SB 22 proposes changes to commissioners powers

Photo of Henry County Administration Building (J.R. Bowman Construction photo)

New legislation filed in the state legislature proposes changes to the board of commissioners’ powers if approved. The bill also proposes a seven-member board of ethics with investigation powers.

Senate Bill 22 is sponsored by Senator Emanuel Jones. Senator Jones (D) represents portions of central and north Henry County in the state senate. Jones filed the bill on January 26 and the senate referred it to the committee on state and local governmental operations.

The twenty-two page bill has two sections: first, the proposed board of ethics and code of ethics, followed by changes to the board of commissioners’ authorities. Moving Henry Forward has selected to break the bill into two articles because of its length. This article focuses on the board of commissioners’ powers.

Henry County Commissioners

Major changes to the board’s powers were last adopted in 2015 through house bill 554. The proposed senate bill 22 would restructure the board’s authorities transferring certain responsibilities from the board as a whole to the county chair. Other responsibilities, such as hiring assistant county clerks, would transfer to the staff level.

To best understand what SB 22 is proposing, Moving Henry Forward will compare and contrast below the two bills. HB 554 is the bill that currently governs the board of commissioners.

Selecting the County Manager

  • HB 554: the board shall appoint a non-elected individual to serve as county manager, and individual(s) to serve as assistant county manager(s) as necessary and appropriate.
  • SB 22: the board shall approve the chair’s appointment of a non-elected individual to serve as county manager. The firing of the county manager would be up to the chair. Furthermore, assistant county manager(s) may be hired or fired by the county manager with the chair’s approval.

Similarly, senate bill 22 would transfer the hiring and firing of the county attorney and county clerk from the whole board to the chair. The rest of the board must approve an appointment, but not a termination. The hiring and firing of assistant county attorneys or assistant county clerks would be up to the county attorney or county clerk, respectively. Currently, the BOC makes those decisions.

Setting the qualifications, compensation and job description for the above positions remains with the board as a whole. The hiring and firing of the board’s executive assistant(s) remains with the board.

County Chair Responsibilities

Senate Bill 22 proposes several new responsibilities for the county chair not currently addressed in house bill 554:

  • The chair shall approve all expense, reimbursement or other non-salary payments to commissioners. If the chair denies a request, then a majority of the board may vote to approve such payment.
  • Unless a specific appointment authority is otherwise provided by state law, the chair shall appoint a member to any authority, board or commission established by the board of commissioners. For example, the chair does not currently have an appointment to the county parks & recreation board.

The county chair does not have an appointment to the development authority nor water authority boards, but acts of the general assembly govern both authorities. Finally, the chair would retain full voting rights as a member of the board of commissioners.

Senate Bill 22 is available to read in its entirety on the General Assembly website. If you haven’t already, check out my first article about the proposed board of ethics.

Credit for the featured image to J.R. Bowman Construction.

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