The King County Charter Review Commission has proposed 12 amendments to the King County charter. The amendments now will be considered by the King County Council for possible inclusion on the November general election ballot.
Voters who adopted the County Charter in 1968 provided for a citizen commission to be assembled every 10 years to review and propose charter updates to the County Council. The King County Charter is the foundation of county government and serves a role similar to that played by the U.S. Constitution.
The recommendations came after the commission held 55 meetings over more than a year.
The County Council has until Sept. 19 to decide which of the commission’s proposed amendments, if any, to place on the November ballot. The council may choose to take no action or defer action on any amendment until a future general election and, in fact, the commission proposed a schedule for phasing in its proposed amendments over the next three general elections.
The 10 substantive amendments proposed are, in alphabetical order:
· Anti-Discrimination: Prohibit discrimination based on disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression in county employment and contracting.
· Budget Timeline: Provide the County Council with an additional 20 days to review the Executive’s proposed budget, providing a total of 65 days for review.
· Charter Amendment by Citizen Initiative: Clarify the process by which citizens may amend the charter through initiative, and increase the signature threshold to 20 percent.
· Commission Procedures: Clarify the Commission appointment and confirmation process, and require the County Council to review all charter review commission recommendations and decide at an open public meeting how to proceed on each recommendation.
· Elections Deadlines: Authorize the county to establish deadlines by ordinance for submitting local ballot measures to the Elections Division.
· Elected Officials and Collective Bargaining: Require the Executive to provide for increased involvement of separately elected county officials, including the Sheriff, in collective bargaining.
· Open Space Protection: Establish additional protection for over 100,000 acres of open space properties in which the county owns an interest.
· Qualifications: Permit the council to establish additional qualifications for separately elected officials who head charter-based departments.
· Regional Committees: Reduce the number of county councilmembers on regional committees, establish a vice-chair position to be filled by a non-council member; and increase the authority of committees to initiate legislation and, in the case of the Regional Policy Committee, to adopt its own work program, including new subject matter that involves regional policies or plans.
· Unincorporated Areas Representation: Designate a high-level position within the Office of the Executive to represent the interests of rural and urban unincorporated area residents, and amend the Charter Preamble to reflect the county’s commitment to unincorporated areas.
The Commission also recommended two non-substantive, technical charter amendments:
· Budget Allotments: Remove the outdated requirement that county agencies submit estimates of spending to the Executive.
· Transitory Provisions: Remove obsolete charter language pertaining to the county’s transition to a home rule charter government and consolidation with Metro.