Howard Rich's Blog

May 20, 2009

Town asks for ‘private act’ to allow a term limit vote

from the  Farragut Press:

Farragut will send a resolution to state legislature requesting action to allow the Town to pose a referendum on term limits before the legislature’s session ends.

“We’ve got to go for it, I think. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try again next year,” Mayor Ralph McGill said. The legislature’s next session will begin in January 2010.

“What you have in front of you, I think, is a resolution that will speak to the legislative delegation and is broad enough to ask them to try to do something right now, and it is also broad enough to cover the possibility of doing something in the next legislative session,” Town Attorney Tom Hale said.

The resolution requests that Tennessee legislature pass either a private act or amend Tennessee Code Annotated to allow Farragut to have term limits.

Farragut’s charter comes from TCA, and any change to TCA would apply to all other mayor-aldermanic charters in the state. A change to TCA could give mayor-aldermanic municipalities the option to enact term limits.

“You can’t just limit the amendment to your own [charter],” Hale said.

A private act is “attempting to amend your charter, which is a general law charter, the mayor-aldermanic form,” he added, saying there was a provision in the mayor-aldermanic charter to allow for amendments.

“We basically have nothing to lose,” McGill said.

“That’s the way I see it,” Hale said.

Alderman John Williams asked if Farragut could or should change to a home rule charter, a type of government in which amendments could be made by referendum.

“[Municipal Technical Advisory Service] thinks that’s a really bad idea,” Hale said.

“There’s a lot you need to think about before you do that,” he added. Oak Ridge and the City of Knoxville both have home rule charters, two of only 13 in the state.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen could adopt a new type of charter without involving state legislature.

The Board unanimously approved sending the resolution to state legislature.

The Board also discussed an ordinance to change Farragut’s election times to coincide with the County’s August elections.

“The idea here is that we would like to see citizens participate more in our elections,” McGill said, adding the lowest Farragut voter turnout was seen in elections in which residents voted for their own officials.

McGill suggested moving the election date to August of even numbered years, to coincide with Knox County elections. The Town’s charter stipulates that any change in election times cannot cut short any elected official’s term, which means the soonest an election could be realigned is 2014.

“I like the experiment of at least trying this for a while,” Alderman John Williams said, adding August was certainly superior to November, when federal elections are held.

Alderman Bob Markli said the change also would be easier for newly elected officials, since the budget would already be passed by the time they took office.

“Amen to that,” Alderman Jeff Elliott said.

No action was taken on this item; staff said they would return with an ordinance for the Board’s approval in June.

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