Laws governing local ballot measures in Georgia
- Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
- How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.
- An overview of laws governing local recall elections.
Types of local government
Local government in Georgia consists of:
Counties: There are 159 counties in Georgia. Six of these county governments have been consolidated with city governments. Another (Echols County) consolidated with an unincorporated community rather than a city. Each of these consolidated governments has its own charter. For more information on city-county consolidation in Georgia, see the video located here.
In addition, there are 497 special districts and 180 independent school districts.
- See also: School bond and tax elections in Georgia
In Georgia, the major provisions covering school bond and tax elections are protected by the Georgia Constitution. Georgia has a 20 mill levy limit protected by the state constitution. School districts can only have a referendum in order to exceed the levy limit or eliminate the levy itself. Also, Georgia funds capital outlays differently than other states using a county sales tax. The voters in a respective county can vote to approve an additional sales and use tax of one percent to fund school district capital outlays. Georgia allows capital outlays to be used for capital improvements to facilities and for retirement of all debts. A county can only use the sales tax for five years after the date it is first implemented.
Local recall rules
Georgia law provides for the recall of all elected officials. The Constitution of the State of Georgia authorizes the General Assembly to "provide by general law for the recall of public officials who hold elective office." This provision is found in Article II, Section II, Paragraph IV.
- For additional detail, see: Laws governing recall in Georgia
Initiative process availability
| Ballot Law Portal|
|Laws Governing Ballot Measures|
In Georgia, local governments comprise counties, cities, and city-county consolidations. Counties are organized according to the state constitution, general law, and applicable local laws (laws passed by the general assembly concerning a specific county). Cities and city-county consolidations are governed by local charters approved by the General Assembly then ratified by a vote of the people.
|A guide to local ballot initiatives|
Georgia has 159 counties (152, excluding city-county consolidations). Residents of all 152 counties may initiate amendments to (or veto referendums against) local ordinances, resolutions, and regulations. They may also amend or repeal the local laws governing the county at the state level.
Georgia has 535 cities total and 528 excluding city-county consolidations). Residents of all 528 non-consolidated cities may initiate amendments to (or veto referendums against) local ordinances, resolutions, and regulations. They may also amend their local charter.
In Georgia, cities and counties may consolidate their governments to streamline services or eliminate redundancies. Seven pairs of cities and counties have formed consolidated city-county governments. All seven pairs are organized under local charters approved by the General Assembly and ratified by residents. The Georgia Code explicitly exempts consolidated governments formed prior to January 1, 1976 from the initiative process established for cities. The City of Columbus and Muscogee County were consolidated in 1971--the first Georgia consolidation and the only consolidation prior to 1976. The charter of Columbus/Muscogee County does provide for charter amendment and ordinance initiatives, but establishes an initiative process distinct from the city process found in the Georgia Code.
The applicability of state's county and city initiative and referendum provisions to consolidated governments in general is unclear. By all appearances, the issue has not yet faced judicial review. Augusta-Richmond County and Columbus-Muscogee County provide for local initiative for ordinances and charter or local act amendment. Athens-Clarke County, Cusseta-Chattahoochee County, and Georgetown-Quitman County seem to exclude it. The status of initiative in unclear in both Statenville-Echols County and Preston-Webster County.
Initiative process features
|Local I&R Laws in the 50 States|
|Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with |
clipboards, conversations, and campaigns
The Georgia Constitution establishes the local initiative process for counties.
The Georgia Code establishes the local initiative process for cities.
See law: Georgia Code, § 36-35-3 (a)
Initiative process in the top 10 most populated cities
|List of Most Populated Cities in Georgia|
|City||Population||City Type||Next election|
|Augusta||196,494||Charter as consolidated city-county||Special Election|
|Columbus||194,107||Charter as consolidated city-county||11/4/2014|
|Athens||116,084||Charter as consolidated city-county||N/A|
|Sandy Springs||96,856||Charter||Special Election|
|Johns Creek||79,192||Charter||Special Election|
Out of the top ten most populated cities in Georgia, Augusta and Columbus are the only two that have individual initiative and referendum processes in their charters.
- Ballotpedia Research Document, Local Initiative in Georgia
- Georgia Municipal Association
- Carl Vinson Institute of Government
- New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Georgia's City Governments"
- New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Georgia's County Governments"
- Augusta City Charter
- Columbus City Charter
- ↑ New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Georgia's City Governments," August 9, 2002
- ↑ New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Georgia's County Governments," December 20, 2011 (updated)
- ↑ NACO, "City County Consolidation Proposals," January 1, 2011
- ↑ The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Ballotpedia Research Document, "Types and Numbers of local government by state," September 1, 2012 (created)
- ↑ Carl Vinson Institute of Government, "What you need to know about city-county consolidation," accessed October 13, 2012
- ↑ National Association of Counties, "City-County Consolidation Proposals 1921 - Present," January 1, 2011
- ↑ Municode, Columbus Charter and Ordinances, accessed October 13, 2012
- ↑ Augusta-Richmond County, Charter and Code, accessed October 13, 2012
- ↑ Municode, Athens-Clarke County Charter and Ordinances, "Amending Charter," accessed October 13, 2012
- ↑ Municode, Cusseta-Chattahoochee County Charter and Ordinances, accessed October 13, 2012
- ↑ Georgetown-Quitman County, City-County Charter, accessed October 13, 2012
- ↑ US Census Bureau "City and Town Totals: Vintage 2011 (Population figures as of 2011 Census estimates)
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.9 US Census, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Georgia: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011