How Your Council Works

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The Atlanta City Council makes the laws governing the City of Atlanta. It develops policies that serve as operational standards and establishes the parameters for the administration of city government.

City Charter

The 1974 Charter Amendment resulted in many changes in Atlanta city government. Prior to its adoption, the legislative body was called the City of Atlanta Board of Aldermen, and each alderman was elected citywide.

The 1974 Charter Amendment changed the board of aldermen to the city council; the vice-mayor to the president of the council; and established 12 councilmembers to be elected from individual districts and six at-large posts. Administration of the day-to-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.

A new city charter was enacted in 1996 and made effective in January 1998 that reduced the representation of council from 18 to 12 districts and three at-large posts.


Ordinances and Resolutions

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 city charter amendment requires three readings. A resolution generally expresses the intent or support of various projects and enterprises, or establishes legislative policy of a general nature. Resolutions need be read only once and can be introduced and adopted at the same meeting.

Standing Committees

The standing committees of the Atlanta City Council meet to consider legislation and to make recommendations on each item. The committees then report their actions to the full council (the entire city council body).

Citizens have the opportunity to appear before a standing committee to express their views on any piece of legislation. Comments from the public on matters related to zoning changes are heard by the Zoning Review Board, an independent body comprised of appointed city residents.

Legislation can be introduced on the floor of council by a councilmember as a personal paper or may come through a standing committee. In either case, almost all legislation goes before a committee for discussion at some time.

After a paper has received a favorable recommendation from the committee, the full council takes a vote. The council may accept or reject the committee’s recommendations. A majority vote is needed for adoption.

Once adopted by the council, the legislation 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 a mayoral veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

Atlanta City Council Representatives

The council president is elected from the city at-large (citywide). 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 council president appoints chairs and members of 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.

Councilmembers are elected to four-year terms commencing with the first Monday in January. The members of the council elect a president pro-tempore each year to serve a one-year term beginning with the first meeting in January. The president pro-tempore presides over the council meetings in the president’s absence.

Atlanta City Councilmembers are paid an annual salary of $60,300. The Atlanta City Council President is paid an annual salary of $62,000.