Bumstead Legislation Would Prevent Local Government Stalemates
The Senate Committee on Local Government Thursday afternoon took testimony on legislation introduced by Sen. Jon Bumstead that would aid local governments with administrative duties.
“Local governments are on the front lines when it comes to civic engagement,” said Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “A variety of issues start at and are dealt with by local governments. Residents, along with statewide and federal officials, are expected to show up to work every day, and people ought to receive that same courtesy from those elected to serve in local positions.”
The village of Hesperia has been unable to hold a village council meeting since May 20, 2019 due to a lack of quorum. The village has a seven-member council that includes one village president and six trustees.
By July 2019, three of the village trustees resigned, leaving four members on the village council. Additionally, one trustee simply refuses to attend village council meetings for personal reasons, causing a lack of quorum. The village cannot appoint temporary trustees or process the three resignations because they don’t have a quorum to officially conduct business.
Senate Bills 712 and 713 amend the General Law Village Act and Michigan Election Law giving local governments power in situations like this.
Under the legislation, villages would have the general power to compel absent members to attend. The legislation would also provide direction for villages unable to achieve a quorum and give them tools to ensure elected officials are held to their duties.
The bills remove the requirement that an ordinance must be approved by a village for them to compel absent members to attend, while also allowing the presiding officer of a local council to compel absent council members to attend a meeting. If a village fails to compel an absent member to attend a meeting under ordinary circumstances, the absent member shall be guilty of gross neglect of duty, which is a precursor for the governor to consider removal.
“This is good public policy that will help restore people’s faith in government,” Bumstead said. “Some of the current requirements are overly burdensome and do not allow officials to properly conduct business or deal with officials who are not performing the job they were elected to do. My bills would change that and hold people accountable, while also allowing officials to focus on important business in their communities.”