Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Voters in Municipality to Consider Proposed Home Rule Charter Changes Ballot Question Mulled in Fall

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Voters in Municipality to Consider Proposed Home Rule Charter Changes Ballot Question Mulled in Fall

Article excerpt

Voters in Bethel Park in November will decide whether to approve proposed changes to the municipality's Home Rule Charter, which is basically the local constitution.

Two main changes are proposed to the charter.

The first question relates to the effect a citizens' petition would have on ordinances calling for increases or decreases in taxes, said Bethel Park Councilman Jim McLean.

Currently, to challenge an ordinance, a group of citizens can circulate a petition and, if enough people sign it, the matter will be placed on a ballot. Citizens must garner signatures from at least 20 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election.

"The Home Rule Charter currently states that if a valid petition is submitted, the effect is to suspend the entire ordinance - even the part that is not being challenged - until the electorate votes on the challenge," Mr. McLean said.

Mr. McLean said if a tax ordinance is challenged, it would mean the entire tax ordinance would be suspended - not just the part being challenged. Therefore, there would be no ordinance in place for collecting taxes, even at the previous amount, until a vote occurs.

He added that since a vote by the electorate may not take place until a November election, "a suspension of the entire ordinance could prevent the municipality from operating."

The proposed change to the charter would make it clear that the petitions challenging an increase or decrease in taxes could still be submitted, but the effect would only to be suspend the part of the ordinance that increases or decreases taxes and not the entire ordinance.

The second change relates to whether citizens can be given a second chance to submit a petition, if the number of signatures on their petition is not sufficient.

Under the current charter, a committee of five or more people wishing to challenge an ordinance must notify the municipality within 30 days after the ordinance is adopted and then submit a petition with the minimum number of signatures - 20 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election - within 60 days after that. …

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