BETHEL PARK HOME RULE STUDY COMMISSION
Study Commission Meeting Dates
Bethel Park Home Rule Study Commission
The Bethel Park Home Rule Study Commission was appointed by Bethel Park Municipal Council as an ad hoc committee to undertake a review of the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter and, with input from the citizens of Bethel Park, consider whether it is appropriate to recommend changes or amendments, if any, to the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter. The committee is to report on any recommended changes or amendments to Municipal Council and any such changes or amendments, if adopted by Council, are to be submitted in accordance with law to the voters of Bethel Park and to become effective only if the requisite votes are cast by the voters in favor of the changes or amendments.
(Mission Statement adopted November 18, 2014)
Questions & Answers
The Municipal Council of Bethel Park has appointed an ad hoc advisory committee of 11 persons to review the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter and, with input from the public, consider whether any changes or amendments to the Charter should be recommended for the residents to ultimately vote on. Here are answers to some likely questions related to this process.
What is meant by “Home Rule”?
“Home Rule” refers to the power and authority of the people of a local political subdivision to choose their own form of government and decide for themselves how the local government will be structured and administered. Since 1968, the Pennsylvania Constitution has allowed municipalities to adopt home rule charters, and, in 1972, the state legislature passed a law for implementation of the home rule option. All Home Rule Charters remain subject to the laws of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions and other laws generally applicable in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Home Rule Charter sets forth the structure of the local government and the overall procedures for its administration.
How long has Bethel Park been a Home Rule municipality?
Bethel Park has been a Home Rule community since the current Home Rule Charter became effective in 1978. In accordance with state law, a Home Rule Study Commission was selected by the voters and, in 1975, the Commission recommended a proposed Charter that was then submitted to, voted on and approved by the electorate.
What is covered and not covered by the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter?
The Bethel Park Home Rule Charter establishes the form of government for Bethel Park and specifies that Bethel Park will be governed by a Municipal Council (one member for each of the Municipality’s nine wards) and a Municipal Manager. Under the Charter, all department heads report to the Manager, except the Police Chief who reports to Council. The Charter establishes the position of Mayor who serves as the representative of the Municipality and votes only in the event of a tie vote on Council. The Charter includes provisions regarding the collection of taxes and adoption of annual budgets as well as provisions for referendums and amendments. The Charter does not include all of the details of the procedures for administration of the Municipality, many of which are contained in a separate Administrative Code. Nor does it contain the rules and regulations for matters such as building approvals, permits, or code enforcement which are not part of the Charter and are set forth in ordinances.
Why did Municipal Council appoint a committee to review the Charter?
Although the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter has been amended a few times since its original adoption in 1978 (including most recently in 2013 to adopt the dedicated Fire Department tax), there has not been a comprehensive review of the Charter in the 36 years that it has been in effect. Municipal Council felt that after nearly four decades of operation under the Charter, it was appropriate to review the provisions of the Charter and consider whether any changes to the Charter should be proposed to the voters. Other Home Rule communities have undertaken similar reviews, some more than once since their original Charters were adopted.
Who are the members of the Home Rule Study Commission?
Municipal Council has appointed 11 members to the Study Commission: Jim Mclean (Chair), James Hannan, Lori Gibbons, Paul Dixon, Brandon Colella, Joe Consolmango, Carol Stewart, Connie Serdy, Tom Klevan, Michael Dobos and Christine McIntosh. The Members include current and past members of Council, residents and representatives of other governmental and civic organizations including the Planning and Zoning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, the Public Library, and the Bethel Park Community Foundation.
What is the role of the Study Commission and how will it proceed?
The role of the Study Commission is to review the current Home Rule Charter and consider whether to recommend any changes or amendments to the Charter. The Commission is not being charged to consider any specific changes or amendments and the Commission could choose, after its review, to not recommend any changes. The Commission plans to review the current Charter, consider the Charters of some other communities in our area for ideas and comparison, take input from citizens and then decide whether to recommend any changes. The Commission final conclusions will be set forth in a report and recommendation to Council. There is no deadline for the Commission to complete its review. Presently, the Commission contemplates that the process will take about a year and, if that is the case, the Commission’s report would be presented to Council by the end of 2015 and any changes or amendments would be submitted to the voters sometime in 2016.
Is there an opportunity for residents to participate in the process?
Yes. All meetings of the Study Commission will be advertised and are open to the public. The dates and times of the meetings will also be published on the Bethel Park website. The Commission will also schedule one or more public hearings to invite comments, questions and suggestions from members of the public. A copy of the Home Rule Charter is available by clicking here and there is also a copy in the Bethel Park Public Library.
How would any changes to the Charter become effective?
By state law and the provisions of the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter, any changes or amendments to the Charter must be approved by a majority of the voters at an election. The Commission will provide a report and recommendation to Council. Council will then consider the report and decide whether to adopt an ordinance setting forth the changes or amendments for presentation to the voters. Any changes or amendments adopted by Council through an Ordinance would then be submitted to the voters at an election, which could be either a primary or general election. No change or amendment would become effective unless it is approved by the voters.