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Board of Freeholders > What is a home rule charter?


What is a home rule charter?

Allowed by state law, a charter gives voters more say in the structure of county government.

Most county functions are set by state law and cannot be changed regardless of home rule. For example, a county provides courts and law enforcement, builds roads, assesses property, collects taxes, and conducts elections.

With home rule, the structure of county government could change but the county would continue to carry out certain functions. In addition, any county laws enacted through home rule would still have to be legal under the state and federal constitutions; county laws cannot override state or federal laws.

What does home rule charter do?

Six Washington counties have adopted home rule charters including Clallam, King, Pierce, San Juan, Snohomish and Whatcom. Each one is slightly different.

What is the home rule charter process?

The first step toward making Clark County a home rule county was to elect a group of freeholders in November 2013. Freeholders are responsible for drafting a specific charter to put before voters in a subsequent election.

Can the charter be changed?

Yes. If voters approve a home rule charter for Clark County, other changes could take place in the future.

How would future changes be made?

A charter review commission, which would review the charter at set periods of time, could propose amendments. County commissioners could propose changes, too. In addition, if the charter includes the initiative option, citizens could propose charter amendments through the initiative process. Proposed amendments would be submitted to voters at a general election.

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