Constitution & By-Laws Changes – For Review

Hello everyone! We’ve got some exciting news. One of the major goals our President set for the Executive Board this year was to give our governing documents a makeover and to bring them up to speed with the current state of the organization.  So, for the last several months, our Board has been hard at work developing proposals to clean up and update our Constitution & By-Laws.  We believe that what we have developed will strengthen our organization for years to come.

We will be voting on the proposed changes at our October General Meeting this month.  In preparation for this vote, the proposals are presented below.  Full copies of the revised documents will be available at the General Meeting.

For any questions, please reach out to me @ [email protected].

 

Proposal 1: Cleanup and Clarify Language and Sentence Structure

As the Constitution and By-Laws have been improved upon over the years, understandably little effort has been made to ensure that additions followed a standard sentence structure. This includes how numbers are written (with the full word, followed by the number itself in parentheses), the use of “the” before abbreviating MYD, capitalization of “Officers” and words like “Constitution”, the tense in which requirements are listed, whether the Vice President is “Executive” or not, and where in the sentence caveats are placed (such as “subject to…”). Additionally, some of the language can be too cleverly written to understand and simply needs to be unwound, or is unclear as to what kind of members or meetings are being referred to (general, voting, Board, those in good standing, present, etc). Some is unnecessarily repetitive (like respelling out the process of run-off election voting, even though it’s the same as the regular vote), or in some instances, there are simply typos (such as referring to “the Executive Board Member” under Article IX Section 1 Sub-Section (g) of the Constitution, instead of “the Officer”, even though it’s about Officer removal).

We propose correcting these inconsistencies, so that our Constitution and By-Laws are easy to follow and navigate, and ensure that they are never accidentally contradictory.

 

Proposal 2: Standardize and Adjust Time Lengths

Keeping track of how long we have to complete the tasks of our organization is difficult. And with the hodgepodge of time lengths in our Constitution and By-Laws, these duration often end up being ignored, with the knowledge that no one will challenge them, because no one else can keep track either.

Therefore, we propose standardizing time lengths overall to follow a 7 day (or one week) pattern. Additionally we propose altering some to more effectively serve our organization. Specifically, we propose making candidates for office apply 4 weeks prior to election (rather than 2) and make their application available 2 weeks (rather than 1) in Article III Section 2 of the Constitution, notifying Officers in writing 14 days prior to the final Board meeting on their removal (rather than 15) in Article IX Section 1 Sub-Section (g) of the Constitution, and requiring 7 days notice of both Board and general meetings to respective parties (rather than 5 and 10 days respectively) in Articles IV and VIII Section 2 of the Constitution.

 

Proposal 3: Add Secretary to Line of Succession

In order that the seemingly implied succession of Officers may be carried out without objection, in the event that warranting circumstances should come to pass, we propose formally adding the Secretary to the line of succession. Specifically, we propose specifying such succession in Article III Section 3 Sub-Section (d)Article IV Section 3 and Article VIII Section 1 of the Constitution.

 

Proposal 4: Specially-Designated General Body Meetings

There are times when special meetings must be called for various special functions of our organization. A meeting to amend the Constitution is a prime example. Luckily our Constitution and By-Laws are consistent in specifying that such meetings require a 3/4 affirmative vote of the Board in order to be called. But one instance could easily be altered on its own, which would risk confusion. Consequently, we propose that a section be added to Article VIII of the Constitution specifically codifying “specially-designated general body meetings” and the 3/4 requirements for such meetings to be called. Additionally, we propose simply replacing language on alternative meetings in Article X Section 1 of the Constitution and Article III Section 1 of the By-Laws with “specially-designated general body meetings.

 

Proposal 5: Financial Flexibility

The President and Treasurer are not always in the same room, but, for MYD to operate effectively, our ability to pay for services in an efficient manner is imperative. Recognizing this, we propose amending Article V Section 3 of the By-Laws,by formally adopting the current practice of allowing either President or the Treasurer to sign checks. Additionally we propose amending Article V Section 2 of the By-Laws to include the names of both the President and the Treasurer on all bank or investment accounts, as representatives of our organization.

 

 Proposal 6: Budget Committee

In order to ensure that budgeting decisions are properly considered, and in order to ensure participation in such budgeting decisions is more open to participation, we propose the formation of a Budget Committee. Specifically, we propose adding a section to Article V of the By-Laws stating that a Budget Committee shall be appointed within the first two months of a new Officer term, shall be chaired by the Treasurer, and consist of at least 2 additional Board members, not including the President (who shall be ex-officio). It shall also state that this Committee shall meet to review appropriations on a quarterly basis.

 

Proposal 7: Expand Non-Discrimination

In order that we may exemplify the highest ideals of the Democratic Party of the State of New York, we propose expanding our language on non-discrimination, so that it falls more in line with that of the New York State Division of Human Rights. Specifically, we propose amending Article II Section 2 of the Constitution to include military status, marital status and gender identity.

 

Proposal 8: Voting Membership Requirement

In order that we may more seamlessly interface with our larger chartering organizations, we propose clarifying our language on voting membership requirements. Specifically, we propose amending Article II Section 3 of the Constitution to specify “first and last name”, “mailing address”, “date of birth (including day, month and year)”, and “email address”.

 

Proposal 9: Cleanup Officer Removal

Formal Officer removal is both an unfortunate and very serious occurrence. As such, the rules around such actions should be crystal clear and fair to all those involved. Therefore, we propose the following amendments to the officer removal process in Article XI Section 1 of the Constitution. First, that an Officer being removed must be notified of the initial motion for removal within 7 days of said motion. Second, that the Ethics Committee that investigates the motion must include at least one Board member, as chosen by the general membership. Third, that the general membership does not require quorum in order to make their Ethics Committee selections (as this would be nearly impossible). And finally, that all parties calling for removal must be present at the Board meeting at which final removal is ultimately considered.

 

Proposal 10: Expand Officer and Cabinet Attendance Requirements

While our current Constitution contains a provision requiring the attendance of Officers at Board meetings, no such provision exists for attendance at any other MYD functions. Nor is there any requirement of any kind for Cabinet member attendance. We hope to always be represented by those to whom attendance, and more importantly engagement with members, is a foregone conclusion. However, the extra incentive of a mandate and the threat of removal would help ensure that those to whom it is not foregone may take their positions more seriously.

Thus, we propose amending Article III Section 4 of the Constitution to include a provision that if an Officer misses 3 consecutive general meetings, it is grounds for formal removal, subject to written warning before the 2nd absence. Additionally we propose that both this provision and the provision on missing 3 consecutive Board meetings, which already exists, be mirrored in a new section of Article VIII of the By-Laws for cabinet members (with dismissal by the Officers or a 2/3 vote of the Board replacing formal removal procedures).

 

Proposal 11: Standardize Election Timing

Traditionally, elections of MYD Officers have taken place in the first month of the year, with the transition to new leadership occurring immediately thereafter. However, there is no constitutional provision stating that this must be the case, nor do we believe it should be going forward. Electing new Officers a bit before the exit of the old would allow for smoother transitions and sharing of knowledge (as well as help us avoid the unpredictable weather we faced last year). It would also allow ample time to plan before diving in, which would help ensure that one year terms begin in earnest from month one.

Therefore, we propose adding a Sub-Section to Article III Section 2 of the Constitution, stating that Officer elections shall take place at November general meetings, with Officer terms commencing the following January.

 

Proposal 12: The Issues Assembly

In the past year MYD has conducted an experiment. In the beginning of the year, the new leadership decided to combine all remaining Standing Committees into one body, which would address all of their issues. The reasoning was that the Standing Committees as they existed generally consisted of only a small handful of members. Often that small group was actually the same members from committee to committee, which stretched interested parties far too thin. And while the newly established Issues Assembly still has kinks to work out, it has been one of the more consistent successes of the past year.

Hence, we propose formally adopting the Issues Assembly under Article VII of the By-Laws and removing all other language in that Article on other Standing Committees and Committee Chairs. Specifically, the Issues Assembly shall be said to occur on the last Tuesday of the month, shall function as a Standing Committee (as defined in the Constitution), shall periodically elect Members-at-Large as representatives to the Board (the number of which shall be designated by the Board at the beginning of the year), and shall be chaired by the Vice President or a specific cabinet level designee, as determined by the Officers. Should the Issues Assembly become overwhelmed, or should the general membership or leadership of MYD choose to revert back to the old committee structure (or another structure entirely), no significant changes shall be made to Article V of the Constitution (which provides the backbone for the MYD Committee structure), other than the relocation of committee Chair election procedures to the By-Laws (for more flexibility).

 

Proposal 13: Board Reorganization

The leadership of an organization should be representative of that organization. Its power structure should exemplify this notion, while also allowing for efficient distribution of responsibility. These principles apply to MYD as they would to any democratic organization. But as the Board of MYD, we feel that, while the overall nature of our leadership structure is sound, the details on how we achieve those principles do not do our members sufficient justice.

As a result, we propose the following changes to the structure of the MYD leadership. Each of the four Officers shall be assigned purview over a given set of regular MYD functions. This shall extend to the oversight of cabinet level appointees whose responsibilities fall within said purviews. Specifically, the President shall oversee all political, policy and technical matters, the Vice President shall oversee all programming and membership matters, the Treasurer shall oversee all finance and fundraising matters, and the Secretary shall oversee all matters around event logistics, communications and messaging. Article III Section 2 of the Constitution shall be amended to reflect these designations. Additionally, the cabinet of MYD shall be combined and expanded into the following positions under Article VI Section 1 of the By-Laws: Political Director, Policy Director, Technical Director, Membership Director, Programming Director, Finance Director, Events Director and Communications Director. The first 3 shall report to the President, the next two to the Vice President, Finance to the Treasurer, and the last two to the Secretary. The College and High School Liaisons (as currently codified in Article VI of the Constitution)shall be moved under the same section, to be treated as cabinet level positions, and shall report to the full Executive Board. Supplementary positions may be added as needed, but must be outlined explicitly in writing prior to appointment.

In addition, we propose that the Executive Board and its power structure be reorganized. First, a clear delineation of voting verses non-voting members of the Board shall be established in Article III Section 1 of the Constitution (with Delegates and Deputies falling into the latter category, as is current practice). And second, all decisions regarding cabinet level appointments, financial appropriations, rules regarding participation in charter organizations, and Board resolutions shall be subject to confirmation and approval of the Officers. Lastly, we propose that District Leaders should be able to request Delegates, in addition to Assembly members and Political Clubs, in Article VII Section 1 of the Constitution.

 

Proposal 14: Standardize Amendment and Resolution Procedures

Amending the Constitution and By-Laws of MYD is something to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the language in our Constitution and By-Laws on the topic of amendments and resolutions is inconsistent, and has resulted in persistently unclear editing of these documents over the years.

Thus, we propose the following solutions. First, we propose adding a section to Article X of the Constitution stating that all amendments proposed for adoption must be presented in writing to the Board at least 14 days prior to consideration, a mirror of a section already in Article III of the By-Laws. Second we propose adding sections to both Article X of the Constitution and Article III of the By-Laws stating that all amendments made from here on out shall be either explicitly footnoted or codified as separate articles at the end of each document. Third, we propose specifying in Article III Section 6 of the By-Laws that membership resolutions must be adopted at formal MYD meetings. And finally, we propose amending Article III Section 1 of the By-Laws to say that amendments of the By-Laws can be adopted by a simple majority vote, rather than 3/4. This will allow for greater flexibility in organizational specifics as MYD changes from year to year, while still maintaining the stringency of our constitutional amendment process. 

 

Proposal 15: Reorder and Reorganize the Articles and Sections of the Constitution and By-Laws

In keeping with the theme of making our Constitution and By-Laws easier to follow, our final proposal is a mass reorganization and reordering of the Articles, Sections and even Clauses of these documents. The order in which we propose to present the information follows what we feel is the most logical and understandable flow of information. In addition, we propose adding more references throughout both documents to other sections and articles, so as to help guide readers as they make their way through.