After 18 months, the East Baton Rouge Parish Plan of Government Amendment Committee has completed its draft of proposed changes to the local constitution, which will be introduced at the July 24 Metro Council meeting.
The proposed amendments include major changes, such as implementing two at-large council seats and a city manager position, along with enhancing council authority over the annual executive budget process.
After introduction, the committee hopes to have a public hearing and Metro Council vote on a final version of the amendments at its Aug. 14 meeting. The goal, says committee chair and council member Donna Collins-Lewis, is to get approved proposals to voters on the Nov. 16 ballot. She also plans to hold a public meeting on Aug. 1.
One of the major proposals would change the makeup of the Metro Council, creating 10 single-member council districts, rather than the current 12, and adding two at-large members. One at-large member would qualify from a citywide residence, while the other qualifies from a parishwide residence. Both, however, must be elected by a parishwide vote. The mayor pro tem would be selected by the council from one of the two at-large members for a two-year term.
The committee also suggests implementing a city manager as the chief administrative officer, a position that would require higher qualifications and would specifically supervise agencies that report to the mayor. The proposal would also create two additional positions—a chief of staff and an executive counsel in the mayor’s office.
The chief of staff role would oversee political and policy activities, the committee says, relieving the city manager of these duties, which have traditionally been handled by the CAO. Collins-Lewis adds the city manager would be selected by the mayor, but require council confirmation.
Another amendment would give the Metro Council an additional 30 days to review the mayor’s executive annual budget. Currently, the council receives the budget on Nov. 5 and must adopt it by Dec. 15. The proposal would require the budget be submitted to the council on Oct. 15 and adopted by Dec. 31. The mayor’s office would also have to include a council budget officer in budget meetings.
The changes would give the council more say in the budget process. According to the committee, the Metro Council has only amended the executive budget once in the last 12 years.
The Plan of Government committee’s other recommendations include:
• Limiting the mayor to two consecutive terms, down from the current three
• Placing appointment of the planning director under authority of the mayor, while planning commission members remain appointed by the council
• Requiring the Metro Council establish qualifications for appointees on boards and commissions, such as CATS, BREC, the library system, among others
The 12-member committee met over the last 18 months to draft their proposed amendments to the Plan of Government, which hasn’t seen a major update since 2007.
“I am deeply satisfied,” Collins-Lewis says. “It was a long process.”