The council has authority for the establishment of policy which includes such matters as authorizing the expenditures of funds, establishing salary scales and employee classifications, granting bus and taxi franchises, deciding on public improvements and building programs, zoning and adopting subdivision regulations. The council adopts ordinances to regulate the conduct of people and enterprises. In 1951, the City Council collected all permanent city ordinances into one book called the City Code of the City of Baton Rouge. In 1962 a codification of the Parish laws was enacted. In 1983 the Metropolitan Council combined these books and readopted the City and Parish Codes.
One of the most important policy decisions of the Council is approving the yearly budgets. Also, if a surplus of revenue develops over that budgeted, it is the decision of the Council as to how it shall be spent. The Council may make any change in the preliminary budget as submitted by the Mayor-President by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the council, provided the changes do not exceed the mayor's estimated revenues.
Six City-Parish officers are appointed by the Metropolitan Council:
- Budget Officer
- Chief Administrative Officer (the Council Administrator/Treasurer)
- Director of Animal Control
- Director of Aviation
- Parish Attorney
- Public Information Officer
Most of the citizen members of the boards and commissions are appointed by the Metropolitan Council. In addition, the Registrar of Voters is appointed by the Council.
The Council has power to investigate "official misconduct of any department, office or agency under its jurisdiction." This power includes authority to compel appearance of witnesses and to administer oaths.
How the Council Does Its Work
The Council is constantly required to make many important policy decisions as problems arise. These problems affect every citizen and they require the Council to conduct frequent meetings. The Council holds regularly scheduled meetings twice a month and regularly scheduled zoning meetings once a month. However, on many occasions additional meetings are called to handle emergency and special policy matters that cannot wait for the regular meetings. It is at these meetings with twelve councilmen attending that differences of opinion invariable occur and these differences are frequently expressed in warm exchanges during the democratic process of resolving them.
At council meetings public hearings are held on all matters of major importance. The plan specifies a number of matters on which no action may be taken without a public hearing. They include such things as appropriating money, imposing regulations, levying assessments on property to pay for paving projects, levying taxes, and several other types of measures. As the words would indicate, public hearings are an open meeting at which the citizens can hear the debate and speak on the matter up for hearing. The Plan of Government and Rules of Procedure regulate the manner in which public hearings are held.
A public hearing comes about in this way. The plan prohibits final action by the council on such matters as those listed at the first meeting at which they are brought up. Therefore, a councilman must first introduce a measure; that is, he must have it read to the council and ask for a vote of the council as to whether it shall be considered at a later meeting. The matter must be in writing. If the vote is in favor of holding a public hearing at a later time, it is announced for a future date; it cannot be less than six days afterwards.
Council Administrator / Treasurer
The Council Administrator/Treasurer is required to publish a public notice in the Official Journal, which is a designated newspaper published in the parish. The notice gives the date, time and place of the public hearing. At the public hearing any interested citizen may appear before the council and express his views or ask questions. Public hearings on several subjects can be held at one meeting and this is usually the case. If a citizen has opinions or information about a measure up for consideration which he feels should be made known, he should appear at the public hearing.
At the council meetings the President Pro-Tempore presides. The Mayor-President may make recommendations and offer comments on various items but has no vote. The Mayor-President, however, has limited veto power over certain ordinances adopted by the council.
The Parish Attorney prepares drafts of all ordinances and resolutions to be presented to the council. He attends council meetings and committee meetings to render opinions on the legality, legal operation or significance, and interpretation of ordinances and resolutions. All department heads are required to attend council meetings to explain matters of legislation affecting their departments, give background facts and material, and advise the council.
When the council has finally acted upon a matter, it often establishes some policy or program which the Mayor and his department heads will administer. This means that authorizations for certain work and appropriation of funds come from the Council. Doing the work is the responsibility of the Mayor's departments.