Monday, April 2, 2012

The Upcoming By-law Fiasco In Southbridge

Ken O’Brien

At the Town Council meeting of December 19, 2011, Council Chair Nikolla announced the membership  of the town’s By-law Review Committee.

This Committee is appointed in accordance with Section 12-5-3 of the Town Home Rule Charter which reads as follows:

In every year following the issuance of a report by a charter review committee, the chairperson of the town council shall appoint a by-law review committee.  The committee shall consist of five members, and shall report its recommendations to the town council within one year from the date of its appointment. 

I shall have more to say about the manner in which this Committee has thus far operated in an upcoming article.

At this time, however, I want to address a far more practical matter.

The Town Home Rule Charter also provides:

2-6-3:  Every by-law shall be read at three separate meetings before its passage.

There is only one other provision anywhere in the Charter providing for another means of adopting a by-law. That is in Chapter 12, Section 3 providing for adoption by initiative petition and submission to the voters.

In other words, once the By-Law Review Committee submits its final report, there are only two ways it can be adopted in accordance with the current Town Home Rule Charter.

1.      Read every change in the proposed new by-laws at three successive Town Council meetings and vote on every change; or
2.      Put the onus on the voters to familiarize themselves with every proposed change and to vote on them “at the next regular town election”.

I’m anxious to hear how the town attorneys deal with this conundrum.

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