Pierce County voters won’t elect a charter review commission in 2013.
The Pierce County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to shelve a proposal for voters to select a 21-member panel that would recommend changes to the county charter two years early. The next required charter commission election is in 2015.
After they’re elected, these commissions are empowered to send charter amendments to voters the following year. It is the system Pierce County has established for citizens to change the 1980 home-rule charter, essentially the rulebook for county government.
The proposal for an expedited timeline was questioned last week by County Auditor Julie Anderson. She said that if the county went with a 2013 election, both the county’s and the City of Tacoma’s charter amendment proposals would appear on the same ballot in November 2014.
Anderson said having both sets of amendments on the same ballot could confuse voters and raise election costs by requiring a second ballot card. And Tacoma residents would have to vote on two sets of amendments at the same time.
Councilmember Tim Farrell, D-Tacoma, said he originally proposed the “fast-track” election because the County Council has considered and sent a number of charter amendments to voters in the past eight years. But even he relented in Tuesday’s 7-0 vote to postpone his proposal indefinitely.
To prevent confusion between county and city voters, “it looks like we’re going to have to put this thing off yet again,” Farrell said. “I still think it’s a good idea if we’d done it this year.”
Councilmember Rick Talbert, another Tacoma Democrat who cosponsored the proposal, said at a study session earlier Tuesday there could be an “extreme amount of confusion” with numerous amendments from both the county and city on the same ballot.
A county charter review commission is elected at least once every 10 years to send charter amendments to voters the following year.The council also can put amendments on the ballot. It has considered several in the past year.
Last month, the council voted to put a charter amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot that would require any new county tax to be approved by a supermajority of five council members.
The last time county voters elected a charter review commission, it advanced nine amendments to the November 2006 ballot. The issues ranged from private property rights to the scope of the county executive’s power to how many signatures are needed to put an initiative or referendum on the firstname.lastname@example.org