Tompkins County
New York

Resolution
2017-13

Amendment to Rule IV - Order of Business (5) Privilege of the Floor - Rules of the Tompkins County Legislature and Functions of Committees

Information

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

Resolution/Document Body

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.  While Legislators are speaking the clock will be running so they would see the length of time they are speaking.

SEQR ACTION:  TYPE II-20

 

Meeting History

Jan 4, 2017 3:30 PM  Government Operations Committee Regular Meeting

Mr. Stein explained his proposal and said the intent of it is that it applies only to Privilege of the Floor for Legislators during a scheduled Legislature meeting. It is his experience that there are times there should be rules that do not have exceptions and is how Robert’s Rules is laid out.

Mr. Burbank believes that what the Committee was looking for was something between what is currently in place and some restraints. He would like to have a mechanism where a Legislator could be accommodated if there is a compelling need to speak for more than three minutes.

Ms. Chock spoke of her concern with the mechanism included in other proposals with four members of the Legislature agreeing that the time limit can be extended for a Legislator speaking under Privilege of the Floor as it can be a popularity contest. She also is unsure about allowing a Legislator to speak only once as there may be times when somebody else speaks that an opportunity should be provided for another viewpoint to be expressed.

Ms. Chock also referenced a draft proposal she prepared that takes this discussion in a different direction and will speak to it at the appropriate time.

Ms. Kiefer spoke in opposition to Mr. Stein’s proposal and believes that having a blanket rule that a Legislator can only speak once is unrealistic.

Mr. John reminded the Committee that Privilege of the Floor is not general debate; it’s a privilege. He said he supports this proposal or the proposal with a mechanism that would allow an exception.

Following discussion, it was MOVED by Ms. Kiefer, seconded by Ms. Chock, and unanimously adopted by voice vote, to amend the resolution as follows:

Strike:

“During the “Privilege of the Floor for Legislators” section of a scheduled Legislature meeting, each Legislator may only speak once and for no longer than three minutes.”

and replace with:

“A Legislator shall limit remarks during 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 during Public Privilege of the Floor. A speaker's three-minute limit may be extended at the Chair’s discretion, e.g., if several topics are addressed without repetition.”

Following further discussion, Ms. Chock believes the issue is lack of clarity about what it takes to do this job. She supports giving more time to a Legislator and trying it on a voluntary basis.

The following is the vote result on the resolution as amended.

RESULT:RECOMMENDED [4 TO 1]
MOVER:Rich John, Member
SECONDER:Will Burbank, Vice Chair
AYES:Daniel Klein, Will Burbank, Dooley Kiefer, Rich John
NAYS:Carol Chock
Jan 17, 2017 5:30 PM Media Tompkins County Legislature Regular Meeting

Mr. John explained the intent of the resolution is to limit the length of time Legislators may speak under Privilege of the Floor to the same time allowed to the public with the intent that this would help meetings move along.

Ms. Chock said she opposed this is in Committee and a proposal was recommended that a trial period be held but due to the lack of time it did not get discussed.

It was MOVED by Ms. Chock, seconded by Mr. Stein, to amend the resolution and replace the paragraph in Rule IV - Order of Business (5) Privilege of the Floor to read:

“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.”

Ms. Chock said she had wanted to discuss at the Committee meeting about doing this on a voluntary basis with the use of the clock and buzzer and said those who speak often don’t realize how long three minutes is. She thinks those who don’t often speak should be allowed to speak for more than three minutes and would like to try something first without penalizing those who do not speak often.

Mr. Sigler commented Legislators are representing a lot of people and should know speaking for a long time will not change any opinions. Representation comes with responsibility and time should be respected.

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne said she opposes this; Legislators represent thousands of people and there are things people are passionate about. She could support encouraging but not requiring a time limit.

Mr. Lane said he does not support the three minute limit because this is a meeting of the Legislature and Legislators respect people. Allowing members of the public to speak is a courtesy. He believes more time is spent on debating a topic than on Privilege of the Floor. He also believes Legislators should pay more respect to the Chair when asked to limit comments. People who are not committee chairs should have the opportunity to speak and Privilege of the Floor allows that. He suggested that instead of the clock running down that it run upward.

Mr. Burbank thanked Mr. John for giving thought to the meetings and coming forward with proposals to become more efficient yet have thoughtful decisions. He agrees it is not so much the Privilege of the Floor time; the problem is that he gets tired as the meeting goes on and finds it difficult to stay engaged. His preference would be self-awareness and self-control. Awareness is that we are taking up everyone’s collective time. He supported this in committee and would probably be open to considering a trial to see if Legislators can reign themselves in.

Ms. Kelles said she would support the amendment and also a suggestion by Mr. Lane to have the clock run upward.

It was MOVED by Ms. Kelles, seconded by Mr. Stein, to amend the amendment and add the following statement: “While Legislators are speaking the clock will be running so they would see the length of time they are speaking.”

Ms. Kiefer does not believe it is sensible to use the clock as everyone cannot see it. She would support trying something before changing the Rules.

Mr. John believes this is an important and agrees that if you want to be an effective Legislator you want to be heard and if you talk at length you don’t do a very good job. He spoke of the importance of hitting points. Legislators have an opportunity to speak and have a responsibility to do it well. He agrees with the Chair that the real issue sits during the time items are debated. If Legislators want a diverse Legislature, there needs to be meetings that are reasonable in length to attract different people.

A voice vote resulted as follows on the amendment to the amendment: Ayes - 8 (Legislators Burbank, Chock, John, Kelles, Lane, McKenna, Robertson, and Stein); Noes - 6 (Legislators Dennis, Kiefer, Klein, McBean-Clairborne, Morey, and Sigler). AMENDMENT TO THE AMENDMENT CARRIED.

A voice vote resulted as follows on the amendment as amended: Ayes - 10 (Legislators Burbank, Chock, John, Kelles, Klein, Lane, McBean-Clairborne, McKenna, Robertson, and Stein); Noes - 4 (Legislators Dennis, Kiefer, Morey, and Sigler). AMENDMENT AS AMENDED CARRIED.

This resolution was defeated by a roll call vote.

RESULT:DEFEATED [7 TO 7]
MOVER:Daniel Klein, Member
SECONDER:James Dennis, Member
AYES:Will Burbank, Carol Chock, Rich John, Anna Kelles, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Martha Robertson, Peter Stein
NAYS:James Dennis, Dooley Kiefer, Daniel Klein, Michael Lane, David McKenna, Glenn Morey, Michael Sigler