Last-minute bill revisions cast a cloud over council

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

It’s unfortunate when members of the public are unaware of the provisions of a measure being voted on by a governmental entity.

It’s even more unfortunate when members of a governmental entity are put in the position of having to cast a vote on a measure they have not had time to fully review.

But that is often the case with legislation being considered by the County Council, as substitutions for bills under consideration routinely are introduced at the last minute. That leaves members of the public who wish to comment on such legislation ill-prepared to do so, as they are in the dark regarding specifics of any revisions.

Worse yet, some members of the County Council are receiving substitute bills just a few minutes before meetings, leaving them no time to fully study what they are being asked to vote for or against.

A perfect example is the recently approved legislation requiring county landlords to obtain rental licenses.

Fourth District County Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, first sponsored the measure last year, but dropped it in the face of overwhelming opposition. Undeterred, O’Mara reintroduced his legislation this summer to an even bigger firestorm of criticism, leading to at least three revisions of his bill before it was ultimately approved on a mostly party-line vote with the Democratic majority prevailing — and critics pledging to file suit to overturn the measure.

Yet not all of the councilmen apparently received the various revisions to O’Mara’s legislation at the same time. Seventh District Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, told the Call’s Gloria Lloyd he received a revised bill up for perfection “about 10 minutes before the meeting started. That’s almost unheard of, and I don’t know what the big rush on this is, but that’s the way it happened.”

To give an elected official 10 minutes to review a complex bill is not only ridiculous, but demonstrates an appalling lack of transparency.

Ironically, Republicans are not the only ones having difficulty obtaining information from the administration, as 1st District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, received the revised bill up for perfection about 20 minutes before the meeting.

After the measure passed, Erby said, “… When I came on, Republicans were the majority (on the council). There was much more respect than we have now, much more. This is the worst ever, and the citizens lose …”

That says it all, in our opinion.