I move amendment No. 104:
In page 26, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:
PLEBISCITES ON DIRECT ELECTION OF MAYORS
32. (1) In this Part—
“directly elected mayor” means the cathaoirleach of a local authority elected to that office by the electors of the administrative area of that local authority and on whom are conferred—
(a) some or all of the functions for the time being performable by the chief executive of that local authority, and
(b) such other functions as may be provided by or under statute;
“local authority” means—
(a) the council of the city of Cork,
(b) the council of the city and county of Limerick,
(c) the council of the city and county of Waterford, or
(d) the council of the city of Galway and the council of the county of Galway;
“plebiscite” means, in relation to an administrative area, the plebiscite of the electors of that administrative area required to be held under this Part;
“proposal” means a proposal to provide by law for a directly elected mayor of the administrative area of a local authority.
(2) For the purposes of this Part, each of the following is an administrative area:
(a) the administrative area of the council of the city of Cork;
(b) the administrative area of the council of the city and county of Limerick;
(c) the administrative area of the council of the city and county of Waterford; and
(d) the administrative areas of the council of the city of Galway and the council of the county of Galway.".
These amendments propose to insert after section 31 a new Part V, plebiscites on direct election of mayors, comprising seven sections.
At its meeting on 27 September 2018, the Government agreed in principle to the holding of plebiscites on directly elected mayors with executive functions for Cork City Council, Limerick City and County Council, Waterford City and County Council and Galway City Council and Galway County Council, in anticipation of the merger of those two local authorities in 2021, at the same time as the local government elections in May 2019. This agreement was subject to the inclusion of the necessary legislative provisions within the Local Government Bill 2018 and the future submission of more detailed proposals on the plebiscites and the questions to be put to the electorate, as well as the specific powers to be given to mayors. The provisions proposed for inclusion in the Bill by this amendment facilitates the holding of the plebiscites.
The proposed new section 32(1), inserted by amendment No. 104, contains definitions applicable to the new part 5 of "directly elected mayor", "local authority", "plebiscite" and "proposal". "Directly elected mayor" means the cathaoirleach of a local authority elected by the electors of the authority’s administrative area on whom is conferred some or all of the functions currently performable by the chief executive and such other functions as are provided for by legislation. In this part, "local authority" means Cork City Council, Limerick City and County Council, Waterford City and County Council or Galway City Council and Galway County Council together; "plebiscite" means a plebiscite of the electors of an administrative area that is required to be held under this part; and "proposal" means a proposal to provide by law for a directly elected mayor of the administrative area of a local authority.
The new section 32(2) provides that the administrative areas for the purposes of this part are those of the five local authorities referred to.
The new section 33, inserted by amendment No. 105, provides: in subsection (1), that the proposal is to be submitted to a plebiscite of the electors of the area to which the proposal relates; in subsection (2), that each plebiscite is to be held on the day and at the times appointed by the Minister by order; and, in subsection (3), that it be conducted in accordance with regulations made by the Minister under the new section 34(3).
Subsection (4) states that at least 30 days before the day appointed for the plebiscite, the relevant local authority is to cause information relating to the proposal to be circulated so as to bring it to the attention of its electors. That information is to contain a summary of the functions and office of directly elected mayors for the local authorities concerned, the likely impact on the relevant local authorities’ performance of their functions, relationships between the offices of directly elected mayor and those local authorities and with other relevant statutory bodies, the estimated cost and resource implications, the possible advantages and disadvantages associated with the proposal, any impact for the functions of any other statutory body and any other information the Minister considers appropriate, through subsection (5). Subsection (6) requires the Minister to issue guidelines to the local authorities in relation to the information to be circulated under subsection (5).
The new section 34, inserted by amendment No. 106, empowers the Minister, under subsection (1), to make regulations for the purpose of this part. Subsection (2) lists a number of matters for inclusion in the regulations, including the form and wording of the ballot paper; the arrangements and requirements relating to publication of notices and the provision of information to electors; the appointment, duties and staff of the returning officer; the taking of the poll; voting and counting of votes; the maintenance of the secrecy of the ballot; the procedures to be followed in the case of misconduct, disorder, obstruction or interference; modification of electoral offence provisions applied by the new section 35; and other appropriate matters. Under subsection (3), the regulations will require to be approved by resolution of the Oireachtas.
The new section 35, inserted by amendment No. 107, applies to the plebiscite's relevant electoral offence articles that are contained in the local elections regulations of 1995, subject to any necessary modifications that are specified in the regulations made under the new section 34.
The new section 36, inserted by amendment No. 108, specifies the persons entitled to vote in the plebiscites as those entitled to vote at local elections for Cork City Council, including those being transferred under this Bill from the county to the city, Galway City Council, Galway County Council, Limerick City and County Council and Waterford City and County Council.
Under the new section 37, inserted by amendment No. 109, within two years of the holding of the plebiscites, the Minister must submit a report to the Oireachtas specifying either legislative proposals to establish the office of directly elected mayor for any of the local authority areas concerned or his or her reasons for not submitting such proposals.
The new section 38, inserted by amendment No. 110, provides that the costs incurred in the holding of a plebiscite are to be borne by the local authority.