You may have heard about the Covington City Council’s requested charter amendment being held up by our local delegation to the State Capitol this week. I’m writing today to let you know more about why the legislation was held up, and how you can help make sure we get term limits enacted this year. I only have 500 words or less to get my message out there, so I’ll do my best to keep it as condensed as possible!
First, let’s cover some basics:
1) The City of Covington operates under the authority granted to it by the State of Georgia. Its governing document, commonly referred to as “The Charter,” sets forth the structure of our municipal government. To enact term limits, we must have an updated version of the charter ratified by the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia Senate.
2) I’m not sure if this is codified in the House or Senate rules, but I do know that when it comes to local legislation, a bill won’t see the light of day unless everyone in the local delegation is on board with it. This means it only takes one nay vote to “kill” a bill.
For those of you following the story, you know the council voted unanimously to draft a resolution requesting our state senators and state representatives, aka “our delegation,” to amend the city charter during the 2019 legislative session. The resolution requested that we change the language of our charter to impose a limit on the number of terms one can hold office to three terms. The decision did not come easily. It took debate and compromise in work sessions spanning the course of a year to reach a unanimous consensus. With the final decision to impose 12-year term limits on the mayor and council being unanimous, we fully expected the legislation to sail through both houses of the General Assembly. Keep in mind, we aren’t asking our delegation to choose a side in a controversial policy decision. We are asking them to work on behalf of a united city council because we aren’t authorized to do the work ourselves.
Here’s what I found out this week about the charter change after speaking with all four members of our delegation.
1) Tonya Anderson will not support the charter change without a binding referendum.
2) Pam Dickerson does not agree with term limits and does not support the charter change as is currently written. She has suggested a non-binding referendum, essentially a poll of the will of the people, be put on the ballot this fall.
3) Brian Strickland - Being that this is local legislation requested by all six members of Covington’s legislative body, he believes this needs to get done for the people of Covington.
4) Dave Belton has taken the lead on this under the Gold Dome since Kenneth Morgan and I reached out to him about it last year. This councilman is thankful for the effort he’s put into doing what the city of Covington has asked.
Despite the differences of opinion, a compromise was in the works on Thursday evening. The suggested compromise was that the charter be changed to impose a maximum of three terms of service for the mayor and council, which would go into effect following approval by the voters in a referendum in November 2019. As of Friday morning, Pam Dickerson was the remaining hold out. At the time of this writing, a compromise of four terms of service, contingent upon approval by the voters of Covington this November is going to be presented to Rep. Dickerson. I’m not a fan of this deal, but if that is what it takes to get term limits enacted in 2019, I think it’s a win.
Please join me in respectfully requesting Rep. Pam Dickerson join the rest of our local delegation in supporting term limits for the mayor and council of the city of Covington, contingent upon the outcome of a referendum on the matter in November of 2019.
Rep. Pam Dickerson can be contacted at 404-656-0314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covington City Councilman