Herb Adams, former mayor and now alderman, raised questions at the July 17 board meeting about the recent practice of proposed ordinances, or bills, being put before the board to vote on without a sponsor.
“In the past, it was the practice of the city that a bill would need an alderman as a sponsor before it could be voted on,” Adams said.
City Administrator Steve Roth said the ordinances he has brought forward are somewhat routine.
“Gullet Contracting submitted an application and we, the staff, developed the ordinance,” he said. “This is somewhat routine. Would the board prefer that these items be referred to the mayor and he get a sponsor before it comes to the board?”
Roth said he would not originate an ordinance on policy or procedure.
“I only acted on what we consider routine,” he said. “When an applicant ﬁles an application, we publish a public hearing notice and draft an ordinance.”
Adams said common sense should prevail.
“The administrator and the mayor can have some discretion, but my suggestion is to be careful and use good judgment,” he said. “But there is no doubt that when legislation is a law it should have a sponsor.”
Mayor Steve Myers said he worries if staff took the time to find an alderman to sponsor a bill relating to development it might delay proceedings.
“How long a time are we talking about?” Myers asked.
Adams said when it comes to legislation every case is different. Some laws would take a month for aldermen to approve. It could take six months.
Myers asked how Adams approached new bills when he was mayor.
“If I was going to bring it forward, I approached an alderman to sponsor the bill,” Adams said.
Adams said if the staff wants to change something they could prepare a draft and send it to each alderman to consider before it came to the floor for discussion and a vote.
When asked if it was proper that a bill be generated from administration, City attorney Bob Jones said he thinks it is proper.
“I think it’s a matter of practice and preference,” Jones said. “This was really housekeeping. I wouldn’t think of drafting a substantial ordinance without direction from the board.”
Adams said he’s comfortable with staff drafting a bill, but they needed to have an alderman who is willing to sponsor it before placing it on the meeting agenda.
“I don’t recall if I’ve seen it written as law, but I was under the impression that only a member of the Legislature could sponsor a bill,” Adams told The Missourian.
City, state and federal legislation publish written rules that require sponsorship and introduction of new bills by an elected member of the Legislature.
In the city of St. Louis, only aldermen can introduce proposed new laws in the form of bills. City departments can recommend new ordinances, but an alderman introduces the bill to the board.
If the mayor wants to introduce new legislation, he requests the chairman of specific committees to sponsor such a bill.
The state Constitution is silent on who writes a new law, known as a bill, but only members of the Legislature introduce a bill to either the House or the Senate. The president of the United States cannot directly submit a bill to Congress.
When the president wants to change the law, he or his staff, works on the language of a new bill with leaders of his party and party leaders work out which congressman or senator will introduce the bill.
“I think the members of the board of aldermen and the general public need to know who can make laws,” Adams said.
Myers said he would take the question under advisement in future measures.