Common Council Rules

Request to use Common Council Conference Room Room 1417 (Buffalo City Hall) (3)



Rule 1. Stated Meeting - Stated meetings shall be held in the Council Chambers each alternate Tuesday after the biennial organization meeting provided for in Section 3-8 of the Charter at 2:00 o'clock P.M., unless such Tuesday be a legal holiday, and in such event the meeting shall take place on the following day at the same hour, and further, if such Tuesday shall be Christmas Eve, the meeting shall take place on the preceding Monday at the same hour. However, there shall be no stated meetings held during the month of August. The biennial organization meeting shall take place on Tuesday, January [2nd] 3rd, 2022. The first stated meeting of the Common Council for the year [2020] 2022 shall be Tuesday, January [7th] 11th.

Rule 2. Special Meeting Notice - In addition to the mode of calling special meetings specified in Sec. 3-9 of the Charter, special meetings of the Council may be called. In the absence or incapacity of the President and the President Pro Tem, by the City Clerk, on the written request of the Mayor or five Councilmembers. The call for a special meeting shall state the time and purpose of the meeting and shall be filed with the City Clerk. It shall be the duty of the City Clerk to cause a notice of the time and purpose of said special meeting to be served on each member of the Council other than the President or President Pro Tem who called the meeting. Service of said notice upon a member of the Council shall be made by delivering a copy thereof to the member personally or by leaving it at the member’s residence at least twenty-four hours before said meeting, and proof of such service shall be filed with the City Clerk, provided, however, that a statement in writing, signed and acknowledged by a member of the Council and filed with the City Clerk, to the effect that he received twenty-four hours’ notice of the time and purpose of said special meeting, by telephone or otherwise, shall be deemed personal service of such notice upon him and no further proof of such service shall be required, however, said waiver must be executed by two-thirds of those members present who wish to waive in order to constitute a quorum. No business shall be transacted at a special meeting except that specified in the call for the meeting.

Rule 3. Regular Committees - The procedures set forth in these Rules of Order shall apply with equal force and effect to all regular and special committee meetings. There shall be six regular committees, to wit: Committee on Claims, Committee on Finance, Committee on Legislation, Committee on Community Development, Committee on Civil Service, and Committee on Rules. The Committee on Rules shall consist of three members, of which the President of the Council shall be one. The Committee on Civil Service and the Committee on Claims shall consist of four members each. The Committee on Finance, the Committee on Legislation and the Committee on Community Development shall also consist of five members each. The Council President, pursuant to Section 3-13 of the Charter, shall appoint all regular and special committees, and shall designate the chairman of each. The council president shall be added as an ex-officio member to all committees with a vote thereon. When a member of a regular committee is prevented by illness or other good cause from attendance at a committee meeting and in the absence of the Council President, the committee chairman may designate another councilmember to substitute on an as needed basis. Any vacancies occurring during the year on any regular or special committee shall be filled by the President of the council without delay. In case a reference is ordered of any matter before the Council, the presiding officer shall direct such reference as follows: The Committee on Claims, all unliquidated claims against the city and release of liabilities; to the Committee on Finance, all Matters concerning the budget and the issuance of bonds; to the Committee on Legislation, all matters relating to local laws, ordinances and general legislation, except matters referable to the Committee on Civil Service; to the Committee on Community Development, all matters relating to work or improvement to be met In whole or in part by revenue from another government unit, including all matters relating to the Buffalo Urban Renewal programs within the City of Buffalo; to the Committee on Civil Service, all matters relating to the creation and abolishment of officers and employees; to the Committee on Rules, all matters relating to procedure in the Council and to the office of the City Clerk. Any matter referable under this rule to a regular committee may be referred to a special committee. Also, sub-committees of regular committees may be formed to provide additional consideration of certain related items, when necessary. The chairman of the regular committee may appoint a member to chair or organize the sub-committee.

Rule 4. Organization Meeting - At the time fixed by Section 3-8 of the Charter, a member of the Council shall convene the first organizational meeting of the Council in [2020] 2022. The member of the Council chosen to convene the meeting will be determined by the alphabetical order of the names of the Council districts. The [University District Councilmember] Delaware District Councilmember will convene the meeting in [2020] 2022. At the start of the meeting, he will call the roll and immediately open the floor for nominations for the office of Council President. After receiving all nominations, he will entertain statements in support of the nominee(s). After all comments have been heard, the convening Councilmember will conduct the election by voice vote. The Councilmember receiving the majority of votes shall become Council President and immediately take the seat. After that the following shall be the order of business.

(1) Adoption of Rules of Order.
(2) Election of Majority Leader.
(3) Election of President Pro Tempore.
(4) Appointment of City Clerk.
(5) Appointment of Deputy City Clerk.
(6) Appointment of Deputy City Clerk - Vital Statistics
(7) Appointment - Council Representative to BURA
(8) Appointment - Council Designee to JSCB
(9) Appointments – Office of Council President
(10) Appointment Council Staff Employees.
(11) Appointment Staff to Councilmembers.
(12) Announcement of Regular Committees.
(13) Announcement of Special Committees.
(14) Appointment of Marriage Officers.

A maximum of two staff members who receive the benefits enumerated in Chapter 35 of The City Code, Article IX, Section 35-33 to Section 35-37 may be appointed to each council member’s office. After this Item the order of business shall be prescribed in Rule 5.

Rule 5. Regular Meeting -  At the time fixed by Rule 1, the Council shall convene, the President shall take the chair, and the following shall be the order of business.

(1) Roll Call.
(2) Approval of journal of last meeting.
(3) Communications from Mayor
(4) Other official communications in the following order:

(a) Mayor-Executive Department.
(b) Comptroller.
(c) President of the Council.
(d) Commissioner of Assessment and Taxation.
(e) Commissioner of Public Works, Parks and Streets.
(f) Commissioner of Police.
(g) Commissioner of Fire.
(h) Corporation Counsel.
(i) Commissioner of Management Information Systems.
(j) Commissioner of Human Resources
(k) Commissioner of Administration, Finance & Urban Affairs.
(l) Commissioner of Economic Development, Permit and Inspection Services.
(m) Commissioner of Community Services.
(n) Commission on Citizens Rights and Community Relations.
(o) Zoning Board of Appeals.
(p) City Court.
(q) Board of Education.
(r) Buffalo Sewer Authority.
(s) Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.
(t) Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.
(u) City Clerk.

(6) Non-Official Communications.
(7) Reports of Regular Committees.
(8) Reports of Special Committees and Sub-Committees.
(9) Motions, Resolutions and Notices.
(10) Committee of the Whole.
(11) Unfinished Business.
(12) Announcement of committee meetings.
(13) Adjournment.

Rule 6. Special Meetings - At the time fixed in the notice of a special Meeting, the Council shall convene, the President shall take the chair, and the following shall be the order of business:

(1) Roll Call.
(2) Reading of notice of meeting and proof of service.
(3) Transaction of business specified in notice.
(4) Adjournment.

Rule 7. Temporary Chairman - In the absence of the President and the President Pro Tem at any regular or special meeting, the Council shall elect one of its members acting president pro tempore to conduct such meeting.

Rule 8. Lack of Quorum - If a quorum of the members shall not attend any regular or special meeting, the members present at the meeting shall have the power to direct by a written order that the absent members be brought before the Council either forthwith or at the time to which an adjournment may be had, and such order shall be executed by the sergeant-at-arms or a designee, by the City Clerk or the Clerk’s designee.

Rule 9. RolI Call - In calling the roll at the opening of the session and upon every vote the names of the members shall be called in alphabetical order, and a roll call of absent members shall be had at the request of any members.

Rule 10. Voting - Tie -  A member being present must vote for or against every proposition presented, unless excused from voting by a majority vote of the Council. A request to be excused from voting must be made before the start of the roll call. Any member refusing to vote shall be recorded as voting in the affirmative. In case of a tie in votes on any question, the, question shall be deemed to be lost.

Rule 11. Presiding Officer Rulings - Appeals - The presiding officer shall preserve decorum, enforce the rules of procedure herein prescribed, and determine without debate, subject to the final decision of the Council on appeal, all questions of procedure and order. Any member may appeal to the Council from such ruling of the presiding officer, and if the appellant is duly seconded, the appellant may speak once solely on the question involved and the presiding officer may explain his ruling, but no other member shall participate in the discussion. The presiding officer shall then put the question - "Shall the decision of the chair be sustained?" If a majority of the members present vote nay, the ruling of the chair is over-ruled, otherwise it is sustained.

Rule 12. Presiding Officer Participation in Debate - The presiding officer shall not participate in the debate of any mater under consideration by the Council except as follows: If he desires to participate in the debate, he shall leave the chair and take the place on the floor of the President Pro Tempore or of the temporary chairman, and said officer shall not resume the chair until the matter under consideration has been acted on by the Council. Nothing herein shall be construed to prevent the presiding officer while in the chair from explaining said officer’s ruling on any question or explaining said officer’s vote on the roll call.

Rule 13. Motions to be Seconded - No motion or resolution shall be put, recorded, or debated until the same shall be duly seconded.

Rule 14. Order of Debate -  When a member is about to speak, that councilmember must notify from their seat and address the chair, and when two or more members rise at once, the presiding officer shall determine the member first to speak. The speaker shall confine themselves to the question under debate and avoid personalities. No member shall speak upon the subject under discussion more than twice - the first time for no more than five minutes and the second time for no more than two minutes. If any member in speaking of otherwise transgresses the rules the presiding officer shall, or any member may, call the transgressing member to order, in which case the member found to be out of order shall immediately sit down and shall not rise unless to explain or proceed in order. The question shall be decided by the presiding officer without debate.

Rule 15. Motions During Debate -  When any question is under debate no motion shall be received except the following and in the order named - (a) to adjourn, (b) a call of the Council, (c) to lay on the table, (d) the previous question, (e) to postpone to a certain date, (f) to refer, (g) to amend, (h) to postpone indefinitely. A point of order, a point of inquiry, or a point of clarification shall be immediately considered and ruled on at any point during debate.

Rule 16. Motion to Adjourn No Debate -  A motion to adjourn, a motion to lay on the table, or a motion for a call of the Council shall always be in order, except when a vote is being taken on any question before the Council, and such motions shall be decided without debate.

Rule 17. Amendments - No motion or proposition on a subject different from that under consideration shall be admitted under cover of an amendment.

Rule 18. Division of Questions - On the call of any member, a division of any question shall be made when the question will admit of a division so distinct that one part being taken away the other will stand as an entire question for decision.

Rule 19. Previous Question - The previous question shall be put as follows: "Shall the main question now be put?" and, until it shall be decided, shall preclude all amendments and debate, if the Council shall decide that the main question shall not now be put, the main question shall be considered as still remaining under debate. The main question shall be on the passage of the motion, resolution, or other matter under consideration: but when amendments are pending, the questions shall first be taken upon such amendments in the inverse order in which they are proposed.

Rule 20. No Motion After Roll Call Begun - After the roll call on any question has begun, no member shall speak on the question nor shall any motion be made until after the result is declared.

Rule 21. Debate Prohibited - Explain Vote - While the presiding officer is putting any question, or while the roll is being called, no debate or discussion shall be in order. Any member desiring to explain their vote must do so before the start of the roll call, provided, before roll call begins, all members shall have a right to avail themselves of the provisions of Rule 14.

Rule 22. Reconsideration - When a question has been once put and decided, any member who voted with the majority may move for a reconsideration thereof at the meeting at which the question was decided; the Council may, however, pursuant to Section 3-19 of the Charter, recall any resolution or ordinance prior to the return thereof by the Mayor and may reconsider its action thereon. A motion for reconsideration, if lost, shall not be repeated nor shall any question be reconsidered more than once.

Rule 23. Requirements of Communication from to the Council - No communication from an individual or a civic organization shall be received, recorded, or acted upon unless a verifiable signature by that individual, or in the case of an organization, by an officer thereof, is clearly visible on such communication, and which shall state the total membership of the organization, the number required to constitute a quorum, the number present at the meeting at which the action was taken, and the total number of votes for and against such action.

Rule 24. Reading of Communications - All official communications received by the Council during the session shall be read in full and the clerk shall briefly state the substance of all communications so received and shall read the same in full if so desired by the Council.

Rule 25. Committee Of the Whole - When the Council shall decide to go in Committee of the Whole, the presiding officer shall name a chairperson to preside therein; the rules and orders of the Council shall be observed so far as practicable in the Committee of the Whole, except that the ayes and nays shall not be taken and a motion to rise and report progress shall always be in order and shall be decided without debate.

Rule 26. President Pro Tempore - In addition to those duties prescribed in the City Charter and Code and elsewhere in these Rules of Order, the president pro tempore shall assist the Council President and majority leader in budget negotiations with the executive branch, oversee council member and staff training and development programs, and administer other special projects.

Rule 27. Sergeant-at-Arms -  At each stated meeting of the Common Council, whether in-person or through forms of video conferencing platforms, the President of the Council shall designate a Sergeant-at-Arms to carry out the duties of the Council which may include maintenance of Council decorum. During Committee meetings, the President of the Council or his designee shall accept the duties of the position of Sergeant-at-Arms. The sergeant-at-arms, shall attend all meetings of the Council and remain in attendance until the close of the session unless otherwise ordered. The sergeant-at-arms shall obey all orders of the Council enforcing order and decorum. They shall execute all written orders of the Council in bringing in absent members. At the reorganization meeting to be held in January 2022, the Sergeant-at-Arms duties shall be performed by the President Pro Tempore of the Council.

Rule 28. Disorderly Behavior - Any member may call the attention of the Council to disorderly behavior on the part of any other member; a member thus charged shall be entitled to be heard in defense. If the Council after such hearing decides to take notice of the member’s conduct, the member shall withdraw and the Council, during the member’s absence, decide guilt or innocence of the charge, and if found guilty, shall fix the penalty pursuant to Section 3-11 of the Charter.

Rule 29. City Clerk - Immediately after a session of the Council, the City Clerk shall present to the several departments and agencies of the City and to the committees such matters as may have been referred to them. The Clerk shall record the names of all members absent from any meetings of the Council.

Rule 30. Parliamentary Procedure Manual - The Rules of parliamentary practice comprised in the 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, published in 2011, shall govern the Council in aII cases not herein provided for, to which they are applicable.

Rule 31. Amendment, Repeal or Suspension of Rules - Any rule may be amended or repealed by majority vote of all the members elected to the Council at any regular meetings thereof, provided that the notice of the proposed amendment or proposition to repeal shall have been given at the regular meeting of the Council immediately preceding, and any rule may be suspended for a single session by a unanimous vote of the members present, provided, however, that the Rule that no business shall be transacted at a special meeting except that specified in the notice of meeting, shall not be suspended.

Rule 32. Numbering and Entitling Journal Items - Every item of business appearing in the journal shall bear a separate and distinct identification number in consecutive order, except that all claims presented to the Council shall appear under a single item number. Each item shall have affixed a brief title, stating the subject matter of the item, except those items comprising nonofficial communications, claims and petitions any of which are not printed in full.

Rule 33. Filing Deadline - Pursuant to its authority under Article 3 Chapter 3-11 of the City of Buffalo Charter, all petitions, resolutions, or communications of any nature, to be submitted to the Common Council, shall be presented to the City Clerk on or before 2:00 pm on the Thursday preceding the meeting at which such items are to be considered by the Common Council. However, if said Thursday is a holiday, the deadline shall be 2:00pm on the preceding Wednesday. Any petition, resolution or communication which was not presented to the City Clerk in compliance with the deadline stated above, shall not be considered at said meeting except by unanimous consent of all members present [at said meeting]. Once an objection has been made, the Council shall not entertain any further objection or discussion on the item to which an objection has been made.

Rule 34. Matters to be Referred to Committee - Any matter coming before the Council which seeks to commit the Council to a certain policy shall be referred to an appropriate committee unless otherwise determined by unanimous consent of the Council.

Rule 35. Discharge of Committee from Consideration of a Matter-  Any member of the Common Council desiring to move any item tabled in committee and to discharge the committee from further consideration thereof, and to submit the item for the consideration of the Common Council, shall so file notice of intention so to do with the City Clerk in compliance with Rule 32. A motion to discharge must be approved by a majority vote of the Council.

Rule 36. Cell Phone Usage Prohibited - The use of cell phones in the Common Council Chambers for calling or receiving calls shall be strictly prohibited. All cell phones must be kept on vibrate and may be used to send text messages only, however, no calls shall be answered on the Council’s Floor.

Rule 37. No Unauthorized Personnel Allowed on Council Floor - No unauthorized person shall be allowed entrance to the Common Council floor at any time during a Council or Committee meeting unless invited down by the Council President or Chairperson of the respective committee.

Rule 38. Excusal - Excusal of a Councilmember from Committees and full Council, must be obtained by the Chairman of the Committee and the Council President for all Council Meetings.

Rule 39. Dress Code - All Councilmembers present and on the Council Floor, shall be clade in Business Attire for all committee and Council Meetings. However, in the case of an emergency meeting, members will be permitted to appear as they were at the time said emergency meeting was called. Notwithstanding the above, meetings called with 24 hours’ notice will not be considered “emergency” for the purposes of this rule.

Rule 40. Rules Committee Meetings - The Rules Committee shall schedule to be held by March 15 of every calendar year.

Rule 41. Removal of items from Committee Agendas - Whenever a committee chair has determined that no further consideration shall be given to an agenda item, said item may be “received and file” (r/f), which is the act of removing the item from the committee’s agenda, and from further consideration. However, if an agenda item came before the committee for a decision, said agenda item, shall not be removed from a committee’s agenda without a final determination being made. Except, for when an item is being amended, said item may be r/f/ for purposes of substituting it with an amended version.

Rule 42. Public Display of Emotions in Council Chambers - The Council’s Chambers shall be the epitome of dignity and respect. There shall be no tolerance of abusive language and threatening behavior by members of the public towards any person present in the Council’s Chambers or towards any Councilmember. Whenever, in the opinion of the Council President, or a Committee Chair, a member of the public is displaying actions that could be considered as threatening or/and abusive, the sergeant-at-arms must be notified, and all necessary actions to remove said person from the Chambers, or if possible, prevent further actions by the offender from continuing must be taken.

Rule 43. Public Participation in Council’s Chambers - Whenever the public is invited to speak on a matter before this Honorable Body, all public comments and responses shall be limited to three (3) minutes. This time limit ensures that all who are present is provided an opportunity to be heard on the issue.

Rule 44. Eating and Drinking in Chambers - Except for coffee in a concealed coffee cup or other concealed type of containers, and water Bottles containing water, there shall be No Food or drink of any kind, Consumed or present on the Council’s Floor or Chambers.

Rule 45. Policy Advisor - The Common Council may hire a Policy Advisor, whose sole purpose and function shall be to evaluate proposed policy initiatives; and make recommendations for the Common Council and itsmembers. This function may only be paid for through the attrition of existing Council staff positions. Minimum Requirements: The Policy Advisor, must hold a Juris Doctor Degree

Rule 46. Enforcement of Rules - Councilmembers shall follow all rules listed in this document. Councilmembers who violate Council Rules will be disciplined in the following manner:

(1) Verbal notice by Council Leadership
(2) Written notice by Council Leadership
(3) Censorship in the current/future meetings as determined by the Council President, Sergeantat- Arms, or their designee
(4) Removal of Chairmanship from appointed committee