County legislature amends rules of procedure

FONDA – The Montgomery County Legislature’s Education and Government Committee made several amendments to their rules of procedure Tuesday night.

After proposing changes in January, the committee did research and came up with 23 resolutions for amendments. Committee members met to discuss the amendments and vote on whether they wanted to forward the resolutions to next week’s full board or not.

The committee only had three of its members in attendance Tuesday, enough for a quorum. Legislators Roy Dimond and Barabra Wheeler were absent, but District 4 Legislator and Chairman of the Committee Ryan Weitz, District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly and District 6 Legislator John “Duke” Duchessi were there.

Kelly was instrumental in creating a majority of the amendments for the rules of procedure. He said he spent “a lot” of time reading the rules of procedure for Dutchess and Putnam Counties. He said he looked at what the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors had already created and pulled ideas from what the other counties had in their documents and morphed everything together.

“It’s not rocket science, we just need to use what we think will be best for our little county and put it all together,” he said.

Of the 23 resolutions, only two resolutions were not forwarded to the full board meeting. One resolution failed, while the other’s sponsorship was pulled.

The failed resolution involved a limitation of debate between legislative members during meetings. Duchessi did not like the idea of limited debate and voted against the resolution.

“I don’t think that this is a necessary resolution,” Duchessi said. “We have the ability to call into question something and debate on it and this [amendment] seems to stifle debate. I think debate, even spirited debate, is a good thing for the legislature, and I don’t think this limitation is necessary.”

The second resolution that did not get moved to the full board involved the legislative chairman’s ability to declare a state of emergency for the legislature.

“Any point in time [the chairman] can declare an emergency and adjourn our meeting?” Duchessi asked. “… This appears to be a good way for the chairman to control meetings.”

Kelly, who originally sponsored the resolution, agreed with Duchessi. Kelly decided to pull his sponsorship, stopping the resolution from moving forward.

One of the notable resolutions that was successfully moved forward at Tuesday’s meeting was the requirement of a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature instead of a simple majority vote to transfer funds from any contingency balance. The difference would be one vote; five of the nine legislators create a simple majority and six legislators create a two-thirds majority vote.

Kelly, who was responsible for the idea, said he thinks it’s an important resolution because he thinks it will establish more of a serious attitude when dealing with money.

“We are the legislative body, one of our major jobs is to maintain the purse strings and I think we, as the purse string holders, need to take the budget process seriously. … I think this is a tool that will help us decrease spending,” Kelly said.

Weitz agreed with Kelly.

“It’s interesting to note that on this Legislature simple majority is only a one-vote difference, but sometimes that one vote is not always easy to come by and this will definitely hold us more accountable to the budget as a legislature,” Weitz said.

The legislature will vote on the amendments next Tuesday at the full board meeting.