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Posts for Legislative Body

Four Bad Habits to Avoid at Council Meetings

Four Bad Habits to Avoid at Council Meetings

February 9, 2018 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

There are a number of “urban myths” about Robert’s Rules of Order that can get in the way of democratic process for your council. If these errors happen at your meetings, address them and improve your processes. 

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Prayer & Pledges—Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Prayer & Pledges—Should You or Shouldn’t You?

February 5, 2018 by Jim Doherty
Category: Legislative Body

Whether to have an invocation (prayer) or a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a local government meeting is a matter of discretion to be decided by the local government legislative body. Legal Consultant Jim Doherty looks at these issues and provide some background on each. 

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Executive Sessions 101

Executive Sessions 101

January 29, 2018 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Legislative Body

At MRSC, we get many questions regarding executive sessions. Legal Consultant Paul Sullivan addresses some of the more common questions in this blog. 

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Ten Traits of an Effective Councilmember

Ten Traits of an Effective Councilmember

January 2, 2018 by Jon Mutchler
Category: Legislative Body , Administrative and Elected Officials

In this guest-authored blog post, Ferndale Mayor Jon Mulcher reflects on the traits he has witnessed in his career as a public servant that define truly effective councilmembers.

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Budget Hearings: How Many Do You Need to Hold?

Budget Hearings: How Many Do You Need to Hold?

November 2, 2017 by Toni Nelson
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Legislative Body

One question we get asked often this time of year is: “How many public hearings are required for the budget process?" That answer is, it depends on type of government. Finance Consultant Toni Nelson reviews the requirements. 

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Time for a Change in Your Local Government Organization?

Time for a Change in Your Local Government Organization?

March 29, 2016 by Bob Jean
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Changes to the form or organization of a city presents both a leadership challenge and opportunity for the city council. Make sure to handle the transition properly.

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How Well Do You Walk this Meeting Tightrope?

How Well Do You Walk this Meeting Tightrope?

February 25, 2016 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Chairing a meeting requires two skills that are not easy to combine. The presider has to control the meeting, which requires strength. At the same time, he has to remain emotionally connected to the members, which requires warmth. Put too much strength into your voice, and you come across as cold and uncaring. Put too much warmth into your delivery, and you seem weak. Walking this tightrope tak...

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New Legislation Provides Some Flexibility for County Legislative Bodies as to Meeting Locations

New Legislation Provides Some Flexibility for County Legislative Bodies as to Meeting Locations

May 7, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Legislative Body


In one bill, the 2015 Legislature addressed the issue considered in a 2014 attorney general opinion that was discussed in a December 2014 MRSC blog post, May a County Legislative Body Meet Outside its County to Hold a Joint Meeting with the Legislative Body of Another County? That attorney general opinion, AGO 2014 No. 7, concluded that, absent specific statutory authority, the legislative authority of one county may not meet outside its borders with the legislative authority of another county. HB 1145 (Ch. 74, Laws of 2015) amends state law to provide that specific statutory authority when the legislative bodies want to address matters of mutual interest.

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May a City Council Meet Outside the Corporate Limits of the City?

May a City Council Meet Outside the Corporate Limits of the City?

January 14, 2015 by Pat Mason
Category: Legislative Body

The statutes that apply to cities and towns do not limit where the city or town council can meet, although, except for the statutes that apply to first class cities, they do contain a limitation on what types of action may be taken at a meeting being held outside the corporate limits.

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May a County Legislative Body Meet Outside its County to Hold a Joint Meeting with the Legislative Body of Another County?

May a County Legislative Body Meet Outside its County to Hold a Joint Meeting with the Legislative Body of Another County?

December 10, 2014 by Pat Mason
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Legislative Body

Sometimes situations and issues arise affecting more than one county such that it would be helpful for the legislative bodies of those counties to meet jointly. Such meetings, if conducted in person, would of course require one of the county legislative bodies to meet outside its county. A recent opinion issued by the Office of the Attorney General, Read more | 0 comments


Filling a Vacancy in a City or Town Council

August 13, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Legislative Body

With 281 cities and towns in Washington and with city and town councils typically consisting of five to seven members, there are bound to be vacancies in council positions on a fairly regular basis. Vacancies typically occur due the death, resignation, or loss of residency. If there is a vacancy, a replacement needs to appointed. This post addresses the requirements and process for doing...

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Musings on Local Government and Governance

February 1, 2014 by Jim McEntire
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

I've lived in many states and metropolitan areas throughout our country; some small, some large, some rural, some urban ... but nowhere with a system of local governance as fragmented as that of Washington State. Fragmented or integrated really doesn't matter in my view — neither is better or worse — local government remains closest to the people no matter what the structure. But...

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Parting Thoughts from Carl Neu - Local Governments: The America that Works

July 1, 2013 by Carl H. Neu
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Earlier this year, I told Byron Katsuyama, Public Policy and Management Consultant, MRSC, I plan to retire by June 30. He asked if I would write a "parting thoughts" column as an MRSC Council/Commission Advisor. Answer: Yes.

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New Resources on Council/Commission Meetings and Public Hearings

New Resources on Council/Commission Meetings and Public Hearings

June 24, 2013 by Byron Katsuyama
Category: Legislative Body

City council or county council/commission meetings and public hearings provide the settings for councils and commissions to discuss and develop key policies and make important legislative and quasi-judicial decisions. A smoothly-managed and productive council or commission meeting in the right setting...

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Public Hearings -- How Much Notice Is Required?

Public Hearings -- How Much Notice Is Required?

May 8, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Legislative Body

MRSC routinely receives calls on this issue, and as with many issues, the answer is: “that depends.” There are many public hearings that cities and counties are required by statute to hold - for instance, when a city...

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More Sage Advice for Councils and Commissions

More Sage Advice for Councils and Commissions

April 22, 2013 by Byron Katsuyama
Category: Legislative Body

MRSC has been fortunate to have so many generous Council/Commission, HR, Finance, Planning, and Open Government Advisors over the years who have been willing to share their time and expertise writing columns filled with insightful analysis and sage advice for Washington local government officials and...

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How Are Abstentions Handled When Counting Votes?

April 4, 2013 by Pat Mason
Category: Legislative Body

Sometimes a member of a local governing body (such as a city council, board of county commissioners, planning commission, or special district board) does not, for whatever reason, want to cast a vote on a matter that is being considered by that body, and so that member abstains. Assuming that the governing body allows the member to abstain, how is that abstention treated for vote counting...

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Remote/Video Attendance at Meetings

January 10, 2013
Category: Legislative Body

As a grandmother with grandchildren 3,000 miles away, I’m a big fan of Skype. It’s a reliable and free internet service that allows me to video chat whenever the kids are willing to sit still for a few minutes. We use it on birthdays and holidays when we can’t be physically together. All that is necessary is a good internet connection and a computer, laptop, or electronic pad with a camera. Your...

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A Simple Technique for Improving Council Decision Making

November 5, 2012 by Byron Katsuyama
Category: Legislative Body

One of the things that has always fascinated me as a student and observer of local government has been the process that local legislative bodies use to discuss, debate, and formulate policy decisions. To my mind, much of what constitutes “good government” is a direct consequence of an open, fair, and effective legislative decision-making process. The open and fair parts are regulated by state...

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Take it Back, We've Changed Our Mind!

October 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

In our work with councils, special districts and other public bodies, we often encounter confusion about how a group can change an action that it has taken. For small groups like most councils, it's easy. Here is some information that will simplify the matter, based on Robert's Rules of Order, 11th edition ("Robert"). Bear with me if it seems a bit technical - we predict that understanding...

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Not Your Grandfather’s Town Meeting

August 15, 2012 by Sue Enger
Category: Legislative Body

Formal public hearings have their place – They are often required, after all, and they assure the basic, minimum rights of interested citizens to know what’s going on and to make their views known.  They’ve been around for some time, and they likely will continue to be a part of the public involvement landscape.  But I think it would be a rare event to hear someone say they relish the thought of...

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Local Government: "If You Can Keep It."

July 1, 2012 by Carl H. Neu
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

In 1787, Benjamin Franklin responded to a person who asked what sort of government will our nation have, "A Republic, if you can keep it." Franklin's maxim envisioned a wholly new nation imbued with the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the wisdom embedded in the United States Constitution. RE: America Already is Europe, Arthur C. Brooks, Wall Street Journal, July...

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Meeting Participation from Afar, by Speakerphone or Other Means

June 12, 2012 by Jim Doherty
Category: Legislative Body

Is actual physical presence required for a member of a local government governing body - city council, board of county commissioners, planning commission, etc. - to "attend" and participate at a meeting of that body?  Although state law provides no specific authorization, MRSC legal staff has taken the position that it is legal for a local government governing body to allow attendance and...

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New Attorney General Opinion on Binding Future Local Government Legislative Bodies

May 30, 2012
Category: Legislative Body

In a formal opinion issued on May 15, 2012, the office of the attorney general addressed an issue that MRSC attorneys have been asked about, and have wrestled with, for many years -  when may a current local government legislative body contractually bind future members of the body for some period after the end of the terms of the current members of the body?  Or, in other words, to what extent...

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Addressing Disruptions at Public Meetings

April 18, 2012 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Legislative Body , Open Government Advisor

When members of the public disrupt a public meeting, the disruption poses several challenges for the governing body. A recent incident at a local school district highlights the procedural hoops a governing body must go through if they attempt to address the disruption by adjourning the meeting and reconvening it in another location. A recent federal case from California exposes liability risks...

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