Voters decide Charter changes Saturday

Wade McIntyre

Ascension Parish voters will Saturday determine the fate of efforts to make the first changes in the Ascension Parish Home Rule Charter since the document was adopted in 1993.

The parishwide special election comes on the heels of light early voting, with just 216 early voters recorded for the entire parish.

The election ballot also includes propositions of 5.33 mills and 4.67 mills for the West Ascension Consolidated Gravity District in Donaldsonville.

The proposed Home Rule Charter amendments are as follows:

• Article III pertaining to the office of the parish president.  Amendment 1 would make the salary of the president no less than 15 percent of the sheriff, and no more than 15 percent above.  Amendment 2  would not allow the parish council to reinstate a department head removed by the  president. Amendment 3  would prevent a person named to fill a vacancy in the office of the president from being a candidate in the election to fill that office. Amendment 4 would require the president to notify the council in writing when he expects to be absent more than 7 consecutive days. Amendment 5 provide for the office of the president to be vacant if a temporary absence by the president from office extends more than 90 consecutive days.

• Article IV pertaining to advisory boards and commissions, and the parish council. Amendment 1 provides that members of advisory boards or commissions shall report to the president or the parish council, and that the president shall have the right to reappoint or replace members. Amendment 2 provides that the council may enter into inter-governmental agreements and contracts with other governmental entities. Amendment 3 provides that the council shall no longer have budgetary, fiscal or other controls over all special boards, commissions, agencies, or districts.  Amendment 4 changes Section 4-12(k) to Section 4-12(j). Amendment 5  provides that the council shall set bonds for the Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer. Amendment 6 provides that a person appointed to fill a vacancy on the council shall be ineligible to be a candidate to fill the vacancy that he filled.  Amendment 7 Provides that any vacancy in a local parish office filled by election shall be filled by appointment of the council when a vacancy occurs.

• Article IV pertaining to the parish council. Amendment 1 provides that elected council members from a district shall reside and be qualified electors in that district for at lease six months preceding the election qualifying date. Amendment 2 provides that following publication of the federal census and at least 6 months prior to the next council election, the council may postpone reapportionment for not more than one year. Amendment 3 provides that notice of a council special meeting is not required in the case of public emergency. Amendment 4 provides for the appointment of a council secretary, and authorizes the council to hire employees with benefits and salary.

Article V pertaining to the parish secretary, treasurer/chief financial officer, and parish attorney. Amendment 1  provides that all references to the secretary and treasurer be referred to as Parish Secretary and the Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer. Amendment 2 provides that the treasurer/chief financial officer provide budgetary, fiscal and other controls over all special boards, commissions, agencies, and districts.  Amendment 3 repeats Amendment 1 in another section of Article V.  Amendment 4 provides that the full-time parish attorney be licensed in Louisiana and have practiced law at least 5 years preceding appointment, with no residency restrictions.

Article VI pertaining to ordinance and resolution adoption.  Amendment 1 provides that if a proposed ordinance isn’t signed or vetoed by the president within 10 days of receipt, it shall be considered effective. Amendment 2 provides that the council may no longer remove any person from office if the removal is authorized or approved elsewhere in the charter. Amendment 3 provides that a summary of an ordinance shall be read in the council record, and that the entire ordinance is no longer required to be read into the record. Amendment 3 provides that every emergency ordinance contains a specific statement of the emergency claimed.

Article VII pertaining to bonding requirements. This amendment provides that any member of the parish council or employee of the parish designated by the council shall be bonded.

Article VIII pertaining to references to the parish secretary and the official journal of the parish. Amendment 1 provides for all references to the secretary to be changed to Parish Secretary. Amendment 2  provides for an official journal of the parish for publication of proceedings as required by state law.

Article IX pertains to review of the Home Rule Charter. The amendment provides that a mandatory review of the charter be conducted every ten years.