Tompkins County
New York

Resolution
6730
No Action Taken
Jan 4, 2017 3:30 PM

Amendments to the Rules of the Tompkins County Legislature and Functions of Committees

Information

Department:Tompkins County LegislatureSponsors:
Category:AdministrativeFunctions:Rules of the Legislature

Attachments

  1. Legislator Kiefer proposal (Rules of the Leg) (This file has not yet been converted to a viewable format)

Resolution/Document Body

WHEREAS, for the citizens of Tompkins County, the Legislature serves as a reflection of the County government as a whole, and

 

WHEREAS, the Legislature seeks to demonstrate smooth and efficient governance as a measure of its competence as a body to conduct the people’s business, and

 

WHEREAS, the smooth and efficient function of the Legislature is, in fact, a necessary requirement for good governance of the County, and

 

WHEREAS, the Legislature should continually examine its policies and practices to ensure it is operating within rules for Legislators to speak in support of, or opposition to, the matters before the Legislature, to engage in debate, and providing opportunities for each Legislator to be heard on issues of importance to them, but also support the management of the business of the County to be conducted in a reasonable length of time, and 

 

WHEREAS, the Legislature has adopted rules for the conduct of its business, modeled on Roberts Rules of Order, where the method and manner of speaking by the Legislators is governed, now therefore be it

 

RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Government Operations Committee, That the following changes to the Rules of the Legislature be adopted:

 

Amend Rule IV - Order of Business, to add a sentence after the list of business items to read as follows:

 

The written order of business at each session shall include the anticipated periods of time allotted for items on the agenda to provide a guide to the Legislators as to how much discussion may be appropriate.

 

Amend Rule IV - Order of Business, to move the Legislators’ Privilege of the Floor to a position after approval of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting and before Adjournment of the meeting. 

 

Amend Rule IV - Order of Business (4) Announcements of Executive Sessions, Reordering of Business, and Special Orders of the Day, to add the following provision: 

 

Notice of events may be given in writing to the Chair, to be read as a part of the Chair’s Report, if a Legislator wants to have something announced at the beginning of the Meeting. A Legislator may also make such announcements at Legislators’ Privilege of the Floor.

 

Amend Rule IV - Order of Business (5) Privilege of the Floor, to add the following provision: 

 

A Legislator shall be allowed to speak during Legislators’ Privilege of the Floor for three minutes, in order to match the amount of time accorded to members of the public who address the Legislature in the Public Privilege of the Floor of the Legislative meetings.  A speakers three minute limit may be extended for an additional three minutes by the consent vote of four or more Legislators to extend. 

 

Amend Rule V - Order and Decorum, to add the following provisions: 

 

a.              During debate on a motion, the Chair shall have authority to limit debate on a motion to a designated time per speaker, subject to a vote to remove the limit by a vote of four or more Legislators.

b.              During debate on a motion, the Chair shall have authority to stop a Legislator from speaking after exhausting his or her allotted time for debate, or speaking on topics outside of the agenda.

 

Amend Rule VI - Motions and Their Procedure, to add the following provisions: 

 

a.              At the presentation of a written motion, the mover shall be required to indicate whether the version of the proposed motion has been updated to include spelling corrections, grammatical or syntax changes, as compared to what is included in the Agenda for the Legislative Meeting so it is clear which motion is being considered.  No spelling corrections, grammatical or syntax changes may be considered during the debate on the motion.  If not included in a modified version presented prior to the Meeting, spelling corrections, and grammatical and syntax changes shall be treated as manifest error to be addressed with the Clerk after the conclusion of the Legislature meeting. 

b.              During debate on a motion, Legislators shall commence comments by stating their position either in support of or opposition to the proposal on the floor. 

c.              During debate on a motion, it shall be the policy of the Legislature for speakers in support and opposition to the proposal on the floor to alternate speaking.  At commencement of debate, the Chair shall call for a show of hands of those who wish to speak in support and opposition at the opening of debate on an issue. 

d.              During debate on a motion, it shall be the policy of the Legislature for speakers to indicate agreement with a prior speaker, rather than stating the same points again.

e.              During debate on a motion, it shall be the policy of the Legislature for speakers to speak once on a motion before all other Legislators have had an opportunity to speak.

 

Amend Rule VII - Rules of Voting, to include a new subsection ten as follows: 

 

(10) Legislators shall not explain the reasons for their vote during voting.  Legislators shall be allowed to e-mail the Clerk with reasons for particular votes to go on the record in the notes to the Minutes of the Meeting. 

SEQR ACTION:  TYPE II-20

 

Meeting History

Dec 7, 2016 3:30 PM  Government Operations Committee Regular Meeting

Mr. John said he presented the resolution as he has been concerned with the length of the Legislature meetings. When meetings are long the civility and quality of discussions deteriorates by the end of the meeting. He commented that to the extent that the Legislature is failing to proceed efficiently, he believes the process, the institution, or colleagues are not being respected and there should be procedures in place that ensure comments are concise and clear. It is a significant amount of time Legislators are taking when speaking and Mr. John believes Legislators should be doing a better job. The resolution he proposes will take more discipline by Legislators, but the payoff will be a more efficient productive meeting.

Ms. Chock said she appreciates this topic being raised. She understands one of the issues being addressed in the resolution is respect and civility. It is important to find better ways to exhibit respect and she believes that goes beyond the amount of time someone speaks. Expertise and viewpoints need to be considered as well. She suggested that a meeting could be held with a trainer concerning rules of civility and respect of each other’s viewpoints as well as time. Her second point was how the Legislature sees itself as a representative democracy. There are many stakeholders and constituencies Legislators represent. The power of the Chair is another area that could be discussed. Lastly, she asked that there be mechanisms in place to build on how to do things better.

Mr. Burbank said he too appreciates the work Mr. John has done in preparing the resolution and said he supports many of the suggestions. He believes the problem identified is real and needs to be addressed. The concerns raised by Ms. Chock are real as well, but in some ways are a different category and Legislators need to exhibit civility toward each other.

Ms. Kiefer spoke of the frustration she sees from body language and people using their phones during meetings and said that behavior is disrespectful. She is uncertain how robust discussions on sensitive issues would occur with all the constraints being suggested. She opposes the suggestion that speaker’s time can be extended by a vote of four. She understands that Legislators do not have to like each other, but they should be civil and be aware of how behaviors are perceived by others. Her view is that to residents, Legislators are the most visible group. She believes the Legislature values smooth and efficient governance as well as transparency.

Mr. Klein said he also shares the frustration about the meetings and wishes people would act differently. After reading the proposed resolution, he believes that he follows what has been outlined. However, what makes him uncomfortable is imposing rules on others. He views it as overregulating or judging other people’s speeches. It also does not take into account speaking styles. He also spoke of the difficulties with the logistics of some of the proposals.

Mr. Burbank said he would like to propose putting a cap on Legislator’s Privilege of the Floor with the ability to extend one’s time and MOVED the following motion:

“RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Government Operations Committee, That the following change to the Rules of the Legislature be adopted:

Amend Rule IV - Order of Business (5) Privilege of the Floor, to add the following provision:

A Legislator shall be allowed to speak during Legislators’ Privilege of the Floor for three minutes, in order to match the amount of time accorded to members of the public who address the Legislature in the Public Privilege of the Floor of the Legislative meetings. A speaker’s three minute limit may be extended for an additional three minutes by the consent vote of four or more Legislators to extend.”

MOTION FAILED DUE TO LACK OF A SECOND.

Ms. Chock believes more consideration needs to be given before any of the proposals can be codified. She would support proceeding over the next several meetings to address some of the issues identified and propose solutions.

It was MOVED by Mr. Burbank, seconded by Mr. John, to offer the following motion:

“RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Government Operations Committee, That the following change to the Rules of the Legislature be adopted:

Amend Rule IV - Order of Business (5) Privilege of the Floor, to add the following provision:

A Legislator shall be allowed to speak during Legislators’ Privilege of the Floor for three minutes, in order to match the amount of time accorded to members of the public who address the Legislature in the Public Privilege of the Floor of the Legislative meetings. A speaker’s three minute limit may be extended for an additional three minutes by the consent vote of four or more Legislators to extend.”

Ms. Kiefer spoke in opposition to the motion as she believes forcing this formality of a vote is counter product to the way the Legislature acts as a collegial body and it takes power away from the Chair. As she strongly opposes the four-person override, she would be willing on a trial basis have Legislators limit their comments to three minutes under Privilege of the Floor and let the Chair make the decision to extend the time.

Mr. Burbank said he would support having the consent of the Chair added to the proposal.

Ms. Chock said she agrees with Ms. Kiefer and that a vote of four Legislators could become a popularity contest. There needs to be more openness and accessibility to viewpoints that may be counter to what prevailing views are.

It was MOVED by Ms. Chock, seconded by Ms. Kiefer to amend the motion to read:

“RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Government Operations Committee, That the following change to the Rules of the Legislature be adopted:

Amend Rule IV - Order of Business (5) Privilege of the Floor, to add the following provision:

Legislators are encouraged to limit Legislators’ Privilege of the Floor to three minutes, in order to match the amount of time accorded to members of the public who address the Legislature in the Public Privilege of the Floor of the Legislative meetings.”

Mr. John commented again that Legislature meetings have been four hours and does not believe proposing one suggestion will resolve that issue. He said last evening the Legislature Chair used the authority he has to repeatedly ask Legislators to limit their comments and was uniformly ignored. There needs to be more discipline.

Discussion followed concerning the Whereases and it was MOVED by Mr. Burbank, seconded by Mr. John to add the following Whereases:

“WHEREAS, for the citizens of Tompkins County, the Legislature serves as a reflection of the County government as a whole, and

“WHEREAS, the Legislature seeks to demonstrate smooth and efficient governance as a measure of its competence as a body to conduct the people’s business, and

“WHEREAS, the smooth and efficient function of the Legislature is, in fact, a necessary requirement for good governance of the County, and

“WHEREAS, the Legislature should continually examine its policies and practices to ensure it is operating within rules for Legislators to speak in support of, or opposition to, the matters before the Legislature, to engage in debate, and providing opportunities for each Legislator to be heard on issues of importance to them, but also support the management of the business of the County to be conducted in a reasonable length of time, and

“WHEREAS, the Legislature has adopted rules for the conduct of its business, modeled on Roberts Rules of Order, where the method and manner of speaking by the Legislators is governed, now therefore be it”.

Following a brief discussion, Mr. Burbank withdrew his motion. MOTION WITHDRAWN.

A voice vote resulted as follows: Ayes - 3 (Chock, Kiefer, and Klein); Noes - 2 (Burbank and John). MOTION CARRIED.

Mr. John does not believe the proposal will resolve any of the issues as the requests for time limits are ignored.

Ms. Chock reiterated her concern about the original proposal by Mr. John concerning the decline in civility of different viewpoints. She believes there are ways Legislators can learn better ways of relating to each other. She again proposed a trainer or facilitator to discuss how Legislators can be more mindful of others cultures, strengths, time, and viewpoints.

Mr. Burbank said he opposes the motion and feels discouraged with the resistance. He also disagrees with Ms. Chock’s analysis and believes a culture has been created that is insensitive and abusive of each other’s time.

Mr. Klein encouraged Committee members who opposed the motion to reconsider their position. He believes it is a good suggestion.

A voice vote resulted as follows: Ayes - 3 (Chock, Kiefer, and Klein); Noes - 2 (Burbank and John). MOTION CARRIED. [A separate resolution was prepared for Legislature consideration - see ID #6768.]

It was MOVED by Ms. Kiefer, seconded by Mr. John, to add the following to the previous proposal:

“RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Government Operations Committee, That the following changes to the Rules of the Legislature be adopted:

Amend Rule VI - Motions and Their Procedure, to add the following provisions:

a. During debate on a motion, Legislators shall when appropriate commence comments by stating their position either in support of or opposition to or undecided about the proposal on the floor.

b. During debate on a motion, it shall be the policy of the Legislature for speakers to indicate agreement with a prior speaker, rather than stating the same points again.”

Following discussion, Ms. Kiefer withdrew her motion. MOTION WITHDRAWN.

RESULT:NO ACTION TAKENNext: 1/4/2017 3:30 PM
Jan 4, 2017 3:30 PM  Government Operations Committee Regular Meeting
draft Draft
RESULT:NO ACTION TAKENNext: 2/1/2017 3:30 PM