Former U.S. Sens. Lister Hill and John Sparkman, former Gov. Don Siegelman, State Auditor Jim Zeigler and Secretary of State John Merrill are some of the names of former University of Alabama Student Government Association past presidents that have gone on to serve in a higher elected office in Alabama.
Another one of those past presidents is one of the frontrunners in Alabama's U.S. Senate race currently underway, former Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Britt.
Britt, formerly Katie Boyd, served as Alabama's SGA president during the 2003-2004 academic school year. And sometimes, as student governments go, they can be fraught with controversy relative to the University of Alabama campus.
Britt's tenure had its fair share of controversies, including the passage of an October 2003 SGA Senate resolution urging the University's Russell Student Health Center to offer the so-called morning-after pill.
The resolution, described by the October 1, 2003 edition of the UA student newspaper "Crimson White" as one "suggesting the center’s pharmacy carry the emergency contraceptive," was the impetus of Russell Student Health Center officials' decision to eventually carry the morning-after pill at its pharmacy.
However, despite the unanimous passage of the SGA Senate's resolution, the health center's decision to offer the pill was later met with pushback from some students at the time.
“I do not believe the University of Alabama as an educational institution should be distributing the morning after pill,” then-sophomore chemical engineering student Joshua Taylor said in a comment to the Crimson White for its October 17, 2003 issue. “A public-funded institution does not have the ability to decide where life begins.”
In her role, then-SGA president Katie Boyd had veto powers and perhaps could have attempted a veto of the SGA Senate's resolution calling on the University's health center to offer the morning-after pill but did not do so.
Two weeks after the morning-after pill unanimous resolution, she used that power to veto an SGA Senate parking resolution calling for a one-ticket limit per 24-hour period.
Despite her use of the veto in that situation, her opponents questioned her ability to do so. They asked if the executive branch, the SGA President, could use her power to veto a Senate "resolution" meant to be a statement of position of the legislative branch, the SGA Senate?
In February 2004, while Britt was still SGA president, the Crimson White investigated the question, which stemmed from her earlier veto of the SGA Senate's parking resolution. The question remained unanswered, which also left the question unanswered as to whether or not a veto of the unanimously passed morning-after pill resolution would have been an appropriate use of power.
That question would go on to plague future University of Alabama student governments. However, ultimately the SGA Constitution would explicitly state resolutions were not subject to presidential vetos.
The discussion begs a broader question: Should a U.S. Senate candidate or any other candidate seeking higher office have to answer for their student government record?
Given the University of Alabama SGA's role over the decades as a pipeline to higher elected office in Alabama, performance in that role could offer some hints about a candidate's politics and leadership skills.
Throughout this cycle's U.S. Senate campaign, an area Britt has not shied away from is touting her Christian conservative upbringing. Her campaign speeches, advertisements and a recent AL.com story have been where Britt has touted the Christian conservatives aspects of her candidacy.
Britt responded to questions about her SGA presidential tenure with a statement reaffirming a committment to her faith and dismissing the resolution as something "she had no control of."
“As a Christian, conservative wife and mother, I am proud to be 100% pro-life. Both my faith and the science tell me that life begins at conception, and I’ll fight tirelessly to protect life in the Senate,” Britt said in a statement sent to 1819 News. “Over 63 million innocent unborn babies have been murdered in America since the disastrous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, and my family and I are praying that the Supreme Court finally overturns Roe this year and allows states like Alabama to defend life.
“As far as my time in college goes 20 years ago, I will admit to learning and singing every single word of the Auburn fight song. And, like Justice Kavanaugh, I might have even had the opportunity to enjoy a beer or two along the way — but only after I turned 21. I am sure there are also a laundry list of things that happened on campus while I was SGA president that I had no control of. At the end of the day, I’m proud to say I was an active leader in our College Republicans chapter back then. I was raised in a Christian, conservative household in Enterprise, Alabama, and that’s how my husband and I are raising our two children. If this is how low my opponents are stooping and how far they’re stretching, I must be doing something right.”
Republican voters will have an opportunity to decide if any of this matters in two weeks when they cast their ballot for who they prefer to represent the GOP on the general election ballot in November. To be the Republican pick, she will have to defeat U.S. Army veteran Mike Durant and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville).
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.
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