Policy outlines veto power for Federal Way mayor

The Federal Way City Council has unanimously adopted a policy that outlines the process by which the mayor can veto an ordinance passed by the council.

Ordinances are passed by the seven-member city council with a majority vote. Under the city council/ mayor form of government, the mayor has the option to veto the council's decision. Until Tuesday, the mayor was required to issue a written statement reflecting his desire to veto the council's passing of an ordinance at the same council session in which the ordinance was adopted.

The veto policy provides more flexibility to the city council and the mayor by identifying a clear timeline for the mayor to follow when vetoing the council's passing of an ordinance. The policy benefits both the council and the mayor.

Mayor Skip Priest wished to have the opportunity to hear public comments pertaining to an ordinance before deciding whether a veto of the ordinance was appropriate. Sometimes citizens don't publicly comment on an ordinance until the day the council is scheduled to vote on it, he said.

"It's a thoughtful approach that gives the mayor time to review citizen comment," Priest said.

The city council wanted the opportunity to consider the mayor's written objection before taking a second vote, and possibly overturning his decision, on whether to enact the ordinance.

Priest said he does not anticipate using his veto power often. He told a crowd gathered at the Feb. 2 "state of the city address" that he and the city council planned to work cohesively to meet Federal Way's needs and goals.

Veto process

Ordinances are generally read into record twice. The city council has the option to either reject the ordinance or pass it, following its first reading. A passed ordinance is forwarded to the next city council meeting for a second reading. The council then has the opportunity to discuss the ordinance before voting to enact the measure.

The council's passing of the ordinance does not make it official. The mayor may veto an ordinance passed by the city council. To do this, the mayor must submit within 10 days, to the city clerk and city council, a written objection to the decision. If more than 10 days pass without an objection, the ordinance is considered passed.

If the mayor objects, a veto has taken place. The objection will be read into record at the next council meeting, which usually occurs about 14 days after the first meeting. There, the city council will have two options:

• The first is to consider the mayor's concerns and hear a second reading of the ordinance before issuing a vote on the measure. The council could accept the veto or attempt to overturn it. The mayor's veto can only be overturned if the council issues a majority-plus-one vote on the ordinance.

• The second option is to postpone the second reading and council vote on the ordinance until the next city council meeting. There, the same rules would apply in accepting or turning over the mayor's veto.

If the mayor's veto is reversed by the city council, the ordinance will be presented to the mayor for a signature. This enacts the measure. If the mayor refuses to sign the ordinance, it will be passed on to the deputy mayor, currently councilwoman Dini Duclos. The deputy mayor would then have the power to sign and enact the ordinance.

The ordinance is enforceable once it has been published in the newspaper of record and 30 days have passed. Ordinances pertaining to land use issues are official five days after an announcement about the ordinance is printed in the newspaper of record, according to the city's law department.

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