Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thoughts on a charter form of government

Steve Mule asks:

What's the difference between a charter government and a non-charter government?
I wasn't living in East Tennessee yet when the charter was passed and am unfamilar with why we (Knox Countians) voted for it.

Goodgirl responds:

There are two counties in TN that are considered home-rule counties--Shelby and Knox. The basic difference between home-rule government and the consitutional form that the other 92 counties have (Davidson has metro) is that home-rule county commissions have the authority to pass legislation that has the force of law.

In other counties, if a commission wishes to pass a law, they must first take the issue to the State Legislature where it is passed as a "Private Act," or a law that applies to only one county.

In essence she's right, except that the legislature can (and does) still pass Private Acts that relate to Knox County, mostly initiated by Knox County legislators. What a Charter does is allow for the county to not have to wait on a Private Act to do something.

The constitutional form of government (the non-charter, non-metro form of nearly all other counties) operates on the theory that the primary purpose of county government is to execute the laws of the State. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of folks are satisfied with that, because there hasn't been a huge move to charterize a bunch of counties.

I'm not against charter government, but I question A.) Whether it is necessary and B.) does it lead to an overly expansive county government as bad or worse than the overly-expansive state morass (i.e "5,000 tyrants one mile away")?

It does allow for greater freedom for the county government, but what does that mean? If it means that a bloated State government turns over home-rule to a very limited county government, it is a great deal. If a bloated State government allows for home rule and then the county government becomes big, bloated, and wasteful (Knox County) then it is no benefit at all. Indeed, in the case of Knox County, having to wait on a Private Act in order to enact an ordinance may inadvertantly check the power of the county government, even though the legislature may not have that intent.

A charter government was sold to the people on the basis that they would have greater home rule. On its face, that is not a bad thing to desire or achieve. I think what we need to ask is whether it (a charter government) has created more problems than it has solved.


At Thursday, June 22, 2006 9:11:00 PM, Blogger Steve Mule said...




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