense that others would vote against the bill and that it would not be passed.

She said members of Congress didn’t realize that their votes mattered during the voting session, even though there were many fewer representatives present at the meeting than there are active members of Congress.

“We thought that it wasn’t going to pass because we thought people would realize this isn’t the best thing to do,” she said. “It’s not as informed as it should have been. I didn’t realize that we had a smaller number of people voting that session.”

Zaheer said the Congress members also don’t want to hurt other representatives’ feelings by voting against a bill that someone has put work into before bringing it to the floor.

“You don’t want to kill somebody else’s work,” she said. “Somebody put time and effort into it. People in the room just assumed that there were enough people to vote against it.”

Zaheer said at the time of voting, Congress had already scheduled a meeting with Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton to discuss possible collaboration between IUSA and the mayor’s office to address panhandling on Kirkwood Avenue and in Peoples Park.

She said she discussed with the bill’s primary author vetoing the bill after its passage. Author Michael Schommer, agreed to 
the veto.

Schommer and the Student Life Committee plan to revise the bill to focus more on the well being of the entire Bloomington community, including the homeless population, instead of making the dominant issue student safety.

“This was to address a problem that people often turn their heads to, which is the homeless problem,” Schommer said. “The majority of Congress supported the idea behind the resolution, however we now realize it didn’t really show the entire picture behind it.”

In the future, Congress members will undergo training on parliamentary procedure so that none of the representatives feel too intimidated to engage in discussion instead of moving so quickly to vote, Zaheer said.

She said Congress will also bring speakers to their meetings, such as Mayor Hamilton, in order to discuss bills that would affect certain populations instead of assuming what a certain community wants or needs.

“We’re trying to take this and do something productive and good with it,” Zaheer said. “It’s a nice reminder that they’re people, not just an issue.”

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