A discussion on the proposal to amend the County Charter to remove the mandatory referendum requirement for certain Charter changes took place on Monday in the Legislation Committee. After a thoughtful discussion, it appears the proposal is being pulled back. The County Attorney provided a good history of the laws relating to Charter amendments, why he believes there is no historic conflict between the mandatory and permissive referendum sections of the Charter, and why the proposed Charter change is not necessary. It was then agreed that at future meetings, we will evaluate this issue from a different perspective, which will include a discussion on which Charter changes trigger the mandatory referendum requirement and which don’t. I look forward to this important and legitimate policy debate.
I am very pleased that the effort to remove the mandatory referendum law has been discontinued. Thanks to those that provided me with feedback on this matter. I must point out that my friend on the other side of the aisle, Legislator John Nonna, the Legislation Chair who proposed this change, was very fair and reasonable at today’s meeting and wants to work in a positive and bipartisan way going forward as we evaluate the mandatory referendum requirement in greater detail. To his credit, Legislator Nonna raised an important issue that needs clarification: which Charter amendments require a mandatory referendum? We will now research this question further, since it appears in past decades the county’s policy was not consistent.
Finally, let’s note how our legislature worked well on this issue: 1) one legislator put a legislative proposal on the table and other legislators opposed it in a substantive manner; 2) the issue was covered by the media and discussed in the social media (Facebook, Twitter & blogs); 3) the legislators all stuck to the issue without personal attacks; 4) the issue was debated at a public meeting available for review on the internet; and 5) after the public debate, a bipartisan decision was made not to proceed with the proposal. It is wonderful to live in a democratic society where we handle policy disputes in this way!