The machinery of City Council is finally starting to grind to life.

Up until now, the 17 members - including six freshmen and a new leadership team - have been engaging in what seemed like the legislative equivalent of cocktail party small talk.

The three previous regular meetings in 2012 ended briskly. With no legislation carrying over from 2011, Council has yet to seriously debate or pass a bill.

This week saw the year's first committee hearing - a bill's first step toward becoming law.

The bulk of Council's agenda so far has been carried by leadership and a handful of veteran members who entered the year with clearly defined ideas. There have been no surprises.

That continued Thursday, with Councilman Bill Green - the new chair of the Finance Committee and a mayoral aspirant - introducing a raft of legislation that would require the administration to provide more "useful, relevant information" during the budget process.

The bills ask the Finance Department to provide cost-benefit analyses of capital projects, to study the fiscal impact of any legislation upon request, and to engage in "program-based budgeting" that provides "the cost of each individual function of government."

"Governing is choosing between competing ideas for good with limited resources," Green said. "If we don't have full information, we can't properly make decisions about where to allocate our resources."

He said he had no problem with the budget information the administration now provides. The problem, he said, is that the standards were set in the 1950s.

"Things aren't as simple," he said. "We don't know what kind of bang we are getting for our bucks."

The budget process will start again next month.

Looking ahead, the conversations in City Hall could begin to heat up soon. Among the items on Thursday's light agenda were resolutions calling for hearings on a half-dozen meaty subjects.

In the coming weeks, various committees could be taking testimony on the impact of state budget cuts on health and human services programs; the availability of shelters for victims of domestic violence; and the impact of proposed school closings.

Out of Harrisburg on Thursday came news relevant to another major issue looming on Council's agenda - the creation of a land bank to collect and dispose of the city's vacant and abandoned properties.

The House passed a bill that would give cities, including Philadelphia, the authority to create land banks. The bill awaits a vote in the Senate.

The House bill was sponsored by State Rep. John Taylor. Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez has championed the issue here.