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Kenney's departure from Council puts bills he authored in limbo

James F. Kenney's resignation from Philadelphia City Council, after 23 years in which he sponsored hundreds of bills, has placed several of his would-be laws in legislative limbo.

James F. Kenney's resignation from Philadelphia City Council, after 23 years in which he sponsored hundreds of bills, has placed several of his would-be laws in legislative limbo.

With almost a year until his seat is filled, Kenney said, he hopes his colleagues see some of his ideas through. As it stands, bills that he introduced that didn't make it out of committee died with his departure.

Among the casualties are bills banning most parking on the City Hall apron, expanding the Historical Commission, making permanent the Inspector General's Office, and prohibiting deposits in certain banks.

Under Council rules, the primary sponsor of a bill is the only person who can request a hearing on it. Without a hearing, the bill cannot proceed to the full Council, although another member can reintroduce a bill and start the process over again.

If a bill has been voted out of committee, however, it can proceed without its primary sponsor.

Kenney's departure also means Council is down one member until January. President Darrell L. Clarke said Monday through spokeswoman Jane Roh that he would not call for a special election.

Here are a handful of recent Kenney bills left behind in committee:

In December, after a Tumblr account criticized City Hall employees who park on the building's apron, Kenney introduced legislation that would restrict apron parking to certain contractors. It would require the city to publish an online list of people permitted to park on the apron.

Two bills from October would double the budget for the Historical Commission and add 1,000 properties to the historic registry.

In January 2013, Kenney introduced a bill to make the Inspector General's Office an independent and permanent part of city government. The office, created under Mayor W. Wilson Goode to investigate fraud, was established through an executive order and can easily be revoked by the next mayor - unless Council votes for a charter change. Kenney's bill aiming to change the charter has sat in committee for two years and Kenney has publicly groused that there is no interest on Council to push it forward.

In October, Kenney introduced a bill to regulate small drone usage - restricting people and police from using the technology in public spaces without a proper warrant or consent.

In January, Kenney introduced a bill that would ban the city from depositing funds in Bank of America or Citigroup, given a lawsuit the city filed against the two banks and seven others. The suit argued they skimped the city on returns on interest-rate swap agreements and subjected it to unfair financial penalties.

Kenney - now in full campaign mode - said through his campaign spokesperson, Lauren Hitt, that his legislation has thus far been "driven largely by input from the community in combination with his staff's legislative expertise" and his own instinct on what can get done.

Angel Ortiz, who served on Council with Kenney for more than 20 years, said Kenney, especially in recent years, has gravitated toward progressive legislation than the more conservative views he held when he started.

"When Jim first came to Council, he and I would have the most contentious debates," said Ortiz, who noted he is supporting former Common Pleas Court Judge Nelson A. Diaz in the mayoral race.

"But by the time I left Council, he had become a partner and a defender of progressive ideas. I knew I could depend on him, that he would take up the role of defender."

As Kenney campaigns, some of his Council staff will stay behind to do constituent service and help other offices with legislation, Roh said. They will remain on the job until the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

215-854-5506 @juliaterruso