What is a home rule charter?
To understand what a home rule charter does, you must first understand the current form of government.
The state constitution, ratified in 1889, spells out how county governments operate, unless voters opt for a home rule charter. The constitution calls for an elected three-member board of commissioners, along with other elected offices such as auditor, treasurer, assessor, clerk, sheriff and prosecuting attorney.
In 1948, the constitution was amended to allow counties to adopt home rule charters. These charters allow local jurisdictions, through an elected board of freeholders, to revamp the structure of county government. There are six charter counties in Washington, with King County being the first to adopt a charter in 1969. Some of the charter counties have enacted large-scale overhauls — King County’s board, for example, has nine members — while changes to other counties are small.
What the charter would do
• Add two council members. One of the commissioners would be the council chairman.
• Hire a county manager, who would oversee department heads. The manager would lead many of the day-to-day operations of the county as part of the charter’s call for separating legislative and executive powers.
• Reduce the council members’ pay nearly in half. The four council members would receive an annual salary of $53,000 a year; the council chair would receive $64,000.