Your City Council Works
Legislation can be introduced on the
floor of Council by a Councilmember as a personal paper, or can come through a
committee. In either case, almost all legislation goes before a committee for
discussion at some time.
The Atlanta City Government is divided
into three bodies: the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The Council
serves as the legislative branch. City departments, under the direction of the
mayor, constitute the executive branch and the Courts, the judicial branch.
The legislative body, comprised of the
Council, makes the laws that govern the city. It is responsible for the
development of policies which serve as operational standards and establishes the
parameters for the administration of city government.
The Executive body carries out the laws
that have been instituted by the Council. It is responsible for the day-today
operations of city government.
A new charter was enacted in 1996 that
reduced the representation of Council to 12 districts and three at large posts
-- effective January 1998.
The 1974 Charter resulted in many
changes in Atlanta City government. Prior to its adoption, the legislative body
was called the Board of Aldermen and each alderman was elected citywide. The
1974 charter changed the Board of Aldermen to the City Council; the vice-mayor
to the president of the Council; and established 12 Council members to be
elected from individual districts and six at-large posts. The administration of
the dayto-day operation of city government was transferred to the executive
branch, and legislative authority was vested in the Council. This system allows
the Council to maintain a strong system of checks and balances.
Legislation takes two forms --
ordinances and resolutions. An ordinance establishes a permanent rule of government.
Every official act of the Council, having the force and effect of law, must be
an ordinance. Ordinances must be read before full Council at two regular
meetings. There are exceptions, for example, a Charter amendment requires three
Resolutions usually express intent or
support of various projects and enterprises or establish legislative policy of a
general nature. Resolutions need be read only once and can be introduced and
adopted at the same meeting.
Citizens have the opportunity to appear
before a standing committee and to express their views on any piece of
legislation. (Citizen comments on matters related to zoning changes are heard by
the Zoning Review Board which meets once month and must give public notice of
the hearing.) In some cases, the Council is required by law to hold a public
hearing and must notify the public about the hearing.
After a paper has been through the
committee process, it is voted on by the full Council. The Council may accept or
reject the committee's recommendations. A majority vote is needed for adoption.
When a paper is adopted by the Council,
it goes to the mayor for signature. The paper must be approved or vetoed within
seven days. If not signed or vetoed within that period, it automatically becomes
law. If vetoed, the Council can override with a two-thirds vote.
The president of the City Council is
elected from the city at-large. The Council consists of 15 members, 12 elected
from single-member districts and three elected at-large.
The Council president presides at all
meetings of the Council and votes in the case of a tie. The president of Council
appoints chairs and members of the various committees, subject to rejection by a
majority of the Council.
The Council president exercises all
powers and discharges all duties of the mayor in case of a vacancy in that
office or during the disability of the mayor.
The current Council members are elected
to a four-year term commencing with the first Monday in January.
members of the Council elect a president pro tempore to serve a oneyear term
beginning with the first meeting in January. The president pro tempore
presides over the Council meetings in the president's absence. Councilmembers
are paid an annual salary of $39,473. The Council president
is paid $41,000 annually.