Amending the Rules of the Kings County Democratic Committee
As of January 2019 -- Something that comes up frequently in NKD’s discussions about how to reform the Kings County Democratic Committee (KCDC) is how unclear KCDC’s own rules are and why they are seemingly inconsistently applied or followed by its leadership. Read on for an explainer on what the rules are and how they may be amended.
At the first KCDC meeting of each two-year session every other September, the full KCDC body (several thousand Brooklynites) adopts a set of rules that will govern its proceedings. This process of adopting rules is required by New York State election law. Typically, the Committee re-adopts the rules as they stand - as it did in September of 2018.
KCDC, however, may amend its rules at any time. To amend the rules, either a general member of KCDC or a member of its Executive Committee (i.e., a District Leader) may refer proposed amendments to the Rules Committee*. They may do so at a KCDC meeting, as District Leader Josh Skaller and Assembly Member Robert Carroll did at the September 2018 organizational meeting, but don’t necessarily need to. District Leaders Doug Schneider and Josue Pierre recently referred proposed changes directly to the Rules Committee, for example.
The Rules Committee is a standing committee of the Executive Committee, and its Chair (currently District Leader Lew Fidler) is appointed by the Chair of the Executive Committee (currently District Leader Frank Seddio). The Chair of the Rules Committee (DL Fidler) has the power to appoint the members of the committee and there is no limit on its size. Any registered Democrat in Kings County is eligible for appointment -- meaning a District Leader, a KCDC member, or any random Democrat can be a member of the Rules Committee.
Once someone refers a rules change proposal to the Rules Committee, the Rules Committee is supposed to consider the proposal, ensure that it complies with state law, and make a report. The rules do not specify whether the report must be shared with general KCDC membership or the Executive Committee, nor does it specify the format the report must take. To be clear, the Rules Committee has no authority to reject or accept proposed changes to the rules; the Committee merely assesses proposals and offers its opinion for the consideration of KCDC general membership and its Executive Committee.
Once the Rules Committee makes its report, a vote occurs. It is unclear who determines when the vote occurs and who will do the voting. According to the KCDC rules, a vote to adopt a rules change can occur at a meeting of the entire KCDC or at an Executive Committee meeting -- meaning it’s possible for the District Leaders to unilateral adopt changes to the rules on behalf of the entire three-thousand-member KCDC. Too often, this is exactly how changes to the KCDC rules happen. Again, it is unclear how KCDC leadership decides which body -- the full KCDC, or the Executive Committee -- will vote on proposed rules changes.
In either case, a majority is required to adopt the changes. Critically, the text of the proposed amendments must be sent with the notice of the meeting -- whether it’s a general meeting or an Executive Committee meeting -- at least five days prior to the date of the meeting. At the meeting, there must be quorum to take a vote.
In practice, the Rules Committee has considered rules change proposals as described above, typically without input from the general membership body. The rules changes proposed by the District Leaders mentioned above are likely to follow that same fate -- discussed by the Rules and Executive Committees, with little opportunity for the rest of KCDC membership to weigh in.
*Interestingly, KCDC rules do not actually require proposed amendments to be referred to the Rules Committee. All that is required for a vote to be held is that the proposed change be sent to all members of KCDC (or Executive Committee) five days prior to the meeting when the vote will be held, along with notice of the meeting.
A brief history of NKD & the County Committee rules
- At the September 21, 2016 County Committee meeting, we proposed common sense rule changes to make the Brooklyn Democratic Party more accessible, accountable, and transparent, but the party leadership abruptly shut down the meeting and refused to allow a vote. Read our press release about the meeting.
- As of 2015, the Brooklyn Democratic Party finally has a website. This was something we had been asking for for years! Well done, Brooklyn: Brooklyn Democratic Party
- At the September 17, 2014 Kings County Democratic County Committee meeting, the following rules were distributed to the full membership: Party Rules. Also distributed at this meeting was a one page financial report: Kings County Democratic County Committee Financial Report (2014)