Senator White fixes charter changes

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BRATTLEBORO -- A Windham County lawmaker has been able to take out two proposed changes to Brattleboro's revised charter, and expects the House committee that proposed those changes to accept her Senate committee's suggestions.

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Putney, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, took up the charter changes last week.

Brattleboro's Representative Town Meeting approved a raft of changes at a special 2010 meeting, but when the House Committee on Government Operations considered the town-approved amendments, the committee members made two of its own changes, which town meeting representatives, in turn, rejected in a non-binding vote this year.

Those House changes went to the Senate, where White says she was able to reject them, and she said the House Government Operations chairwoman agreed to go along with the Senate revision without calling for a conference.

"We were able to do what the town wanted us to do," White said Monday. "Once we were able to clarify things, everyone agreed that the charter should stay as it was presented."

Following two special 2010 representative town meetings, where 33 different charter changes were considered, the proposed changes were sent to the Legislature for approval.

It was during that process that the House Government Operations members injected two changes of their own.

The first House change entered language that would have made the town clerk and the town treasurer nonvoting ex officio members of Representative Town Meeting, if the town manager appointed the clerk and treasurer.

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But that change to the clerk and treasurer's status was contingent on the manager being able to appoint the clerk and treasurer, which never happened, so the proposed change that the House made was moot.

Town Meeting representatives this year voted to ask the Legislature to remove the proposed House change.

In a second, separate House amendment, state lawmakers wanted to give the Selectboard the authority to reject a citizen-led petition drive to get an article on the town meeting warning if "It is deemed illegal or unconstitutional by the body, in consultation with the town attorney."

At Representative Town Meeting this year, the representatives overwhelmingly rejected the proposed House change, and White said it did not make sense to give the Selectboard that authority to reject a petition request, if the required number of signatures are gathered.

"That should not be in there," said White. "If the citizens want a nonbinding article on the warning that is illegal, or unconstitutional, they should be able to vote on it. If the Selectboard, after the vote, works with the town attorney, and finds out something is illegal, that is different. The town meeting vote is just a sentiment, and the representatives should be able to vote on it."

Both of the proposed changes were passed by the House, before being sent on to the Senate.

If White's amendments are not contested, then the revised Brattleboro charter will go before the full Legislature for final approval, and Brattleboro's updated charter will go into effect.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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