Measuring local discretionary authority Page: 26
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UTILIZATION OF POWER TO DRAFT AND ADOPT A CHARTER, BY TYPE
OF LOCAL UNIT, 1979
'The percentage for each type of local government is based upon the number of responses for that type.
2The total percentage is based upon the total number of responses for all types of local government.
SOURCE: ACIR survey.
As explained in Chapter 3, the first constitutional
provision designed to protect local discretionary
authority (1) prohibited the enactment of special laws
by the state legislature or (2) allowed the enactment
of such laws only upon receipt of an emergency
message from the Governor and approval of the laws
by an extraordinary majority vote of each house of
the legislature. The first affirmative step taken by a
number of states to broaden local discretionary
authority was the adoption of a constitutional
amendment or statutory provision authorizing certain
types of local governments-initially restricted
to cities-to draft, adopt, and amend charters.
Adoption of a locally drafted charter is not permitted
in Alabama, Kentucky, and Virginia; in certain
other states, it is limited to specific types of local
governments (counties in Georgia and cities and
towns in Massachusetts); and in still others, it is
restricted to units of local government exceeding a
specified population (cities of 3,500 or more in
Arizona and cities of 5,000 or more in Texas). In addition,
eligible local governments in several statesKansas,
Illinois, and New York are examples-can
exercise the constitutional grant of discretionary
powers without adopting a charter.
An examination of Table 3 reveals that the power
to draft and adopt a charter is not utilized often by
eligible local governments: Only 18%o of the respondents
checked "often" whereas 33%o checked "seldom"
and 20% "never." The 21 0% "often" response
for towns is attributable in large measure to the
adoption of charters by towns in Massachusetts. The
280% response rate for "often" for boroughs is not a
meaningful figure, because of the small number of
responses. The most common reason for adoption of
a new charter is to achieve greater administrative or
structural discretion (see Appendix Table B-I).
The relatively infrequent use of the power to draft
and adopt charters is attributable to the facts that
many local governments that drafted and adopted
charters years ago still are satisfied with them, or prefer
optional charters made available by statute or
general law charters containing an adequate grant of
discretionary powers. One California correspondent
pointed out that ". . . the statutes have been liberalized
to the extent that a city would gain little if it
adopted its own charter. Most of California's nearly
80 charter cities adopted charters years ago when the
general statutes were more restrictive than now." A
Florida respondent noted that state law ". . . draws
no distinction between charter and noncharter counties,
evidencing a legislative intent to provide the
fullest possible extent of home rule powers for all
counties." A similar distinction was made by a State
of Washington respondent: "Many cities in recent
years have opted for statutory home rule under the
optional municipal code, chapter 35A RCW, rather
than to draft a charter. . . the . . . code provides
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United States. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Measuring local discretionary authority, book, November 1981; Washington, D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1259/m1/38/: accessed January 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.