The good news first: We have a terrific set of registrars of voters, who beautifully handled the first post-ATBM voting and related matters that are required under the new charter. And bravo, as well, to the volunteer checkers, who performed admirably under what must have been stressful circumstances.
However, as the old saying goes, “one should never see how laws and sausages are made.” Last week’s ATBM arguably and surprisingly serves as an example. Was the voice of the people muffled?
What we saw was kind of like Washington, D.C., political dysfunction, albeit to a much lesser degree, and in a form that was hard to foresee.
As many of us go to the Weston Middle School gym to vote by machine today, on the forthcoming fiscal year’s local budgets, let us first pause and reflect.
The new charter’s quorum rule, requiring attendance by at least 2% of qualified Town Meeting voters as a prerequisite for votes on budget reductions, essentially muffled the audience. The 2% requirement was not satisfied during the quorum call that was made early in the meeting. No subsequent call was made later in the meeting.
It was clear that some in the audience had been made aware that there would be only one quorum call, but did we all know this? Did I miss something? Where was the town attorney, who at previous ATBMs had sat on stage to respond to questions? This all amounted to more than an oversight, in my opinion, especially considering that this was the first ATBM held under the new charter.
Is it written somewhere that there shall be “one and only one quorum call,” with the moderator having no discretion in the matter? I believe that the charter, as well as the relevant parliamentary rules, are silent on this.
It seems to me that calls could be made at intermediate points, perhaps after each of the budgets, town, school, and capital, have been considered.
Perhaps, though, that would induce those favoring no cuts to a particular budget to get up and leave en masse, and thus eliminate the quorum.
We still have a Panel of Moderators under the new charter, of course. The rules they follow need to be revised to address what we now, after the first ATBM held under our new “rules of the road,” know to be a significant procedural issue. And in my opinion, those rules should allow the moderator to make the call.
How did the Connecticut legislature manage to act in a bipartisan manner on gun control? Civility reigned in this instance. Why? And what can we learn about governance from this experience?
Please come to the LWV of Weston’s annual luncheon on Friday, May 17, and find out! Visit the league website for details: lwvweston.org.
John McKinney, state senator serving Weston and Newtown among other towns, and who co-chaired the legislative committee that devised Connecticut’s detailed new gun control rules, is being asked by the league to describe how the legislature managed to effectively work together on this issue.
The league expresses its gratitude to Sen. McKinney in advance, for taking the time to provide his valuable insights into this special accomplishment.
NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at aboutweston.com. This week’s guest is Gail Lavielle, state representative from the 143rd District (Wilton, Westport, and Norwalk).