PATCH ANSWERS: Could Westford Have An "SB2" Style Town Meeting?
Welcome to our latest "You Asked, Patch Answers"
Just after last year's Fall Town Meeting, one Westford Patch reader asked us if Westford could copy New Hampshire's "SB2" or Deliberative Session style Town Meetings.
Westford Patch has an answer: yes.
Town Meeting voters can vote to create bylaws on how Town Meeting operates as long as those bylaws meet approval from the attorney general's office.
For those unfamiliar with SB2, the name comes from 1994's Senate Bill 2, which eventually became New Hampshire RSA 40:13.
The key difference between a traditional town meeting and an SB2 style Town Meeting is that in SB2 Town Meetings, Town Meeting is split into two parts: a "deliberative session," where the wording of what will be on the Town Meeting warrant is finalized by voters and an "official ballot" election a month later, much like state and federal elections where voters go into voting booths and vote on the warrant articles.
There are some restrictions on how warrant articles can be amended under New Hampshire law, most notably a bill passed by the legislature in 2011 that prohibited a long time practice of removing all but two or three words in a specific warrant article.
According to the Live Free of Die Alliance, NH's SB2 Town Meetings can be positive for parents with small children or elderly voters who can't stay for a whole traditional town meeting, and can provide additional time for voters to learn more about an issue.
However, they also note that SB2 Town Meetings also make it easier for special interest groups to dominate Town Meeting, can draw out unneeded debate on local issues, and can also cost more in terms of larger ballots.