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How Waupaca County passes its ordinances

Some members of Waupaca County’s Legislative, Judicial, Ethics, Safety and Security Committee at the Jan. 8 meeting. Still from Youtube video

Committee reviews legislative process

By Robert Cloud

What’s the difference between a “resolution” and an “ordinance?”

That question was part of an extended discussion at a Jan. 8 Legislative, Judicial, Ethics, Safety and Security Committee meeting regarding possible changes in how the county board operates.

Supervisor David Morack raised the question while the committee discussed revisions to Waupaca County Ordinance Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

The relevant section of Chapter 1 currently reads:

Any individual supervisor may introduce a resolution or ordinance as follows:

  • The written proposal shall be delivered to the presiding officer at any regular board meeting.
  • That officer shall refer it to the proper committee for review and recommendation for passage or other action.
  • The committee chair shall place it on the committee’s agenda not later than two regular committee meeting dates.
  • The committee shall make its recommendation to the Board not later than four regular committee meeting dates after receipt of the proposal.
  • The proposal shall be placed on the board agenda in accord with [policies relating to public notice and notifying the county clerk.]

Resolution or ordinance

Corporation Counsel Diane Muelemans explained that a resolution “is the body acting together to support a particular action, activity or function” while an ordinance becomes the county’s law.

As an example, Muelemans noted that when the county receives a donation of more than $1,000, the county board must pass a resolution to accept the donation.

“Doing so is in accordance with a policy, set by ordinance, regarding the acceptance of donations,” she said.

Committees’ role in process

Morack’s concern focused less on semantics than on the process of ordinances going before the county board.

“Can an ordinance or resolution go before the board without committee recommendation?” he asked. “What happens if the committee votes it down?”

“You’re saying, Dave, that regardless of what the committee decides, which means a recommendation still goes to the full board?” Supervisor Kevin Will asked.

“If you look at the overall intent and how this board has been running for a significant period of time, the overall intent has been that the committees actually run the main part of the process going to the board,” Will said. “I certainly appreciate what you’re saying in that a particular committee might decide, ‘Well, we just don’t like that idea,’ but the board as a whole may say, ‘We really support this idea,’”

“As a supervisor, I want to make sure that the county board has a say on it rather than the chair simply referring it to a committee that kills it,” Morack said, noting that the resolution or ordinance should go before the full board for a vote rather than “two or three members being able to say no.”

“I think this discussion is good and I think we could make it (language in the ordinance) more clear,” Muelemans said.

“If we’re going to run it by committee, we have to put full faith and trust in the committee that they’re going to adequately look at everything and really weigh it out,” Will said.

“The structure of county government is based on committees,” Supervisor Fred Zaug said, noting that the board generally follows the recommendations of the committee. “If we said no, we don’t bring it to the board?” Zaug said.

“That’s what we’re talking about,” Muelemans said. “We should be clear about if the committee says no, then whoever wants the resolution to be considered by the full board should still have the opportunity or not.”

“We would have to change the rules to do that?” Zaug asked.

“I think we have to be more clear,” Muelemans said.

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