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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts for Legislative Body

Streamlining Meetings Through the Consent Agenda

Streamlining Meetings Through the Consent Agenda

August 2, 2021  by  WMCA
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

This blog offers an overview of consent agendas and how some Washington local governments are using this tool.

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Looking Ahead: Holding “Hybrid” Public Meetings

Looking Ahead: Holding “Hybrid” Public Meetings

April 29, 2021  by  Emma Diamond
Category:  Legislative Body

This blog provides an overview of the hybrid public meeting model, which combines in-person and online public attendance.

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Setting the Agenda: Less Control, More Cooperation

Setting the Agenda: Less Control, More Cooperation

April 26, 2021  by  Steve Gross
Category:  Legislative Body

This blog looks at best practices on setting public meeting agendas for cities, towns, counties, or special purpose districts. 

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Vacancies in Elected Office – Questions and Answers (Part 2)

Vacancies in Elected Office – Questions and Answers (Part 2)

March 11, 2021  by  Steve Gross
Category:  Legislative Body

This two-part blog series looks at vacancies of elected office. Part Two covers questions related to filling a vacant elected position. 

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Vacancies in Elected Office – Questions and Answers (Part 1)

Vacancies in Elected Office – Questions and Answers (Part 1)

March 8, 2021  by  Steve Gross
Category:  Legislative Body

This two-part blog series looks at vacancies of elected office. Part One covers questions related to how (and when) an elected position becomes vacant. 

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Changing Course: Using Robert’s Rules to Alter a Prior Action

Changing Course: Using Robert’s Rules to Alter a Prior Action

January 19, 2021  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

Using Robert's Rules of Order, this blog looks at when and how a governing body can change course on a prior action.

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The Right to Assemble: Responding to Protests, Spontaneous Gatherings, and Counter-Demonstrations

The Right to Assemble: Responding to Protests, Spontaneous Gatherings, and Counter-Demonstrations

January 6, 2021  by  Oskar Rey
Category:  Public Participation Legislative Body

This blog explores the right to assemble in connection with protests and gatherings in outdoor public places and provides thoughts on how local governments can respond to situations that may arise.

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In-Person Public Meetings Put on Hold for Now

In-Person Public Meetings Put on Hold for Now

December 9, 2020  by  Jill Dvorkin
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Legislative Body COVID-19

This blog post reviews Proclamation 20-28.14, which extended and modified the temporary rules governing open public meetings and tied the in-person meeting requirements to Proclamation 20-25 and the "business meetings" guidance for Miscellaneous Venues.

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Strategies for Managing Difficult Public Meetings and Hearings

Strategies for Managing Difficult Public Meetings and Hearings

December 3, 2020  by  Byron Katsuyama
Category:  Public Participation Legislative Body

This blog offers some steps you can take before, during, and after difficult public meetings and public hearings to make them less stressful and more productive for everyone.

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What Does the New Robert’s Rules Mean for You?

What Does the New Robert’s Rules Mean for You?

October 28, 2020  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

From guest author and Professional Registered Parliamentarian Ann Macfarlane, this blog post looks at the latest edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised.

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Filling a Vacancy in City or Town Councils

Filling a Vacancy in City or Town Councils

September 8, 2020  by  MRSC Insight
Category:  Legislative Body

This post addresses the basics of filing a vacancy on a city or town council. 

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When First Amendment Rights and Public Meetings Clash

When First Amendment Rights and Public Meetings Clash

July 23, 2020  by  MRSC Insight
Category:  Legislative Body

This blog post looks at the authority a governing body has to establish and carry out procedures that can prevent the interruption or delay of a public meeting due to disruptive or irrelevant comments from the public or from members of the governing body itself.

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Engaging in a Pixelated Public Square

Engaging in a Pixelated Public Square

April 20, 2020  by  Laura Crandall
Category:  Legislative Body COVID-19

This blog post looks at which video platforms are best for what use, how public comment may be made for remote public meetings, and discusses various electronic public engagement platforms.

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Tips for Government Bodies Meeting Remotely

Tips for Government Bodies Meeting Remotely

March 26, 2020  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body COVID-19 Guest Author

This blog post offers guidelines and tips for conducting successful remote local government meetings.

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Taking Action Using Ordinances, Resolutions, Motions, and Proclamations

Taking Action Using Ordinances, Resolutions, Motions, and Proclamations

February 20, 2020  by  MRSC Insight
Category:  Legislative Body

This blog post offers an overview of the many ways that a legislative body can take action on an issue.

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Working on Council Guidelines? What About Remote Meeting Attendance?

Working on Council Guidelines? What About Remote Meeting Attendance?

February 6, 2020  by  Laura Crandall
Category:  Legislative Body

This blog post addresses remote meeting attendance, including what is possible and permissible under the Open Public Meetings Act.  

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Budget Hearings: How Many Do You Need to Hold?

Budget Hearings: How Many Do You Need to Hold?

October 11, 2019  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?" This post reviews the requirements. 

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Sanctioning Rogue Board Members

Sanctioning Rogue Board Members

October 8, 2019  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

This post looks at how a board can sanction a member that repeatedly disrupts the work — and progress — of that governing body.

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Don’t Get into Back-and-Forth Exchanges During Public Comment

Don’t Get into Back-and-Forth Exchanges During Public Comment

August 29, 2019  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

The public comment period of a public meeting can be a great time to hear from constituents and to be heard. However, these meetings should not devolve into back-and-forth exchanges between elected officials and their constituents. 

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Successful Staff Interaction in Local Government Meetings

Successful Staff Interaction in Local Government Meetings

April 29, 2019  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

This MRSC Insight blog offers a few suggestions on how to structure successful staff participation in a council meeting. 

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Roundtable Public Hearings

Roundtable Public Hearings

March 25, 2019  by  Bob Jean
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

This blog post provides an overview of the Roundtable Public Hearing process, a tool local governments can use to move the public hearing process from a divisive “win/lose” result to a much preferable “consensus/compromise” result. 

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Point of Order and Appeal Are the Heart of Democracy

Point of Order and Appeal Are the Heart of Democracy

February 11, 2019  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

This blog post answers the question: What is a Point of Order and how do I use it? 

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Meeting Discussion: When Should You Interrupt a Speaker?

Meeting Discussion: When Should You Interrupt a Speaker?

December 27, 2018  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

Under Robert's Rules, there are significant instances in which a board member or councilmember should be interrupted during a meeting in order to preserve preserve politeness and fairness for all.

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Do We Have to Obey the Mayor?

Do We Have to Obey the Mayor?

July 23, 2018  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

Under Robert's Rules of Order and common parliamentary law the presiding officer of a governing body has certain rights — but so too do councilmembers, county commissioners, and directors of special districts — and no one has the authority to dominate the group.

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A Grab Bag of Ask MRSC Questions

A Grab Bag of Ask MRSC Questions

May 10, 2018  by  Paul Sullivan
Category:  Legislative Body

This blog post offers several examples of questions MRSC's legal and policy experts get from local government staff and elected officials. 

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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 Guest Author

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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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 Guest Author

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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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 Guest Author

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 Guest Author

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 or she has to remain emotionally connected to the members, which requires warmth.

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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, which would require one of the bodies to meet outside its county. A 2014 Attorney General Opinion addresses this issue.

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Musings on Local Government and Governance

January 31, 2014  by  Jim McEntire
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

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

June 30, 2013  by  Carl H. Neu
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

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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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!

September 30, 2012  by  Ann G. Macfarlane
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

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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Local Government: "If You Can Keep It."

June 30, 2012  by  Carl H. Neu
Category:  Legislative Body Guest Author

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 17, 2012  by  Ramsey Ramerman
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Legislative Body Guest Author

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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