April 23, 2014

Charter commissions may reconsider partisan elections

Danedri Thompson
submissions@gardnernews.com
A Johnson County Charter Commission amendment to return to partisan elections may not be dead, despite not garnering enough votes to move the proposal ahead.
Commissioners voted 9-14 against recommending partisan elections for Board of County Commission races in the future.
The final outcome of the Nov. 7 vote is not in question, but a procedural error may put the issue before commissioners for a second time. During the meeting earlier this month, commissioners passed a motion to call the question stifling debate on the controversial topic.
According to Roberts Rules of Order, calling the question requires a two-thirds majority in order to proceed to a vote. The Nov. 7 motion passed with a simple majority. It passed 13-10.
Since the motion to cease debate failed, some commissioners believe the vote on the actual issue – whether the county should return to partisan elections – should be reconsidered.
Commissioner Clay Barker said several commissioners have been discussing how they’ll address the oversight. Preferably, they’d like to see a do-over on the final vote.
“Let us debate a little bit,” Barker said. “And if a side that doesn’t want partisan elections wants to, they can just sit there.”
“There’s enough frustration in the decision to shut off debate,” Pirner said. “Even if the vote doesn’t change, I don’t think we’ll take it lying down.”
The immediate vote on whether to return the county to partisan elections seemed pre-planned to shut down debate, Pirner said, though he believes the decision to move forward with a vote on the question with only a simple majority rather than the required two-thirds was unintentional.
He admits debate might not change the outcome, but several commissioners had presentations prepared on the topic.
“These are serious issues,” Pirner said. “This commission, when it’s done, is done for 10 years.”
The 25-member appointed charter commission meets every 10 years to examine the county’s home rule charter. They are tasked with making recommendations for possible changes to the document. The county charter is available online at
http://bocc.jocogov.org/LIMS/homerule.shtml.
The commission will next meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the Johnson County Administration Building in Olathe.  Officials anticipate considering proposals that would allow voters to petition to roll back sales taxes and real estate tax increases.

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