Two ordinances were amended at the Monday, Sept. 9 Louisiana City Council meeting in a move that places proposed city laws in the hands of the full board and stops the ability to initially kill them in a committee.
The amendments were proposed by councilman Bart Niedner, who hailed their passage as an avenue to more representative government.
The first amended ordinance repealed language that demanded proposed laws go through a city committee before they advance to the full board.
Council members Niedner, Chuck Hoffman, Sal Pollice and Kathy Smith argued in recent months that the setup denied half of the council the ability to decide on a proposed law.
That is because the ordinance committee — which only has four of the eight council members — could initially kill a proposed law. That could even come with a split vote in the ordinance committee, which meant that two members of the entire council could initially kill a proposed law.
“Our fundamental job can be dictated by a minority of two,” Niedner said before the vote.
With Smith absent, council members Niedner, Pollice, Hoffman, Russell Stephens and Larry White voted to amend the ordinance. Council members Monroe Elliott and Jim Wood voted against the amendment.
Elliott voted against the amendment within the ordinance committee on Sept. 3, saying it simply followed the law-making process of state and federal government where proposed laws initially go through committees. Ordinance committee members Smith and Hoffman voted for it and White was absent.
Niedner’s argument to repeal the committee-only language was bolstered by an opinion from City Attorney Robert Rapp, who said the committee-only approach to city law making was “inconsistent with state law.”
Missouri state law supersedes municipal regulations and states “no requirement that the council consider only proposed ordinances referred by a committee,” Rapp wrote. “It appears that any individual could write a proposed ordinance and the council would have the legal power to enact such an ordinance.”
Rapp also reinforced Niedner’s argument with the second amended ordinance, which received the same council vote as the first.
That ordinance said a city law could skip the committee process if declared an emergency by a majority of the council.
That provision was unnecessary, Rapp said, because the state open-meetings law already allows for emergency laws to be passed.
Mayor Tom Wallace said Tuesday, Sept. 10 that he would not veto the amended ordinances.
“I’ll sign them today,” Wallace said.
However, Wallace said the amendments did not include language about how the council should proceed with future proposed laws.
“It leaves a void on how we would go ahead,” Wallace said.
Niedner disagreed, saying that Rapp’s opinion made it clear that anyone can propose an ordinance to a municipal council in Missouri.