By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
FONDA -- The Montgomery County Legislature passed a series of resolutions Tuesday amending the government's standard rules of procedure, by which the county legislature must abide when conducting business.
When the new legislature took over from the board of supervisors in January, the legislators decided to continue operating under the old board's procedures, but change was necessary to reflect the new form of government.
"The amendments to the rules and procedures were necessary, because the charter was approved by the residents of Montgomery County," District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly said. "At our January organizational meeting, the Legislature voted on the original rules and procedures. However they were not really updated to represent the new form of government."
Kelly, who sponsored the majority of the resolutions, said previously he reviewed procedures from other county governments to create the amended document. Some of the changes reflect tweaks to the existing rules while others are brand new.
"With the division of powers between the two branches of government, I believe that it is important that the Legislature takes a more consistent approach to the budget and the county's spending," Kelly said referring to an addition to article 18 that requires a super majority vote to transfer money from any contingency line in the county budget or from the fund balance.
He said it was also important to have a set of rules that "foster an environment for debate and honest discussion on issues that impact every resident of this great county."
While most of the rules passed unanimously, a new rule that differentiates between political parties received a 7-2 vote.
According to the resolution, "at the organizational meeting, members of the two political parties which have polled the largest vote in the past general election for the county legislature shall elect leaders of their respective parties. The leader of the political party whose membership constitutes a majority shall be known as majority leader; the leader of the other political party shall be known as minority leader."
District 3 Legislator Roy Dimond and District 9 Legislator Alexander Kuchis voted against adding the rule.
"Going back to the campaign, the public wanted a united board," Dimond said. "This would create a divide."
Dimond had also questioned an amended rule that changed non-employee insurance as a matter handled by the Finance Committee to Physical Services Committee, formerly known as the General Services Committee.
"My feeling is that insurance has to remain under finance. I am not sure why it would be under general services," Dimond said.
District 5 Legislator Terry Bieniek responded that the general practice in other counties is to have it under general services.
District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz added that employee insurance falls under personnel.
Other new rules include:
* The establishment of a seating arrangement among the legislators by district starting with District 1 from left to right.
* Any item can be removed from the agenda by majority vote of the members present and voting without debate on the issue.
* A motion to adjourn may be made by a member who has the floor; it cannot be made during a roll call or when the Legislature is engaged in voting.
* The Legislature may appoint Citizens' Advisory Committees and Commissions which shall be composed of residents of Montgomery County and where possible, shall contain a representative from each town and city of the county. A member of the legislature shall serve as liaison to the committee.
* The Legislature can discharge from committee a matter that has been referred to it upon which the committee has not reported back to the Legislature, or which has been defeated in committee, by a majority vote of the Legislature as fully constituted, or a majority of those present and voting if previous notice of intent to discharge from said committee is given. But it cannot be voted upon on the same day, except by unanimous consent of the Legislature.
* Any committee of this Legislature is authorized to accept advice and counsel from citizens who are not members of the Legislature; upon recognition from the committee chair or simple majority of the Committee.
To see more of the amendment, visit the Montgomery County website at www.co.montgomery.ny.us.