A Resolution & An Ordinance Walk Into A Room… A Primer On Both

A Resolution & An Ordinance Walk Into A Room… A Primer On Boththumbnail
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Published: January 29, 2016 @ 6:00 AM EDT

In an effort to continue reporting news relevant to its readers, Roselle Park News will begin to write articles on all ordinances introduced by the municipal governing body. Significant resolutions will also be reported on but for now a primer is provided to offer basic information on the importance and difference of each.

An ordinance is an act of local legislation. In other words, it is a municipal law that – once approved by a governing body – remains in effect and is enforceable. A new parking regulation? Ordinance. Need a bond for the municipality? Ordinance. Create or change an employment position title? Ordinance. Setting salaries? Ordinance. Charges, fees, fines? Ordinance. The list is long but the general idea is anything that goes into or is changed in the Borough Code Book requires an ordinance. The Roselle Park Borough Code Book defines it as:

Ordinance shall mean any act of local legislation hereto-fore or hereafter adopted, and including this Revision, so long as it shall have been adopted by the procedure required for the adoption of an ordinance and so long as it shall remain in force and effect pursuant to law and all amendments thereto.

An ordinance requires a public introduction at a municipal meeting at which time the wording and phrasing of the proposed law is released to the public. A copy of ordinance is also submitted to a local newspaper for publication so the public can be made as aware as possible of a possible new law or change to a law. This introduction is followed at a subsequent (usually the next) meeting with a public hearing and a vote by the governing body to adopt the ordinance as law. Unlike a regular public portion, the public hearing has no time limit but discussion and questions are limited to the ordinance. Depending on the type of ordinance, it is passed with either a simple majority (51%) or a super majority (2/3) of ‘yes’ votes. An abstention has no effect on the outcome of a vote since to abstain means to refrain from voting and will have the same effect as a ‘no’ vote. Council votes on the ordinance and the mayor only votes if there is a tie. Ordinances are numbered sequentially. As of the end of 2015, there have been 2,445 ordinances on the books in Roselle Park. Below is a breakdown of the number of ordinances per year from 2007 through 2015:

Year
Ordinances
TOTAL
245
2007
37
2008
24
2009
30
2010
28
2011
27
2012
30
2013
21
2014
33
2015
15

A resolution is an act or regulation of the municipal governing body required to be reduced to writing, but which may be finally passed at the meeting at which it is introduced. Whenever  money is spent for a project or payment, a resolution is required. Whenever a contract is awarded to a vendor, a resolution is required. Whenever something needs to be memorialized in writing, a resolution is passed. The municipality provides the following legal definition:

Resolution shall mean and include any act or regulation of the Borough Council required to be reduced to writing, but which may be finally passed at the meeting at which it is introduced.

[A]lmost without exception, residents in Roselle Park do not even know what resolutions are to be voted on until the night of a Mayor & Council meeting.

Resolutions are usually packaged together in what is called a consent agenda and are voted on during a municipal meeting as a group unless a member of council wishes to pull it for discussion. There is no separate public hearing for residents on resolutions and, almost without exception, residents in Roselle Park do not even know what resolutions are to be voted on until the night of a Mayor & Council meeting. Any resident who wishes to speak on a proposed resolution only has opportunity to do so during the general public comment portion of a municipal meeting. Currently, the time limit for the general public portion is seven minutes. Fortunately, the public portion occurs before resolution votes. The wording before the list of resolutions states:

‘All matters listed with an asterisk (*) are considered to be routine and non-controversial by the council and will be approved by one motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items unless a member of the governing body so requests, in which case the item will be removed from the consent agenda and considered in its normal sequence on the agenda as part of the general orders.’

All resolutions are listed with asterisks and usually require a simple majority of ‘yes’ votes from those in attendance. In case of a tie the mayor votes. An abstention does not count as a ‘yes’ vote. A total of 2,487 resolutions were passed from 2007 to 2015. The average over the past nine years has been about 276 per year, which is more than the total number of resolutions passed in that same period. The number of resolutions for each year is listed below:

Year
Resolutions
TOTAL
2,487
2007
282
2008
299
2009
260
2010
301
2011
191
2012
267
2013
276
2014
262
2015
349

As demonstrated by the above counts, resolutions are much more common than ordinances. Roselle Park News‘ newest add-on feature available to its readers, {fyi}, will house municipal resolutions and ordinances as well as how elected officials voted on each. The link for the Roselle Park News {fyi} website, www.roselleparknews.fyi, is available by clicking here.