Council Approves Changes To Rules And Procedures

County Attorney Alvin Leaphart discusses proposed changes to the Council’s rules and procedures at Tuesday’s council meeting. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Los Alamos Daily Post
After some deliberation, Los Alamos County Council approved changes in its rules and procedures during Tuesday night’s regular council meeting in Council Chambers. Although the changes were approved; they will not go into effect until after Jan. 1.
Council approved the changes 5-1 with Council Vice Chair Susan O’Leary casting the opposing vote.
According to agenda documents, the approved changes include:  
  • “The section on Work Sessions is changed to allow ‘required procedural actions such as approving minutes from a prior council meeting, or adopting statement for inclusion in the minutes regarding a closed session’ without suspending the rules for work sessions to allow for formal action to be taken.”
  • “Regarding closed sessions, a section is added clarifying that a motion to include a statement in the minutes regarding closed sessions is required. The section also provides the basic form of the motion. This practice has already been adopted as a standing agenda item.”
  • “The most substantive change is under ‘three basic motions.’ This section is proposed to now be more in line with Robert’s Rules of Order.”
County Attorney Alvin Leaphart explained that the change would be in regard to the process for making substitute or friendly amendments to motions. He said that when a councilor makes a motion, another councilor seconds the motion.Then a councilor makes an amended motion; if a councilor seconds the amended motion, then it goes to a vote. If the majority of council vote in favor, then the original motion dies and the amended motion will be addressed.
Council Chair David Izraelevitz suggested the changes and explained that he wanted to give clarity to which motion council addresses. Things can get murky when there are a series of substitute motions presented, he said.
“What I find more attractive about this idea is that if you replace a substitute motion there’s no history,” Izraelevitz said. “I find it personally difficult to remember and keep track of the justifications and arguments for all these different things. If the substitute motion passes and it would pass by a show of hands … If that passes, we can forget about all those previous motions. It doesn’t matter how we got to this one and if this fails then there is no motion on the floor. We always know which motion is on the floor and if this fails everybody as an equal chance to try something new and try to find a compromise motion … we try to find some compromise that expresses the will of the whole body.”  
Izraelevitz said he also felt that this would provide more opportunities for the public to provide comments on motions.
O’Leary expressed doubts about the new procedures. She questioned having the council vote on the new procedures right before the Dec. 5 regular council meeting during which the Parks and Recreation Board’s recommendation concerning the recreation Capital Improvement Projects will be discussed. Furthermore she questioned what the benefit was to changing the procedure.
“I am struggling with understanding what the benefit is to getting the council to agree to vote to consider a substitute when it just seems more efficient to me to just consider the substitute-do away with it or accept it. Why would we make this change; what is the benefit to making this change?” O’Leary asked.
She said she was concerned there wasn’t any benefit; pointing out that the current process allows councilors to explain their amended or substitute motions.
“I’m concerned that substitutes and amendments won’t carry the vote for consideration because we don’t know enough about them yet, and although it is very messy and  complicated, our current process allows us to consider and hear more from our follow councilors about substitutes or amendments to inform our thinking, which I think actually helps us come up with a solution that is best case compromise,” she said.
O’Leary also said she felt that the new procedure may give more power to the council chair to sway council’s decision since he or she is the person who chooses the order in which councilors can make motions.
“Whoever is appointment by the chair … that actually creates more influence for the chair in who he decides who makes the first motion … there’s no fair way to say we each have a turn,” she said.
Leaphart said he did concur that the first person appointed by the chair to make a motion would benefit.
Councilor Chris Chandler said she felt the idea that the chair would have more advantage in the new procedures was a bit of a stretch.
“We know Robert’s Rules has been in place for a century … (or for) quite a long time; they are tested procedures and I think we are overthinking the issue of who has an advantage. I guess I don’t see who has the advantage,” Chandler said.
Chandler added that the new procedures could help prevent some of the chaos and confusion that comes with making serial motions that sometimes occurs under the current procedures.
In an effort to compromise, Councilor James Chrobocinski moved to approve the new procedures but to delay putting them into effect until after Jan. 1.
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