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Cook County Commissioners to take more time before voting

Thursday, June 19, 2014
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

In a bit of a legislative rebuke to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, commissioners Wednesday voted for a new rule requiring that nearly all new ordinances or amendments get sent to committee for consideration before a full board vote.

The new rule, proposed by Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston, was a reaction to how quickly Preckwinkle and Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, pushed through a new ordinance banning the sale of commercially bred puppies, kittens and rabbits at pet stores.

In April, the puppy mill legislation was approved unanimously by the board about a week after Fritchey first surfaced the idea. Since then, some commissioners have proposed amending the ban, saying it went too far and could harm pet stores that get animals from commercial breeders who are treating animals humanely.

People who might have wanted to speak out on the proposed ban, or try to get it changed, had about three days’ official notice that the subject was on the board’s agenda, Suffredin said. If it had been sent to committee, a practice followed by the board until recently, people would have had weeks to weigh in.

“The whole idea here is to give the public notice when we’re changing substantive laws,” Suffredin said. “This is a way try to have transparency, so the citizens can know what’s going on.”

There is, however, a way around sending new ordinances and amendments to committee under the new rule. A majority of commissioners could vote for immediate consideration.

That exemption is designed for emergency situations, Suffredin said, and commissioners would be forced to explain why they wanted immediate consideration. “We needed some kind of a safety override, and we put that in,” he said.

Preckwinkle later said she believes most items should go to committee, but she made it clear that would not always be the case.

“It’s a good idea to introduce things and send them to committee and have them come back out, but I’m sure there will be occasions when the board will determine that time is of the essence and immediate action is required,” she said.



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