Legislature will discuss procedure changes in 2015

When the Montgomery County Legislature reconvenes in January for its second year, some major changes in its Rules of Procedure could be part of the agenda.

Legislators voted Tuesday to schedule the annual organizational meeting for 11 a.m. Jan. 1, 2015, but that was about the only thing they agreed on. A suggestion to reduce the size of committees from five to three sparked considerable discussion, as did a proposal that all resolutions come with a statement of the measure’s financial and legislative impact and be submitted 10 days in advance of the meeting at which they would be considered.

District 4 Legislator Ryan B. Weitz, who chairs the Legislature’s Education and Government Committee, said the proposed changes would provide transparency and lead to better government. He also said he had been in contact with Robert Freeman, chairman of the state Committee on Open Government. He said Freeman told him that a five-person committee defeats the purpose of the committee system, because five members already represent a majority of the legislature. A resolution passed unanimously in committee would minimize the effect another legislator’s vote would have in a meeting of the full board, Freeman said. In addition, a three-person committee would not be subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law, since three members do not constitute a quorum of the full board.

The Open Meetings Law requires that notice of upcoming meetings be posted in advance so members of the media and others can attend the session.

Legislature Chairman Thomas Quackenbush said he had reservations about three-member committees. District 9 Legislator Bob Purtell said he favored the smaller committees.

In the past, under both the former Board of Supervisors and the current County Legislature, the chairman has made all committee assignments, including naming committee chairs. Weitz suggested that the chairman of the Legislature could appoint committee chairs, who in turn could select the other two members of his or her committee.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.