In The News › Possible Changes to St. Tammany’s Charter to Be Discussed Monday

Jan 18, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

Possible Changes to St. Tammany’s Charter to Be Discussed Monday

Possible changes to St. Tammany Parish’s charter to be discussed Monday
St. Tammany bureau

The League of Women Voters of St. Tammany will host a panel discussion Monday to debate
possible changes to the parish ’s home rule charter, such as term limits for Parish Council
members and reducing the size of the council.

The forum, from 6 to 8 p.m., in the Parish Council chambers on Koop Drive north of Mandeville,
will feature Janet Howard, president and chief executive officer of the Bureau of Governmental
Research; parish councilmen Henry Billiot of Mandeville and Steve Stefancik of Slidell and league
board member Norma Gavin.

The Bureau of Governmental Research — a nonprofit citizen -supported organization based in
New Orleans — in 2002 did a detailed study of the voter-approved charter which replaced the old
Police Jury with a parish president-Parish Council government in 2000.

The bureau, at the time, concluded that the charter is “solid document that is working well” but
which also “could be fine-tuned.”

Suggestions made by the bureau included the eventual reduction in the size of the Parish Council
from 14 to an unspecified number of members and allowing independent legal representation for
the parish administration and council instead of requiring the District Attorney’s Office to represent
both.

Any changes to the charter — the constitution for St. Tammany’s government — require voter
approval. Amendments can be placed on the ballot by a two-thirds majority vote of the council or a
petition signed by 20 percent of the parish’s registered voters.

Billiot in 2005 introduced an ordinance to propose amending the charter to include term limits for
Parish Council members identical to the three -consecutive-term limit for the parish president.
But Katrina hit a month after his proposal was introduced, and Billiot withdrew the amendment
because the focus of parish officials shifted from political matters. Billiot said recently he will ask
the council to revisit the issue.

“I don’t care if we have term limits or not ” Billiot said. “But I think it should be the same for both the
Parish President and council members. Have it for both or don ’t have it. ”

Stefancik, when the charter was approved by narrow 121-vote margin in 1998, was a supporter of
the Police Jury government. But he has since praised the parish ’s shift to the new government.

Gavin and other league members were regular attendees at the many meetings in which an

Jan 18, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

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