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Legislature Nixes Second Privilege Of The Floor

In January a number of residents spoke during the county legislature’s second privilege of the floor, which takes place at the end of the meeting. The second privilege was not permitted in March. File photo

MAYVILLE — Last week’s Chautauqua County Legislature meeting lasted 49 minutes. It was the shortest regular meeting since November. The biggest change between the March meeting and the previous three meetings was that no comments were accepted during the second privilege of the floor.

On Wednesday after the regular business, Legislator Frank “Jay” Gould, R-Ashville, made a motion to adjourn. The motion was seconded by Bob Bankoski, D-Dunkirk.

“There’s no discussion on a motion to adjourn,” said Chairman Pierre Chagnon and called for the voice vote. All 18 legislators said “aye” and none were opposed. Legislator Dan Pavlock, R-Sinclairville, was absent.

On the written agenda, after business is listed announcements and privilege of the floor. It states, “members of the public may comment on any subject. A member of the legislature may speak on any subject. Individual comments are limited to three minutes and comments representing a group shall be limited to five minutes.”

In December, January and February, all the meetings were about an hour and a half long. December had 40 minutes for the second privilege of the floor. January’s meeting had 20 minutes for the second privilege and February’s meeting had 50 minutes for the second privilege.

The Post-Journal and OBSERVER asked county attorney Stephen Abdella if the second privilege of the floor is required and he said it is not.

Chagnon did permit comments during the first privilege of the floor, however individuals who speak during that time are only permitted to comment on items on the agenda. Four people spoke during the first privilege.

The second privilege of the floor has been used for a variety of topics. Some residents have called for the impeachment of President Joe Biden and Gov. Kathy Hochul. Residents have expressed opposition to solar projects, COVID mandates, and fracking.

In February, a number of residents asked legislators to read a book by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. which apparently attacks the character of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to both Biden and former President Donald Trump. They began reading various chapters to legislators.

Gould was asked why he called for a motion to adjourn before the second privilege of the floor. He said it was intentional. “The second privilege has been lasting an hour, an hour 15 minutes, that’s too long,” he said.

Gould, who is the longest-serving legislator, knew that any legislator can call for a motion to dismiss at any time. He also noted that the same people tend to make the same points during the second privilege.

“I was trying to slow that down,” he said.

Gould said he talked to his fellow Republican lawmakers during the caucus and said he intended to call for the meeting to be dismissed before the second privilege.

When asked days after the meeting if he heard any comments one way or the other, he said he did. “A lot of people are happy I did it,” he said.

He said he also heard from a few people who questioned his move. “They weren’t unhappy, they just wanted to know why,” he said.

Gould was asked if he plans on doing this again in April. “I don’t know about next month,” he replied.

Chagnon said whether he supports eliminating the second privilege of the floor or not, once a legislator makes a motion to dismiss and there is a second, he must call for the vote. He said the county charter does not permit discussion on the motion.

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