Representative town meeting

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Further information: New England town

A representative town meeting is a form of municipal legislature particularly common in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Representative Town Meetings function largely the same as an Open Town Meeting, except that not all registered voters can participate or vote. The townspeople instead elect town meeting members by precinct to represent them and to vote on the issues for them, much like a U.S. Representative votes on behalf of his or her constituents in Congress.

Connecticut[edit]

Representative town meetings (RTMs) vary from town to town, and can vary widely in terms of rules and bylaws. The town of Westport, Connecticut has non-partisan RTMs, where while a member may belong to a party, it may not be advertised as such, and the First Selectman may veto any legislation passed excepting for appropriations.[1] Wethersfield, Connecticut, however, requires "minority representation" so that no one party can control the RTM.[2] Groton, Connecticut specifically allows for a valid meeting to take place with no less than half the body present, that the meeting must be open to the public, and that senior town officials such as the town clerk or Superintendent of Schools have all the same rights as members except for voting or raising motions.[3] Other, often larger municipalities such as New Haven, Connecticut have done away with town meetings entirely.[4]

Maine[edit]

As of January 1, 2013, when Sanford re-incorporated as a city and eliminated its representative town meetings, no Maine cities or towns operate under a representative town meeting form of government. [5]

Massachusetts[edit]

Massachusetts towns having at least 6,000 residents may adopt a Representative Town Meeting system. This may be done through acceptance of an act of the legislature, by petitioning the General Court to enact a special legislation which applies solely to the individual town, or by using the Home Rule Charter process. Under the Special Act or charter change processes, even communities of less than 6,000 may adopt a representative town meeting if the residents vote to accept the Special Act or approve a charter-change process.[6] Framingham, the largest town in the state by population, has 216 representatives in Town Meeting, twelve from each precinct.

New Hampshire[edit]

NH RSA 49-D-3 III. provides for Representative Town Meeting, though no town has adopted this form of government. The representative town meeting is similar to that of the Town Council form of government, which acts under a charter and is the legislative and governing board of the town, but have different requirements for their respective charters.

The representative town meeting follows the procedures of a regular town meeting, and have the authority to address all matters which can be legally addressed at the annual or a special town meeting. Those matters which the law or charter states must be placed on the official ballot of the town, cannot be decided by the representative meeting. To have a representative town meeting, the town must approve a charter which includes the following:

  • the manner of district representation
  • the manner of filling vacancies
  • powers of nomination, appointment, and confirmation
  • requirements for attendance and quorum
  • any domicile or eligibility requirements of up to one year in the town or district and continued domicile during term
  • specific procedures for the preparation, presentation, public hearing, and adoption of annual budgets and designation of a fiscal year
  • an annual municipal election date pursuant to RSA 669:1
  • bonding of certain town officials and employees where not required by general law
  • requirements for periodic independent audits of all town financial matters by a certified public accountant.

Each elected town official, and the board of selectmen, town clerk, and chairman of the town budget committee are members-at-large.

See Town Meeting for more details on the practice in New Hampshire

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References[edit]