Legislative Update: I am proud to report that a charter amendment that I cosponsored with my colleagues to extend the lifetime of a bill from 40 days to 65 days passed the Council unanimously.
Concerning the charter amendment, currently, the County Charter states that any bill not passed within 40 days after its introduction is dead. As a result of the 40-day time limitation, during the summer months when the Council meets only one time per month, a bill introduced at the first Monday session of a month must be voted on and passed at the first Monday session of the following month.
During the rest of the year, when the Council meets in Legislative Session on the first and third Mondays of each month, the one month cycle works the same way. A bill introduced at the first Monday session must be voted on at the first Monday session the following month. Similarly, a bill introduced at the third Monday session must be voted on by the third Monday session of the following month.
Extending the lifetime of a bill to 65 days is vital to improve openness and transparency in the legislative process. If there is one constant criticism of the Council that I hear from constituents, it is that they feel that sometimes last minute amendments are rushed through and voted on without proper vetting by the public.
These seemingly last minute changes occur because if the Council does not vote on the legislation within 40 days, the legislation is considered dead. Not only does this short timeframe for consideration defy proper vetting of legislation, it also severely limits time for citizen input.
If approved by the voters in November, expanding the time limit to 65 days would allow for the Council to have more time to consider any last minute substantive changes to controversial pieces of legislation, and in the process would allow for the public to have a greater voice in considering such changes.