Newton County’s enabling act, which determines the form of government and how the county is run, passed through the State Senate on March 11 and through the State House as a substitute act on Wednesday.
This means the next step for the enabling act is for it to go back to the Senate to be agreed upon and made into one bill. There are 2 days left in this legislative session.
The bill, which became Senate Bill 423, was sponsored by Senator Rick Jeffares, and passed three days after it was first read. Senate Bill 423 then went to the House where it was first read on March 14, and went to a committee where the substitutes were amended on Wednesday.
Among the items that were amended in the house’s substitute act are: board of commissioners pay; the procedures for a replacement board member and chair in case of a vacancy; veto power of the chair; the county manager reporting to the chair; and a time frame on objections by the board on checks signed for purchases by the chair and county manager.
The county’s current charter has the chair as the designated figure of authority in Newton County government; the new charter would move the county to a form of government in which the county manager is formally takes over day-to-day operations. After a home rule change was made in 2011, the county has been operating under a county manager form of government but the change was never adopted into its charter.
The form of government legislation was approved to go to the county’s state delegation by the Newton County Board of Commissioners on Jan. 10 in a 4-1 vote, with District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson voting against.
Newton County will hold a special called meeting concerning the form of government on Monday at 7pm.
Section 1-103 of Newton County’s enabling legislation concerning board of commissioners
The senate bill stated that each member of the board receive a 2 ½ percent addition to their base salary for each four year term served, up to a maximum of 30 percent. Other provisions on pay in the original senate bill stated that a miscellaneous expense allowance of $200 per month be paid and that commissioners could receive 10 percent of their base salary for completing certified county officer training in lieu of a $100 supplement authorized by state code.
Those additional payments were removed in the House’s substitute bill.
Section 1-104 of the county’s proposed legislation concerning county chair
The senate-passed bill stated “to veto acts as provided for by procedural rules adopted by the board.” The house-passed substitute bill stated “to veto acts of the governing authority approved by no more than three members.” The substitute bill did not reference procedural rules, but wrote into the legislation that: “the veto be provided by chair in writing no more than eight days after occurrence of act (b) the county clerk provide coy of veto to other member within five days of receipt of veto (c) no later than 60 days after date of veto the veto may be overturned by a vote of at least four members of governing authority.”
The original form of government legislation that was suggested to the board of commissioners by an appointed citizen’s committee had veto language in the charter. At the suggestion of interim county attorney Jarrard and Davis that language was removed from the legislation and placed in the county’s rules and procedures.
Just before the final form of government document was sent to state legislatures, the board approved to maintain language stating the veto would be included in internal operating and procedural rules.
Section 1-105 concerning the county manager
The substitute bill from the house says the county manager is “to report to the chair regarding day to day operations and preparations of preliminary agenda items.”
In the new charter, both the chair and county manager would be responsible for signing checks for county purchases. The substitute bill passed by the house added that any check for purchases of Newton County shall be considered action taken by all board members unless it is objected to in writing within 60 days.
In case of a vacated seat
The final change in the senate bill by the house was that in the event of a vacancy of the chair or board of commissioners by death, resignation or otherwise, and the term of office exceeds 180 days before the date of election, the county’s election superintendent is to call a special election to elect a successor. The senate’s bill did not have a time parameter, and said that the post would be filled by the remaining members of the board.