HRC Revision Committee sets first meeting

Halen Doughty

The Home Rule Charter Revision Committee will hold its first meeting on March 15 at 5 p.m. in the Ascension Parish Courthouse in Gonzales. The committee will review proposed changes to the home rule charter, including proposals to remove the position of parish president and alter the parish council representation.

The committee was established by an 8-1 vote at the last meeting of the Ascension Parish Council. A proposal by A Better Ascension to replace the elected position of parish president with a qualified parish manager appointed by the parish council has gotten a lot of attention, but that's not the only recommendation the committee will review.

Prairieville Councilman Aaron Lawler said the committee will also review other ideas like altering districts of the parish council. Under that change, the number of districts could be reduced to seven or nine. To make up the difference, additional council members would serve to represent the parish as a whole, rather than just one district, keeping the total number of council members the same.

Lawler said some issues, like transportation, affect the parish as a whole. In those instances, he said it would be beneficial to have representatives who consider all of Ascension Parish and not just one district. That's just one of many proposals on the table that the committee will review.

Some council members have appointed a proxy to represent their district on the committee, while others have decided to serve themselves as unbiased representatives. District 3 Councilman Daniel "Doc" Satterlee has reportedly appointed Wade Petite of the Pelican Post to serve in his place on the committee. Councilman Dempsey Lambert appointed Brian Trosclair of ABA to serve in his place.

Lawler, on the other hand, has decided to serve on the committee himself.

"I thought about [appointing a proxy] before and talked to a couple of people who were interested in doing it," said Lawler. "The main people I talked to were either 100 percent for it or 100 percent against it."

Lawler said the point of the committee is to thoroughly review every proposal on the table, not just voice an opinion on the ABA recommendation. He said he didn't want someone who has already made up his or her mind to promote their opinion and not listen to all of the options.

Chairman Bill Dawson of the Ascension Parish Council will serve as temporary chairman of the committee. He said he will simply call the first meeting to order and oversee the vote to elect a chairman of the committee. Dawson said after vacating the position of chairman, he will serve on the committee himself.

Dawson noted the committee will have plenty of information to review in taking a closer look at the home rule charter. He said committees met in both 2002 and 2009 to review the charter, and both groups issued reports of their own. Those two items were included in the resolution establishing the committee.

Dawson added that the Ascension Republican Parish Executive Committee and the Ascension Citizens Group have made their own proposals as well in regard to the home rule charter. Their ideas will be vetted along with the recommendation from ABA.

With the first meeting just weeks away, we can expect to hear much more about the home rule charter as the committee takes up various ideas for changing parish government.

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