Article 2 The Legislative Branch

Section 2.10 Composition.

The legislative power of the County not reserved to the people or to the County Executive shall be vested in a County Council. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).

Section 2.11 Five Districts.

The County Council shall consist of seven (7) members, selected as follows: For purpose of nomination of members of the Council, the county shall divide into five districts so that each district shall comprise as nearly as possible one-fifth of the population of the county. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A; Amended by referendum 2015). (Transition language implementing the 2015 referendum amendment from three to five Council districts can be found in Whatcom County Ordinance 2015-029.)

Section 2.12 Nominations.

(a) Nominees by district.

There shall be one Council position in each of the five districts. At the primary election, the qualified electors of each district shall select two (2) candidates for each position to be filled from their district.

(b) Nominee at large.

There shall be two Council positions designated councilmember at-large, which shall be nominated in different years without regard to district, designated position (A) and position (B), respectively. The two candidates receiving the largest number of votes county-wide at the primary election shall be certified as candidates for the position of councilmember at-large. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A; Amended by referendum 2015). (Transition language implementing the 2015 referendum amendment from three to five Council districts can be found in Whatcom County Ordinance 2015-029.)

Section 2.13 Election by Council District.

The registered voters of each Council District shall vote upon each Council member position to be filled from their district at the November general election. The candidate receiving the highest number of votes for each position shall be elected. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A; Amended by referendum 2005; Amended by ballot measure 2008 [refer to Ord. 2007-69]; Amended by referendum 2015).

Section 2.14 Terms of Council Members.

The term of office of each elected councilmember shall be four (4) years commencing with the second Monday in January following election, and until a successor has been elected and has qualified. Elected councilmembers shall serve no more than three consecutive full terms in office. Terms are considered consecutive unless they are at least four years apart. The limit in terms shall be applied prospectively only, beginning with the elections in 2017 and 2019. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A; Amended by referendum 2015).

Section 2.20 Powers.

The County Council shall exercise its legislative power by adoption and enactment of ordinances or resolutions. It shall have the power:

(a) To levy taxes, appropriate revenue and adopt budgets for the County.

(b) To establish the compensation to be paid to all County officers and employees and to provide for the reimbursement of expenses, except as provided in Section 6.100.

(c) Except as otherwise provided for herein, to establish, abolish, combine and divide by ordinance, non-elective administrative offices and executive departments and to establish their powers and responsibilities.

(d) To adopt by ordinance comprehensive plans, including improvement plans for the present and future development of the county.

The enumeration of particular legislative powers shall not be construed as limiting the legislative powers of the County Council. (Amended by ballot measure 2011 [refer to Ord. 2011-026]; Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).

Section 2.21 Council Subpoena Powers.

The County Council may, in connection with the legislative process, make investigations into the affairs of the County and the conduct of any County department, office or agency and for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require the production of evidence, and may invoke the aid of any court of competent jurisdiction to carry out such powers, provided that any witness shall have the right to be represented by counsel. The Council, as a whole or by committee, may conduct public hearings on matters of public concern. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).

Section 2.22 Organization.

The County Council shall annually elect one of its members as chair and a vice-chair who shall act in the absence of the chair. It shall be responsible for its own organization, the rules of conduct of its business and for the employment and supervision of such persons as it deems necessary to assist it in the performance of its duties. A majority of the Council shall constitute a quorum at all meetings. Council action shall require at least a majority of the entire Council except where two-thirds vote is required, in which case two-thirds of the entire Council shall be necessary. (Amended by referendum 1986).

Section 2.23 Rules of Procedure.

The County Council shall enact by ordinance rules of procedure governing the time, place and conduct of its meetings and hearings and the introduction, publication, consideration and adoption of ordinances; provided, that the Council shall meet regularly throughout the year no fewer than 22 times. All meetings shall be open to the public except to the extent that executive sessions are authorized by law and a verbatim public record shall be kept of each meeting by electronic or mechanical means for a reasonable period of time as provided by state law and, in addition, written minutes shall be promptly recorded, said minutes to include a summation of the actions and discussions forthcoming from each council meeting, as well as a record of the vote of each councilmember. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A; Amended by referendum 2005).

Section 2.24 Relationship with Other Branches.

Except in the exercise of its legislative powers under this Charter, as defined in Section 2.20, the County Council, its staff, and individual councilmembers shall not interfere in the administration of the executive branch. They shall not give orders to or direct, either publicly or privately, any officer, or employee subject to the direction and supervision of the County Executive, executive branch, or other elected official.

Interaction between the County Council, its staff and individual councilmembers, and those officers and employees within the executive branch shall follow procedures agreed to by the County Executive and the County Council. (Amended by referendum 1995; Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).

Section 2.30 Ordinances.

Every legislative act shall be by ordinance.

The subject of every ordinance shall be clearly stated in the title, and no ordinance shall contain more than one subject. Ordinances or summaries of them, the places where copies are filed, and the times when they are available for inspection, shall be published when the ordinances are proposed and again upon enactment.

No ordinance shall be amended unless the new ordinance sets forth each amended section or subsection at full length.

Ordinances may, by reference, adopt Washington State statutes, or any recognized, printed codes or compilations in whole or in part.

At least thirteen (13) days shall pass between the introduction and the final passage of every ordinance except emergency ordinances. Every ordinance shall be introduced in its entirety in writing.

Every ordinance which passes the County Council must be presented to the County Executive. If approved by the Executive, the ordinance shall be signed by the Executive and become law as provided in this section. If not approved by the Executive, the entire ordinance shall be vetoed and returned with the Executive’s written objections, which shall be entered in the journal of Council proceedings. If, within thirty (30) days after being returned to the Council, the ordinance receives the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the entire Council, it shall become law. If the Executive does not either sign or veto an ordinance within ten (10) days, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays excepted, after presentation of the ordinance by the Council, it shall become law without the Executive’s signature.

Except as otherwise provided in this Charter, all ordinances shall take effect ten (10) calendar days after the date they are signed by the County Executive or otherwise enacted or at a later date if stated in the ordinance. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).

Section 2.40 Emergency Ordinances.

An ordinance necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety or support of the County government and its existing institutions may be passed by a two-thirds vote of the County Council, which shall be effective immediately when approved by the County Executive. No emergency ordinances may levy taxes, grant, renew or extend a franchise, regulate the rate charged by any utility or authorize the borrowing of money for more than one hundred and twenty (120) days. An emergency ordinance shall be introduced and passed in the manner prescribed for emergency ordinances generally, except that the emergency and the facts creating it shall be stated in a separate section of the emergency ordinance. The provisions of every ordinance, except one making appropriations from an emergency reserve of borrowing money for one hundred and twenty (120) days or less, shall expire as of the sixty-first (61st) day following the date on which the ordinance became law. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).

Section 2.50 Resolutions.

The County Council shall confirm or reject appointments by the County Executive within thirty (30) days of the date the name or names are submitted to it; may pass resolutions to organize and administer the legislative branch; may pass resolutions to make declarations of policy which do not have the force of law and to request information from any other agency of County government. Resolutions shall not be subject to the veto power of the Executive, and the Council in passing resolutions need not comply with the procedural requirements for the introduction, consideration and adoption of ordinances. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).

Section 2.60 Codification of Ordinances.

All ordinances of the County which are of a general and permanent nature or impose any fine, penalty, or forfeiture shall be codified in a code which shall be adopted by ordinance and shall be known as the Whatcom County Code. The code shall be kept current to reflect newly adopted, amended or repealed ordinances. A current copy shall be placed in the main regional library and in such other places as the County Council deems appropriate. (Amended by Ord. 2005-075 Exh. A).