The Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI) is a coalition of organizations and individuals that serves as a powerful voice for developing, advocating, and lobbying for policies and laws that protect and enhance the environment.
ECRI provides its members with a forum for sharing information and technical expertise, and provides policymakers and the public with informed opinions and position statements.
As a large coalition, ECRI must balance the need for timely action with the need for discussion and agreement within the organization. ECRI as a body may not take a position on every issue of interest to member groups but ECRI can always pass on information about issues and opportunities for action to its members, who can respond as they see fit.
How ECRI Takes Positions and Acts on Them
ECRI is governed by a set of bylaws which can be found at the ECRI website and which describe the rules under which we conduct business. The bylaws also affirm that Roberts Rules of Order, Revised, shall govern unless inconsistent with the bylaws or special rules adopted by ECRI.
There are 4 basic ways ECRI states positions and takes action: Motions, Resolutions, the Legislative Priorities List, and Executive Committee action in between meetings. In keeping with these bylaws and rules, the basic mechanism for directing actions and identifying positions by ECRI is through motions made at meetings. For more important or complex questions or when greater formality is desired, motions may be presented in the form of resolutions.
At the monthly Board meeting, ECRI Board members or ECRI committees may make a motion to take specific action, such as sign on to a letter in support of legislation, issue a press release, etc. Motions are most often suited to taking action on issues where an ECRI position is clearly established, either by resolution, inclusion in the current Legislative Priorities List, or other ECRI history. However, motions may be made to take action on issues without an established ECRI position. More controversial issues are better suited to the resolution process, which gives more time for discussion — even if it means ECRI cannot act on an issue immediately.
ECRI has a process for creating resolutions on environmental issues. Once a resolution is in place, the Executive Committee is empowered to act to support the resolution. Actions might consist of writing letters, creating press releases, meeting with governmental representatives or agencies, or other such action. Any active member or organization may pose a resolution. In order to be voted on at a Board meeting, the resolution must be presented to the secretary and president no less than ten days prior to the meeting, and the resolution then forwarded to the membership no less than seven days prior to the meeting. A resolution posed at a board meeting without notice, or with insufficient notice, cannot be voted on until the following meeting. Once passed, resolutions are posted on the ECRI website. Resolutions are most often suited to long-term issues and establishing basic ECRI positions, but can also specify actions to take in support of the position.
Legislative Priorities List
Every year, ECRI develops a list of RI General Assembly bills of significant interest to the environmental community, and takes a position on them. The Executive Committee is then empowered to act on these bills. The list is developed over a period of months, starting in January. Any Board member may suggest bills to be considered. The Political Committee does most of the work of compiling and developing the list; however, it is not a decision-making body and cannot officially approve the list for ECRI (only the Board may do that) or change it once it has been approved by the Board (only the Board, and the Executive Committee in certain circumstances, may do that). The Political Committee shares the list with the Board at monthly meetings as it is evolving, and bills are discussed. If there is disagreement on whether or not a bill should be included, or what ECRI's position on that bill should be, a majority vote of the Board decides the issue.
A ‘final’ version is voted on by the Board before ECRI Environmental Lobby Day. ECRI then publicizes the list, uses it on Lobby Day, and lets legislators know that these are the bills that will be used in compiling the next Green Report Card. However, last minute bills are often introduced during the session, or bills may be amended to the point that ECRI must change it's position. Bills may be added to or dropped from the list, or ECRI may change its position on a bill, at any time during the legislative session with a vote by the ECRI Board. In situations where there is a clear and immediate need to make a change to the list, the Executive Committee may act to do so. In that case, the Executive Committee should make every effort to consult with members who have expertise on the bill in question before acting. If the Legislative Priorities list is changed after it has been conveyed to legislators, ECRI should alert them to that fact.
Executive Committee Action
Issues frequently come up that require action before the next Board meeting can be held. If the issue is addressed in an ECRI resolution or the current Legislative Priorities List or ECRI has a history on an issue and an ECRI position is clearly established, the Executive Committee may act to support that position. Bylaws state: “[Article III] In the event of an emergency requiring immediate ECRI action, at least two members of the executive committee may poll each of the board of directors by phone. Directors votes shall be recorded in the minutes of the following meeting…. [Article VIII] 2. Any three members of the executive committee may call special meetings from time to time as the need may arise without resorting to above cited notification procedure if time does not permit. 3. Notice of special meetings shall be given at least forty-eight hours in advance and shall include a statement of the purpose or reason for calling the special meeting.”