Laws governing local ballot measures in Georgia

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Laws Governing Local Ballot Measures

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In Georgia, most local governments have an initiative process for local ballot measures. This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in Georgia. It explains:
  • 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:

Cities: There are 535 cities in Georgia, and all cities have charters. Although some cities are known by other terms (such as "town"), Georgia law makes no such distinction.[1]

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.[2][3] 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.[4]

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
A guide to local ballot initiatives
Local Ballot Initiatives cover.jpg

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.

Counties

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.[5]

Cities

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.[5]

City-county consolidations

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.[6][7]

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.[8][9][10][11][12]

Initiative process features

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Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with
clipboards, conversations, and campaigns

Counties



Cities



Authority

Constitution

The Georgia Constitution establishes the local initiative process for counties.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Georgia Constitution, Article IX, Section II, Paragraph I (b)

Statutes

The Georgia Code establishes the local initiative process for cities.

DocumentIcon.jpg 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[13] Population City Type Next election
Atlanta 432,427 Charter Special Election
Augusta 196,494 Charter as consolidated city-county Special Election
Columbus 194,107 Charter as consolidated city-county 11/4/2014
Savannah 139,491 Charter Special Election
Athens 116,084 Charter as consolidated city-county N/A
Sandy Springs 96,856 Charter Special Election
Macon 91,856 Charter Special Election
Roswell 91,168 Charter Special Election
Johns Creek 79,192 Charter Special Election
Albany 77,683 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.



See also

External links

References