© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

5 things to know about the St. Louis County charter commission

The St. Louis County Council approved three charter amendments earlier this month. One would provide the council with more authority over the county budget.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis County Council, as well as County Executive Steve Stenger, will nominate members of a charter review commission in 2019.

St. Louis County voters this month approved the formation of a charter commission by a vote of 55 percent for 45 percent. The charter is the blueprint for county government.

Here are five things to know about the commission, which starts work in 2019.

1. Why was the creation of the commission on the ballot?

Because the charter says it has to be.

Article X of the current charter, which was last revised in 1979, says: “At the general election in November 1998, and every 10 years thereafter,” elections officials have to ask voters, “Shall there be a Charter Commission to revise and amend the Charter?”

2. When was the last time voters approved a commission?

November 1998, 62 percent to 38 percent. Its members approved a new charter, but voters rejected it in April 2000, with 34 percent voting yes.

3. Who’s on the commission?

There will be 14 members, half nominated by the St. Louis County Council and half by the county executive, Democrat Steve Stenger. Each council member gets to nominate a registered voter from their district.

Stenger must nominate at least two people who hold elected office in one of the county’s 88 municipalities. All together, no more than eight members can be from the same political party, although the battles in St. Louis County politics are currently more along personal than party lines.

4. What are their responsibilities?

Members are tasked with framing a “charter or amendment or amendments,” although it’s possible the commission could review the current document and decide that it doesn’t need to be changed. Any amendments, or an entirely new charter, must be approved by nine of the 14 members (60 percent).

Because we don’t know names, we don’t know what members think the priorities should be. But Sam Page, the Democratic chairman of the County Council, said he would like the commission to consider giving the council the authority to hire its own attorney.

“Currently, we share a legal counsel [with the county executive,] which doesn’t make much sense and has led to a lot of disagreements that, if each side had an attorney, they probably could have been worked out,” Page told St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies.

St. Louis County voters rejected that proposal in August by a 12-vote margin.

5. How long will the entire process take?

Two years is the maximum length of time.

The 14 members have to be appointed by Jan. 20. The charter says the commission exists until Dec. 31 following its appointment, although it can wrap up its work sooner. Voters would then have to approve any proposed changes “at a special or general election held on a day fixed by the commission” at least 30 days, but no more than a year, after the commission finishes its work.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.