Two pieces of legislation in City Council are due to get a hearing this week, both of them sponsored by members of the Progressive Reform Caucus and both buried in the Rules Committee for more than a year.
The first, an ordinance sponsored by Ald. Rod Sawyer (6) is known as the Privatization Transparency and Accountability ordinance, and is due to be heard in a Rules Committee hearing today. Originally introduced into Council in 2012, the ordinance is designed to create “greater oversight, disclosure and public discussion” before any efforts to privatize city services or assets is finalized.
The other is a resolution, first introduced by Ald. John Arena in September of 2013, calling for the submission of a ballot measure to Chicago voters asking whether they support an elected school board for the city. In an attempt to move the resolution out of the Rules Committee, Arena is expected to invoke Rule 41 at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
The moves represent something of a thaw in PRC sponsored legislation, much of which has been frozen in the Council’s Rules Committee for extended periods of time. In October of 2013, Ward Room wrote an open letter to the Rules Committee chair, Ald. Michelle Harris (8) asking about the status of a number of pieces of legislation locked up in the Rules Committee, including the pieces on tap for this week.
Known as the place where "good legislation goes to die," the Rules Committee was run for years by powerful 33rd Ward alderman Richard Mell. Council rules allow any pieces of proposed legislation to be referred to a committee upon introduction. As for the Rules Committee, ordinances widely believed to be opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel is often held in Rules for weeks, months or even years.
Invoking Rule 41 represents something of a risk for an ordinance or resolution’s sponsor, however. Council rules allow an aldermanic sponsor to request a committee chair to bring legislation to the Council floor for a vote after 30 days of inaction. Once an ordinance is out for a vote, however, it immediately lives or dies by majority rule.
A mayoral ally, Ald. Joe Moore (49), is also expected to bring forward a non-binding referendum at Wednesday’s meeting that could conceivably block ballot space for the question of an elected school board. Moore’s referendum, said to be backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, asks voters whether they support ordering employers in the city to give workers paid sick leave.
Still, PRC members in City Council haven't given up the fight for those pieces of legislation that remain bottle up in committee.
"We're hopeful that our colleagues in the City Council will take this long-awaited hearing to advance the [privatization] ordinance, which would finally create a system of transparency and accountability for future attempts to privatize city services or assets,” Sawyer told Ward Room. “This is a simple question of responsible governance, and we're optimistic about the prospect of passing this legislation."