CRC: Proposed Charter Changes

Charter Revision Committee drafts recommendations to council

The 2012 Charter Revision Committee is charged with more than making a recommendation on geographic representation. Because changes to the City Charter, Austin's governing document, can only be made once every two years, the committee has issued (thus far) several additional recommendations for items to be put before voters next year.

The committee meets again Jan. 5, when it will debate (and perhaps decide) whether to recommend some single-member district plan. The committee's final recommendations will go to City Council for review and approval, and council will decide what proposals to put on the November 2012 ballot.

On Oct. 13, the committee issued the following recommendations for questions to be placed on the ballot in the next charter election:

Move municipal elections from May to November.

Prohibit council members from switching places to avoid term limits.

Make the required number of signatures for initiative and referendum petitions the same as that of charter amendment petitions: 5% of the city's qualified voters (it's currently 10% for initiative and referendum petitions).

Have the city attorney report to council instead of to the city manager.

Allow council members to appoint their own staff members. (They essentially do already, but currently, appointments are formally made by the city manager.)

Allow the city clerk to appoint his own deputy clerks (council currently appoints).

Allow the city auditor to appoint deputy auditors.

On Dec. 8, the committee recommended additional ballot questions:

Create a new, 30-day fundraising period once an election is completed, so candidates could retire their campaign debts.

Double current limits on officeholder accounts, from $20,000 to $40,000.

Grant the Ethics Review Commission jurisdiction over campaign finance violations and the ability to recommend whether violations have occurred (powers it currently lacks).

Require rapid disclosure of political expenditures made in the last nine days of a campaign; currently, these disclosures are made after the election.

Require digital submission of campaign finance and lobbying reports, in a searchable format.

Require disclosure of independent expenditures from PACs and noncandidates.

Specify that revenue-bond-financed projects that cost more than $50 million – usually on large utility projects – be sent to voters for approval.

(Disclosure: The Charter Revision Committee that drafted the recommendations includes Susan Moffat, wife of Chronicle Publisher Nick Barbaro.)

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