Traditionally, the Select Board writes the warrant articles for Town Meeting and we, the voters of Andover, flock to Town Meeting to discuss and ultimately vote on each article. The articles that we accept, including the total budget figure, pretty much control how the town is run for the coming year.
But it’s not just the Select Board that can put an idea (in the form of a warrant article) before Town Meeting to be voted on. In fact, anyone can do it.
Of course, there are a few rules:
1) The warrant article must be delivered to the office of the Select Board by the fifth Tuesday before Town Meeting. This year, that will be Tuesday, February 4.
2) The warrant article must be signed (legibly!) by at least 25 registered Andover voters. Each signature will be checked against the Town’s checklist. If fewer than 25 of the signatures can be matched on the checklist, the article won’t be added to the warrant.
3) According to RSA 39:3, the Select Board may make “only such minor textual changes as may be required,” so the burden is on the writer of the warrant article to be sure it is worded clearly and that it calls for an action that Town Meeting can legally take.
The rules for getting a petitioned warrant article on the Andover School District warrant are pretty much the same. The rules are in RSA 197:6, and the main difference from the rules described above is the deadline for petitions. A petition must be presented “to the school board or one of them not later than 30 days before the date prescribed for the school district meeting or the second Tuesday in March, whichever is earlier.” This year, that deadline would fall on Saturday, February 1, which is 30 days before the Tuesday, March 2, School District meeting.
Any Other Business
If, for whatever reason, you can’t meet all those criteria, you may still be able to put your issue in front of Town Meeting. The last article of the warrant is always “To transact any other business that may legally come before [Town Meeting].” That’s your cue to be recognized by the moderator and put your issue before the voters.
But there’s a catch: to be legally valid, any motion at Town Meeting must comply with NHRS 39:2, which requires that “The subject matter of all business to be acted upon at the town meeting shall be distinctly stated in the warrant, and nothing done at any meeting shall be valid unless the subject thereof is so stated.”
So if your idea needs to be legally valid – if it expends money or changes an ordinance or something like that – then “any other business” is not the time to bring it up. Even if it were passed by the meeting, it wouldn’t be legally valid because it would not meet the requirement of NHRS 39:2.
On the other hand, a motion that has no legal effect, such as honoring someone or expressing the meeting’s support for an organization, works just fine as “any other business.”