What is Home Rule and how does it differ from General Law?
In general terms, the specific powers of General Law cities are spelled out in the State statutes. These cities are restricted to performing the services and exercising the regulatory powers spelled out in the State law books including the Government Code and the Local Government Code. If there is no State law authorizing or specifically implying authority for a particular General Law city action, none may be taken. The reverse is true for Home Rule cities. Unlike General Law cities, which look to the State to tell them what they may do, Home Rule cities look to the Texas Constitution and State laws to see what they are forbidden to do.
Home Rule was established by Texas voters in 1912 and enabling legislation was passed in 1913. The major objectives of the Act were:
– To create a favorable climate for more direct governing of cities by their citizens;
– Secure adequate powers so that municipalities could meet increased demands for services;
– Avoid interference in local government from the state legislature, and
– Allow cities to act without affirmative action of the legislature.
What is the purpose of Home Rule?
A Home Rule Charter is drafted by a Home Rule Charter Commission consisting of 15 elected residents of Bridgeport.
The Charter, which is approved by the voters of Bridgeport establishes:
– The governmental structure of their City
– The form of government (in other words, Council-Manager, Mayor-Manager, Mayor-Council, etc.)
– Large or small City Council
– Election of Council members – single member districts or by place
– Fixed terms of office
– Selection of the Mayor (age requirements, residency, terms of office)
– The administrative structure of the City
– Providing for the appointment or election of major administrative officials such as the Municipal Judge,
City Attorney, and City Secretary
– Creation of any board or commission that the voters feel are necessary to effectively run the City
– Initiative, referendum, and recall: These three powers are reserved for exclusive use by home rule citie so that local voters can provide direct remedies in unusual situations. These powers are unique to home rule cities; they are not available to any other level of Texas government, including the State.
- Initiative is a procedure where local voters directly propose or initiate legislation. This procedure circumvents the City Council by direct ballot action with wide community support but the Council refuses to enact. In other words, citizens can create local laws and these will be sent directly to the voters for approval.
- Referendum is a procedure under which local voters can repeal unpopular existing ordinances the Council refuses to rescind by its own action.
- Recall is a process by which local voters can oust members of the City Council before the expiration of their terms.
What is the current status of the Home Rule Charter?
On November 3, 2015 Bridgeport voters approved establishing a Home Rule Charter Commission to frame a Home Rule Charter for the City of Bridgeport. The Home Rule Charter Commission will work diligently over the next few months to draft a Home Rule Charter. The Home Rule Charter will be presented to the Bridgeport voters in the May 2016 Election.
Bridgeport Citizen Participation
The Home Rule Charter Commission would like to receive input from the citizens of Bridgeport regarding the Home Rule Charter. To submit information, please email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information regarding Home Rule please call the City of Bridgeport at 940-683-3400.