Having their say

Say you’re a city alderman who has sponsored legislation that’s near and dear to your heart.

As with all proposed ordinances and resolutions, after a first reading of the full board, it’s assigned to a committee. But as it happens, you aren’t a member of this particular committee.

So, you go to the committee meeting and participate in the discussion as a nonvoting member as your idea is tweaked, debated and rewritten. But with each change, the legislation starts to look a little less recognizable, and you soon reach a point when you worry that your intent is being compromised.

As a nonmember, what you can’t do is to make a motion to amend the legislation to preserve or restore some of its original purpose.

That is, you couldn’t until a change approved by the board of aldermen last week. The change gives a bill’s primary sponsor the right to make motions at meetings of committees of which he or she isn’t a member.

Approval didn’t come without some dissenting voices.

Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy called the change unnecessary because a committee member could propose an amendment for the bill’s sponsor.

If a sponsor can’t convince a committee member to make a motion, the amendment would likely be doomed anyway, McCarthy said.

“It seems like another solution looking for a problem,” he said.

Ward 9 Alderman Jeffrey Cox called the change a case of “over-legislating the professionalism of the committee.”

But Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom, the sponsor of the legislation that created the procedural change, said it makes more sense for a sponsor to make a motion than to have the motion filtered through other aldermen.

After all, a bill’s chief sponsor “understands the legislation better than anybody else,” Teeboom said.

“Yes, it’s a change,” he said. “Change sometimes is good. Change sometimes helps.”

Alderman-at-Large Ben Clemons said this particular change would help committees in their work to improve legislation.

“The perfect example of this is the legislation itself,” Clemons said, noting that Teeboom’s proposal went through several revisions, with Teeboom’s help, at the committee level.

“It’s going to make our committee work a lot easier,” Clemons said.

The majority of the board agreed, as the change passed by an 11-4 vote. Opposing it were McCarthy, Cox, Ward 2 Alderman Dick LaRose and Ward 5 Alderman Mike Tabacsko.