The Prince George's County Council began this week to consider a "self-policing" bill designed to encourage each member to attend council meetings and to arrive on time.
The proposed rule, which would make attendance records of council members public and would require a roll call at least 10 minutes after a meeting is scheduled, is designed to end the problems of delayed council meetings and poor attendance by some council members, council officials said.
Council member William B. Amonett, who proposed the bill, said, "We didn't have time to work on two bills offered at the end of last year aimed at attendance - so this is my approach."
Other council members said they supported the idea behind the bill but weren't sure they could live with it. They observed:
"We need peer group pressure."
"Some of us just feel we don't have to be here on time because no one else shows up."
"I'm as guilty as anyone else - I stay upstairs (in the council offices) because I know there is no quorum in the council chambers."
"Some times we have to go to the bathroom or we may have to help out our constituents - you just can't always be there at the time of the vote," said Council Chairman Francis W. White.
Council woman Darlene Z. White, whose attendance record gained some attention last year after she failed to vote (by Nov. 1) on 53 of 85 votes, said she supported the proposal.
"It is not a problem with me. But I have a problem with the part that says you have to be physically present for each vote because there are all types of things that pull you out."
Though council members threw verbal jabs at the wording of the proposal, most indicated they probably will go along with some version of the bill.
"Everybody agreed last session we had to address the issue. We have to take care of it before it becomes an election issue," said Council member Samuel W. Bogley.
According to Amonett, attendance and punctuality will improve once council members know their attendance will be public record.
Amonett said he wants to require Council members to be present for votes so "a council member does not hear public debate or debate by his or her peers, he or she should not be able to vote," said Amonett.
The bill is expected to be scheduled for final reading next week, council officials said.