Two separate ordinances, O2021-2901 (Beale, 9th Ward) and O2022-656 (Reilly, 42nd Ward) both propose a renamed and expanded legislative support office for City Council, taking on the duties of the current Legislative Reference Bureau and adding legal and parliamentary support roles, as well as financial analysis duties in Beale’s version.
Both bills seek to address a longstanding complaint among members of City Council: the Mayor has legal counsel present at City Council meetings, whose duties include advising the Council on what motions and items of business may or may not move forward under the Council’s Rules of Orders and Procedure, as well as applicable state and local laws. City Council does not have its own independent source for parliamentary advice, and often ends up deferring to the Mayor’s interpretation of the rules.
The bills also address how legislative support staff are appointed, overseen, and funded, which touches on the often unequal resources Alderpersons have to perform their duties, depending on their officer positions and/or committee chairships within City Council.
Beale has attempted to move his bill to the floor for a full City Council vote several times, and has been blocked by various parliamentary maneuvers. He has repeatedly pointed to these as evidence of the need for a neutral parliamentarian and/or legal counsel not appointed by the Mayor or a single City Council member.
The initial proposals differed significantly, but new language brought forward by both sponsors has brought their bills fairly close to one another, with the main remaining points of difference being:
Reilly’s ordinance adds language empowering City Council’s investigatory role, including a process for committees to subpoena individuals or evidence; Beale’s ordinance does not have an investigatory component
Reilly’s ordinance retains language putting the office under the “control, supervision, and direction of the President Pro Tempore,” while Beale’s puts all administrative control under the Director hired by City Council to oversee the department.
Beale’s ordinance folds financial analysis into the new office’s duties and eliminates the separate Council Office of Financial Analysis currently overseen by the chair of the Budget Committee; Reilly’s ordinance leaves the two analysis teams separate.
Both are proposing the same funding sources (the existing LRB budget plus the funds currently appropriated for two vacant positions in the Department of Law), with Beale’s version also adding the current COFA funds to the new office.