Sunset Hills reading of bills will stay the same

The city of Sunset Hills campus: Sunset Hills Police Department

The city of Sunset Hills campus: Sunset Hills Police Department

By Erin Achenbach
Staff Reporter
eachenbach@callnewspapers.com 

The number of times a bill is heard at the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen will stay the same after aldermen rejected legislation that would amend procedures for a second reading of a bill at the same meeting.

Bill No. 41, introduced at the Dec. 11 Board of Aldermen meeting, would have amended the city’s ordinance governing whether bills can be read for a second time at the same meeting that the bill is introduced.

The bill would make it easier for first and second readings to happen at the same meeting. The board rejected the bill 7-0 without discussion. Ward 3 Alderman Kurt Krueger was absent.

Typically, bills are introduced at one of the board’s monthly meetings for a first reading, in which no vote is taken, and then voted on in a second reading at the next meeting.

In the current rules put in place a few years ago, if a single alderman votes against suspending the rules for a second reading at the same meeting, the bill must follow the usual procedure with the second meeting.

Should Bill No. 41 have passed, bills could have been finalized and passed in the same meeting that they are introduced even if one alderman votes “nay” on a second reading. Under the proposal, an affirmative supermajority vote from the aldermen in attendance would be required to suspend the rules.

Since Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong took office last April, he has frequently been the sole “no” vote against suspending the rules and moving up the second reading.

Ward 4 Alderman Thompson Price proposed the new changes at the Dec. 11 meeting, saying that it seemed unfair that one alderman had the power to suspend a second reading for 30 days.

“I felt that it was more reasonable to have more than one person if they were opposed to having a second reading,” said Price, further suggesting the minimum number of votes to delay an issue be raised from one to three.

Former Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy testified against the proposed legislation during public comments at the same meeting.

“I oppose what you’re offering. I think what you’re suggesting, Tom, is for the sake of businesses to get things through because they’re usually ones who bring the ordinances,” said Hardy, directly addressing Price. “There is a reason for a second reading, and it is to give the public a month to digest what it is because the agenda doesn’t come out until the Friday before (the Tuesday meeting).”

Hardy also suggested having a month between committee readings on bills and when the bill is first read by the Board of Aldermen.

“It’s up to you aldermen because you represent the people,” said Hardy. “It’s they, the residents, not the businesses, that put your butts in those seats. So it’s up to you to be their voice, to be the residents’ voice.”

Wong seemed to side with Hardy during board discussion on the proposal.

“Is that a good thing? If we’re able to rush-vote things on the first night things are introduced, would it be able to effectively preclude public feedback and resident oversight?” asked Wong.

Hardy again spoke out against the bill during public comment Jan. 8, suggesting 30 days between Planning and Zoning bills and first readings at the Board of Aldermen, along with 30 days between first and seconds readings of bills.