What is Home Rule, and how does it differ from General Law?
In general terms, the specific powers of General Law cities are spelled out in the State statutes. These cities are restricted to performing the services and exercising the regulatory powers spelled out in the State law books, including the Government and Local Government Code. If no State law authorizes or specifically implies authority for a particular General Law city action, none may be taken. The reverse is true for Home Rule cities. Unlike General Law cities, which look to the State to tell them what they may do, Home Rule cities look to the Texas Constitution and State laws to see what they are forbidden to do.
Home Rule was established by Texas voters in 1912, and enabling legislation was passed in 1913. In the Bridgeport May of 2016 election, the Home Rule Charter was passed by voters.
The primary objectives of the Act were:
- To create a favorable climate for more direct governing of cities by their citizens;
- Secure adequate powers so that municipalities could meet increased demands for services;
- Avoid interference in local government from the state legislature, and
- Allow cities to act without affirmative action of the legislature.
What is the purpose of Home Rule
- The governmental structure of their City
- The form of government (in other words, Council-Manager, Mayor-Manager, Mayor-Council, etc.)
- Large or small City Council
- Election of Council members – single-member districts or by place
- Fixed terms of office
- Selection of the Mayor (age requirements, residency, terms of office)
- The administrative structure of the City
- Providing for the appointment or election of central administrative officials such as the Municipal Judge, City Attorney, and City Secretary
- Creation of any board or commission that the voters feel is necessary to run the City effectively
- Initiative, referendum, and recall: These three powers are reserved for exclusive use by the home-rule city so local voters can provide natural remedies in unusual situations. These powers are unique to home-rule cities; they are not available to any other level of Texas government, including the State.
- The initiative is a procedure where local voters directly propose or initiate legislation. This procedure circumvents the City Council by direct ballot action with broad community support, but the Council refuses to enact it. In other words, citizens can create local laws that will be sent directly to the voters for approval.
- The referendum is a procedure under which local voters can repeal unpopular existing ordinances the Council refuses to rescind by its action.
- The recall is a process by which local voters can oust City Council members before the expiration of their term.