Legislature votes in new procedures

FONDA – The Montgomery County Legislature adopted a new set of Standing Rules of Procedure recently.

After proposing changes to the original set of rules in January, the legislature’s Education and Government Committee researched the issue and came up with 23 resolutions. The Legislature approved the resolutions at its March 25 meeting.

Chairman of the committee and District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz said he was happy the Legislature decided to approve the changes.

“When we came in [to office] on Jan. 1, we decided that we wanted to change the Rules of Procedure,” Weitz said. “The Board of Supervisors functioned under the original set of rules and we wanted to codify the rules so that they fit more with our goals and practices.”

Weitz credited District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly with a lot of the changes.

“It took a lot of dedication from Martin [Kelly,]” he said. “He looked at other counties for ideas and incorporated what Montgomery County’s plans are into the changes.”

Kelly said he spent “a lot” of time reading the rules of procedure for Dutchess and Putnam Counties. He said the new rules included ideas from several other counties, including what the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors had already created.

There were a few notable changes from the 23 resolutions that passed.

The Legislature voted 7-2 to approve a new rule that requires the elected legislators from each party to choose their respective party leaders at the Legislature’s annual organizational meeting. The leader of the party with the most members in the Legislature will be known as the majority leader and the leader of the other party will be known as the minority leader. The legislature will still choose a chairman of the legislature seperately from the two party leaders.

Legislator Roy Dimond of District 3 and Alexander Kuchis of District 9 voted against adding the rule.

Dimond said he thought it would create friction in the Legislature.

“Going back to the campaign, the public wanted a united board,” he said. “This would create a divide.”

Another rule that passed was the requirement of a two-thirds affirmative vote of the Legislature to adopt resolutions authorizing the transfer of funds from any contingency account in the adopted county budget or from the fund balance once the budget has been adopted.

The original set of rules only required a simple majority which was five of the nine legislators. A two-thirds vote requires six of the nine legislators.

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.

The Legislature also voted on its seating arrangement during meetings legislators will sit starting with District 1 from left to right in a half circle.

They voted that any committee of the Legislature is authorized to accept advice and counsel from citizens who are not members of the Legislature; upon recognition from the committee chair or simple majority of the Committee.

The Legislature also voted that any item may be removed from the agenda by a majority vote of the members present. The new rules say items can be removed from the agenda with a simple up or down vote without any debate of the issue required.

To see the rest of the amended rules visit the county’s website www.co.montgomery.ny.us