Livingston Council sets 5 priorities in Home Rule Charter changes

The Livingston Parish Council’s top five priorities in changing the parish’s Home Rule Charter include ensuring the council’s authority to approve unbudgeted contracts, establishing a parish legal department and giving the council clerk more time to send ordinances to the parish president’s desk for signature or veto.

The council’s priorities, made by unanimous vote Wednesday night, include increasing the minimum qualifications for parish finance director and making the charter’s budget adoption provisions match state law.

The council hopes to put the proposed changes before voters in December. The next steps are to have the parish attorney draft the changes in proposition form, introduce those propositions as an ordinance and then hold a public hearing and vote.

The five chosen changes are among a list of many recommendations from the parish’s Charter Review Commission.

Commission recommendations the Parish Council did not consider a top priority include term limits and increased age minimums for parish president and council members, as well as an alternative dispute resolution procedure designed to keep disagreements between the two branches from reaching a courtroom.

Charter Commissioner Lloyd “Bee” Martin said the council’s priorities didn’t include anything that would grab voters’ attention and draw them to the polls. Martin suggested the council add term limits to its list.

Councilman Delos Blackwell said the council created the commission to address existing problems with parish government. Term limits and age requirements would only cause future problems, Blackwell said.

Council members agreed some of the recommended changes, such as alternative dispute resolution, could be set up by ordinance rather than a parishwide vote.

“Our intention with the commission was to make a few tweaks to make it work for parish government,” Councilwoman Joan Landry said. “These we’ve done will reduce dissension.”

Council Chairman Ricky Goff said keeping the propositions to a minimum will allow voters to digest all the changes and make more informed decisions.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.