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Aldermen spar over role of rules committee

CITY HALL – First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus claims that bills headed for passage didn’t get the kind of final checkover they needed before she was named chair of the aldermanic Engrossment Rules, Resolutions and Credentials Committee.

Others, including Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, say her extra reviews are unheard of and needlessly delay the review process. 

Tyus said her committee’s purpose was to ensure that bills are worded correctly and are signed by the correct person. 

In the past, “We had bills where secretaries have signed them. We’ve got bills with missing paper. All of that happened before us,” Tyus said. “We go through each bill.”

But Reed said he had never in his 21 years seen the committee take the extra delaying steps that Tyus has done.

The issue was the subject of sharp debate at the board’s July 8 meeting, particularly over whether a bill to put the issue of allowing city employees to live outside the city should be on the ballot. 

Reed said the City Charter dictated that the committee’s only purpose was to look over a bill to ensure that all the amendments were inserted properly, or engrossed. The charter says the committee must finish its work by the next meeting. The only exception is when back-to-back meetings are held within three days or less.

Except during breaks, board meetings are held once a week on Fridays.  Extra special sessions are called from time to time. 

Twenty-third Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill had been engrossed but not enrolled, or introduced in final form. He wanted a vote that day.

“I feel I’m being treated unfairly, that it’s going against the 20 alderman that voted [in favor],” he said. 

If there is no vote by Wednesday’s meeting, the last before the spring break, final action might not come until the end of the break in September. That may be too late to put it on the November ballot.

Reed said the bill should have been reported back to the board for final passage by that meeting.  

 But 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Green, the committee’s vice chair, said the board’s rules say the full board can’t take back a bill from a committee for 30 days. 

Reed said that didn’t apply to the Engrossments Committee.

“You do not have any right to hold up bills indefinitely,” Reed said.

Green said the extra step of enrollment took longer. She also said the committee was extremely busy before the break and hadn’t gotten to that bill.

Later in the meeting, Reed allowed a vote on the residency elections bill. He said it had already been engrossed. It was approved and sent to the mayor’s office for her approval, with 22 “yes” votes, four “no” votes and one “present.”

“They’ve been wanting to open up for additional hearings, testimony on bills. You can’t do that,” Reed said. “You do not relitigate a bill after the board has duly passed [it]. Because if you had that power, you would have sole power over the entire legislative branch of government.” 

Twenty-Third Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro contends Tyus is practicing favoritism. He alleged that unless she agreed with a bill, “she drags and drags.” 

Tyus disputed those contentions. 

Reed said the extra work the committee went through caused a delay in the passage of a bill providing additional funding to fight COVID-19.  The Board of Aldermen passed that bill on July 8.

“Our board president does not understand the law,” Tyus said. “He’s not very smart, and they just lie.”

The committee has seven business days to do its work under the rules of the Board of Aldermen and the City Charter, Tyus said.

“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” she said. “They never did anything.”

She said that 10th Ward Alderman Joseph Vollmer introduced the bill on June 5, and a hearing was held soon afterward. After the board initially approved the bill on June 26, it was given to Tyus’ committee. It finished its work within seven business days, in time for the board to approve the bill on July 8.

“We finished it. We signed it. It was done right after we got it. That’s the story,” she said. “Seven business days is not holding up a bill.” 

In a written statement, Tyus said, “The question becomes why such a lie, so easily [proves] to be false. My expose on these lying black women hating idiots will soon follow.” 

Tyus said her committee did extra work in approving the credentials of two people named alderwomen in a special election on June 23. Fourth Ward Alderwoman Dwinderlin Evans and 12th Ward Alderwoman Vicky Grass were sworn in on July 8.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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