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Decision No. 367

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May 24 1973
In Re: Petition from the North Georgia Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Legality of a New Standing Rule Providing for "Legislative Committees" to Consider Reports of Program Boards and Committees Before They Come to the Floor of the Conference.

Digest of Case

An Annual Conference may adopt Standing Rules providing for Legislative Committees to receive reports from its boards and agencies, to refine and change them and bring them to the conference floor for final consideration and action.

Statement of Facts

On Thursday, June 22, 1972, during the session of the North Georgia Annual Conference a resolution was adopted adding a new rule entitled "Legislative Committees" to the standing rules of the conference. Question of the legality of the provision was raised on the conference floor and immediately after passage of the action, "the proposed standing rule (was) immediately transmitted to the Judicial Council for a declaratory judgment as to its legality under the law of the church." The Resolution as adopted states: "BE IT RESOLVED: That a new rule entitled 'Legislative Committees' be added to the standing rules of the North Georgia Annual Conference to follow rule 10 of the existing rules as follows: "1. There shall be the following standing Legislative Committees: Christian Social Concerns, Conference, Ecumenical Affairs, Christian Education, Christian Higher Education, Health and Welfare Ministries, Membership and Evangelism, Missions and Church Extension, New Ministries, Pensions, Temporal Economy, or such other designations as may be determined by the Committee on Program and Entertainment on recommendation of the Conference Program Council. "2. The Committee Chairmen shall be selected by the Bishop and the Committee Secretaries by the Conference Secretary. No person shall serve as chairman or secretary for more than four consecutive years. "3. Each committee shall have members from each district. The membership from each district shall be determined by the District Council and shall be composed, insofar as is possible, of an equal number of ministers and lay persons on each committee with each member of the Conference being assigned to one of the committees in such manner as to provide balanced district representation among the Legislative Committees. Each charge shall be advised in advance as to the Legislative Committee to which the lay member(s) or minister(s) are assigned. Uniform procedures shall be followed in notifying conference members of their Legislative Committee assignments. "4. There shall be a Committee on Business and Agenda to be appointed by the District Superintendents, which shall work with the Program Committee, to arrange an orderly presentation of the reports of the agencies, boards, commissions, committees, councils and institutions of the Conference and other Legislative matters. "5. The Committee on Business and Agenda shall assign the reports of the agencies, boards, commissions, committees, councils, and institutions of the Conference to the proper Legislative Committee where they shall be considered before presentation on the floor of the Conference. "6. The Legislative Committees shall report to the Conference on all matters assigned to them and may amend or revise the sections of the reports projecting programs or proposals and shall present to the Conference only those matters which require legislative action or items of information which may be deemed of such import as to make such presentation necessary, provided however, that informational reports shall be presented within the time allotted to the particular Legislative Committee on the conference program. "7. A minority report may be presented when approved by one-tenth of the members of the Legislative Committee. "8. Summary reports dealing primarily with agency and institutional achievements shall be accepted for printing in the Journal without being read to the Conference. '9. Reports from the Legislative Committees which involve substantial changes from the Pre-Conference Manual shall be prepared in printed form and distributed to the Conference before consideration." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1515 of the Discipline. ANALYSIS The Discipline grants to an Annual Conference broad freedom to adopt its own rules and regulations with regard to its committee structure, its agenda, its plans of organization, its procedure in handling reports. Paragraph 662.1 states, "The Annual Conference . . . may adopt rules and regulations not in conflict with the Discipline. . . ." In setting up guidelines for the business session of the Annual Conference, Paragraph 663.4 says: "The business of the Annual Conference shall include the receiving and acting upon reports from the district superintendents, the officers, the standing and special committees, the boards, commissions, and societies and also the making of such inquiries as the Council of Bishops shall recommend by the provision of a supplemental guide." The issue raised by this appeal is whether or not an Annual Conference may provide for legislative committees which will give preliminary consideration to reports and proposals from its agencies, boards and committees, before those reports have been presented on the floor of the Annual Conference. The question is whether or not the report of such a conference agency actually does arrive at the floor of the Annual Conference for which it is intended, or whether the legislative committee's power to alter, change and delete from such report constitutes an interception of the rights of the board or agency to come to the Annual Conference with its proposals. In summary, the proposed organization of the North Georgia Annual Conference provides: 1) For the reference of all program reports to selected segments of the Annual Conference membership who compose its legislative committees. 2) That such committee may, under the rule, amend, delete, revise and otherwise change any report which is assigned to it. 3) That each legislative committee is required to report to the Annual Conference its actions which require legislation, with the stipulation that any reports which are substantially changed from the pre-conference printed reports must be made available in printed form before conference consideration and action. 4) The Annual Conference maintains its right to take final legislative action on all such reports. Any organizational structure in an Annual Conference dealing with legislative matters must protect: the rights of the Annual Conference to receiveand act on all proposals brought to it; the rights and requirements of boards and agencies that they report annually to the conference; and, the rights of individual members of the conference to be informed on and to participate fully in all legislative decisions. The Judicial Council concludes that the proposed rule in the North Georgia Annual Conference does in fact protect these rights because it requires that all final consideration and decisions on legislative proposals be made by the total conference membership. Under conference rules all reports are to be in the hands of all members prior to the conference session. All persons who vote in the proposed legislative committees are conference members. If a legislative committee deletes a part of a report or changes drastically the proposals from an agency or board, it is required to provide such changes in writing for all members of the conference. Moreover, any member of the conference may, on the floor of the conference, introduce amendments or substitutions which would restore the original proposal in the form in which it came from the board or agency. In addition, the rule provides a means for a minority report from the legislative committees. The rule, by omission, rightly excludes the Board of the Ministry. (Par. 663.5) The Judicial Council finds nothing in Paragraph 662.1 or 663.4 which prevents an Annual Conference from channeling its reports and legislative proposals through legislative committees. The rule, here considered, in no way impairs the right of the North Georgia Annual Conference members to take final action and make final decisions on all legislative matters as required by the Discipline.

Decision

The action of the North Georgia Annual Conference in adding a standing rule providing for legislative committees composed of Annual Conference members to receive, discuss, alter, change and refine reports and proposals from boards, agencies, commissions, committees and institutions before they come to the floor of the Annual Conference is not in conflict with the provisions of the Discipline.

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