HB 224, the change of county government bill, was perhaps the most disruptive issue among UAC membership this year. UAC staff worked to address this legislation throughout the Session – even to the last day when new provisions were proposed, modified, amended and then finally adopted.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Gage Froerer, attempted to simplify the process for changing a county’s form of government. This goal was not achieved. What did result from the effort is legislation which serves many interests and creates a multi-faceted process for considering whether to change the form of county government. The final version imposes limitations on change of government proposals for almost all counties, but provides a simplified process for changing the form for others.
The summary below identifies the various provisions of the bill and the processes that apply to a county based on its population. If you want only to do a quick review, just look for the provisions that apply to a county of your population size. The remainder of the bill may, in fact, be irrelevant to you.
- The bill provides a “grandfather” provision for counties that have already began the process to change.
- Before July 1, 2018, a resolution from the current governing body (commission initiated) or a petition from county residents (petition initiated) can trigger a special election on November 6, 2018, asking whether a study group should be formed to consider and recommend a change in the county’s form of government.
- Currently, citizens are capable of petitioning for a change of county form of government, but the current governing body may interfere with the petition process by initiating its own study. This bill does away with that authority by prohibiting a person from initiating the process to change if another process to change is pending.
- An appointment of a study committee chair and study committee must perform the study then submit their findings in a report to the county clerk.
- A study committee shall consist of seven members. The committee creates a report and if the report recommends a change in the form of county government, the county clerk shall send the report to the county attorney or district attorney. The attorney then reviews the report for any statutory or constitutional violations then returns the report to the clerk.
- If the study committee’s report does not recommend a change in the form of county government, the report is final, the study committee is dissolved, and the process to change is concluded.
- In a county with a population of 225,000 or more, or in a county in which voters approved the appointment of a study committee by a vote of at least 60%, the county legislative body shall hold an election on the optional plan.
- In a county that is not currently operating in an authorized form of government, the county legislative body must initiate a change in their form of county government before July 1, 2018. At the conclusion of the process, the county must adopt one of the authorized forms.
- Allows for a streamlined process for counties with a population above 500,000. It requires the change in county’s form of government question be submitted to registered voters of the county at the next election on November 6, 2018.
I hope this summary is helpful. UAC staff will remain available to answer questions and to assist you to sort through the details of the bill. We will, of course, also be ready to assist with efforts in future to modify the law as needed.