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City of Georgetown Texas

2021 Charter Amendment Election

Georgetown City during its Aug. 10 meeting approved the second reading of an ordinance to call a November City charter amendment election to approve changes and updates to the City’s legal founding document.

The City Charter is the legal document establishing a municipality and defines the structure, powers, functions, and procedures of local government. Changes to the charter must be approved by City voters.

Proposed amendments include changes related to:

  1. Term limits
  2. Council qualifications
  3. Council vacancies
  4. Rules of procedures
  5. Procedures to enact legislation
  6. Franchise agreement notifications
  7. Public led initiative, referendum, and recall requirements
  8. City structure language
  9. Appropriations and budget

City Staff and members of the council-appointed Charter Review Committee identified several potential charter amendments, which were presented to the council at its May 25 workshop for discussion and direction from City Council. Council direction was sent back to the committee for consideration and to be drafted into a final report that outlined the committee’s recommendations to the council.

At its June 8 meeting, City Council reviewed the committee’s final recommendations and gave its recommendations for charter amendments. A public hearing was held at City Council’s June 22 regular meeting to gather public input on the proposed amendments.  A second public hearing will be held at the July 13 regular City Council meeting.

Important dates:

June 22 First public hearing
July 13 Second public hearing
July 27 First reading of an ordinance to call an election approved
Aug. 10 Second reading of an ordinance to call an election approved
Oct. 4 Last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election
Oct. 18-29 In-person early voting period
Nov. 2 Election Day

City Council directed staff to draft ballot language to amend the following sections of the City Charter based on its direction at its June 8 workshop meeting.

City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance to call the charter amendment election at its July 27 meeting.

Section 2.01. – Number, Selection, and Term of Office

The Charter currently provides for three-year terms of office, with no term limits for either councilmembers or the Mayor.

The recommended change would limit council members and the mayor to three consecutive terms with a period of two years before a council member could serve again.

Council has proposed term limits to go into effect for council members elected after 2022.

The council would also like to remove language from the charter that talks about staggering district elections. The language was added in 1995 to outline how the new council would be elected and is no longer needed. This would not affect how elections are run since the staggered terms have been established.

Ballot language: Shall Section 2.01 of the City Charter be amended to add term limits of no more than three consecutive terms for City Council members and the Mayor until at least two years has elapsed since their last term of office with an exception allowing for a councilmember to serve as mayor without waiting for two years to elapse?

Section 2.02 – Qualifications to serve on City Council

This proposed amendment would align the City’s charter with state law that says a councilmember must live in the council district the member would be representing and the mayor must reside within the city limits for a period of 12 months prior to election day.

The proposed amendment would also change the age requirement from being 21 on election day to being 21 years old on the first day of the term filled either by election or appointment.

Ballot language: Shall Section 2.02 of the City Charter be amended to provide that a Councilmember and Mayor must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age on the first day of the term to be filled; to provide that a Councilmember must reside in the council district the member would be representing for at least twelve (12) months preceding the election date; to provide that the Mayor must reside in the city limits for at least twelve (12) months preceding election day; and to reduce the time that a former councilmember or mayor may not be employed by the City from two years to one year after leaving office?

Section 2.03 – Vacancies

This proposed amendment would clarify how councilmember and mayoral vacancies shall be filled.

If the vacancy in the office of a council member occurs with fewer than 12 months of the term remaining, City Council proposes changes that would allow the mayor to recommend an appointee that would be approved by City Council to fill the vacancy. If more than 12 months remain on the term, City Council would call a special election within 120 days of the vacancy.

If a vacancy in the office of the mayor occurs, the council proposes language that would require a special election to be called regardless of how much time remains on the term that has been vacated.

Ballot language: Shall Section 2.03 of the City Charter be amended to provide that the City Council shall fill a councilmember vacancy with less than twelve months left of a term by appointment within thirty (30) days of the vacancy?

Section 2.09 – Rules of procedure

This proposed amendment would clarify language related to the number of votes needed to pass ordinances.

The Council proposal would change the language to say unless otherwise noted, action of the council will be valid when adopted by the affirmative vote of a majority of the council members present and voting as opposed to a majority of all members of the council.

Ballot language: Shall Section 2.09 of the City Charter be amended to clarify that City Council actions require an affirmative vote of a majority of council members present and voting?

Section 2.10 – Procedure to enact legislation

The proposed amendment would apply to the reading of captions on ordinances at City Council meetings, public notices of ordinance readings, and clean up some language that is out of date.

Council proposed changing the number of times a caption must be read at the council. Currently, captions are read at both the first and second readings of an ordinance. The proposed change would require the caption to be read only at the first reading.

Additional changes would change the public notice requirement from being published in the newspaper of record, currently the Williamson County Sun, to the City’s website or other primary information sharing system and removing the filing requirement.

Ballot language: Shall Section 2.10 of the City Charter be amended to remove the ordinance caption publication requirement; to remove the requirement to file an ordinance with the City Secretary seven days prior to its consideration; to provide that an ordinance must be approved at two separate meetings; and to provide that an ordinance caption must be read at one of the two meetings?

Section 8.03 – Franchise; power of the City Council

The proposed amendment would change a requirement of a franchisee to publish notices in the newspaper of record, currently the Williamson County Sun, to require notifications to be published on the City’s website or other primary information-sharing system.

Ballot language: Shall Section 8.03 of the City Charter be amended to remove the requirement to publish a proposed ordinance granting a franchise and to provide that a proposed ordinance granting a franchise shall be posted on the City’s webpage for thirty (30) days prior to final passage?

Article IV – Initiative, Referendum, and Recall

This proposed amendment would help clarify language about the number of signatures needed for residents to get items on the ballot, such as initiatives to approve legislation, referendums to reject City Council enacted ordinances, and recalling city officials.

The proposed change would require petitions for initiatives and referendums to have signatures from 15 percent of registered voters in the city, but not less than 250 signatures. In the case of recalling City officials, petitions would have to include 15 percent of registered voters in a council district for recalling a council member and 15 percent of registered voters citywide to recall the mayor.

The current language requires petitioners have 15 percent of qualified voters in the last municipal election.

Ballot language: Shall Sections 4.01,4.02 and 4.07 of the City Charter be amended to provide that a petition for an initiative, referendum or recall of city officials must be signed by fifteen (15) percent of the registered voters of the City on the date of the last municipal election?

Sections 5.03, 5.04, and 5.05 – Administrative organization

This proposed amendment would clarify language regarding City departments and remove language referencing divisions to better reflect the organization of City staff.

Ballot language: Shall Sections 5.03, 5.04, and 5.05 of the City Charter be amended to remove all references to divisions with the City’s administrative organization?

Section 6.03 and 6.04 – Appropriations and Budget amendments

Similar to the proposed changes for administrative organization, this change would remove language referencing divisions.

Ballot language: Shall Sections 6.03 and 6.04 of the City Charter be amended to remove references to divisions with the City’s administrative organization and to provide for budget amendments in cases of emergency and for municipal purposes as allowed under State law?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the City Charter?

The City Charter is the legal document establishing a municipality and defines the structure, powers, functions, and procedures of local government.

When was the last time the charter was amended?

The last time the City Charter was revised was in May of 2003 when 13 amendments were approved by the voters following a divisive recall election.

In spring 2012 the City Attorney’s Office led a review committee to consider moving Council elections from May to November, as well as a few other measures. After a thorough review, the council decided not to have a charter election and the work was put on hold.

How often can the City charter be amended?

An election to amend the charter can be held no more often than every two years.

How were these amendments selected?

Council Members Steve Fought and Kevin Pitts brought up the possibility of amending the City Charter at the council’s June 23, 2020, meeting.

The City’s charter was last revised in May 2003, when 13 amendments were approved by the voters.

Fought and Pitts asked the council to consider three possible items, including:

  • Term Limits for the Mayor and council members (e.g., limited to 3 terms);
  • A change in how vacancies are filled on the Council (e.g., allow the Council to appoint a member to fill a vacancy rather than having to hold a special election);
  • Correct any other errors or inconsistencies with State laws that have been discovered (e.g., the in-district residency period to run for election).

Following City Council’s direction, City staff, including the City Manager’s Office and City Attorney’s Office developed a charter review process, which called for the creation of a Charter Review Committee.

At its Jan. 26, 2021, meeting, City Council appointed a Charter Review Committee and gave the committee a proposed list of potential charter amendment topics to review for a possible November 2021 charter amendment election.

Staff and Charter Review Committee members identified several potential charter amendments, which were presented to the council at its May 25, 2021, workshop for discussion and direction from City Council. Council direction was sent back to the committee for consideration and to be drafted into a final report that outlined the committee’s recommendations to the council.

At its June 8, 2021, workshop, City Council reviewed the Charter Review Committee’s final report and helped craft language that will be used to draft ballot language for the November election.

City Council will host public hearings at the June 22 and July 13 City Council meetings, which begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers, 510 W. Ninth St. Meeting agendas will be posted at agendas.georgetown.org and will include information on how to participate in the meetings.

Who was on the Charter Review Committee?

Louise Epstein, chair
Joseph Burke
Bob Glandt
Troy Hellmann
John Hesser
John Marler
Rick Vasquez
Ben Stewart

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Contact information

For more information, please email pio@georgetown.org.

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