Understand your government

Submitted by League of Women Voters
Blount County Chapter

As part of the mission of the Blount County League of Women Voters, we want to encourage people to participate in the political process - but participating can seem like an intimidating task. How can the average citizen know what is going on?
How do you know where to start?

Just what kind of governmental structure do we have, anyway?

Some people may not know that the authority of our county government comes directly from the state. In fact, much of the structure and function of our county government is determined by the Tennessee State Constitution.

Article VII of the Tennessee State Constitution states that the voters of each county are to elect their officials for four year terms. It also specifies what are sometimes called "Constitutional Officers" - elected officials that counties are required to have - saying that counties must select a legislative body (called the County Commission), a county executive (called the County Mayor), a Sheriff, a Trustee, a Register of Deeds, a County Clerk and a Property Assessor. There are also exceptions. In places where counties and cities have formed a consolidated (metro) government, the county is not required to have a mayor or commission.

The state constitution includes quite a lot of detail; it specifies things like the size of the county commission, which cannot be bigger than 25 members (Blount County has 21), and that no district can have more than 3 representatives on the commission. The state constitution even says how often districts shall be reapportioned - at least every ten years, done in such a way that commissioners represent approximately equal numbers of citizens based on the most recent federal census.

In general, power is delegated from the state to the county by acts of the Tennessee General Assembly. Some of these are general acts, which apply to all counties. Others are private acts, which only apply to one, or perhaps a few, counties. To learn more, go to http://www.tennesseeanytime.org/laws/laws.html, or check with your local reference librarian.

There are ways that all of us can keep in touch with what is going on. County Commission meetings are broadcast on Charter Channel 5 and Comcast Channel 99 for everyone to see. The meetings themselves are open to the public; agenda and minutes can be found on the county website, at http://www.blounttn.org.

The Blount County League of Women Voters is a non-partisan group of both men and women - including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents - working together to organize and foster open conversation, education, and voter registration. Meetings are at 6 p.m on the first Tuesday of every month at the old Courthouse. Website:
http://www.discoveret.org/lwvbc/.

© 2007 blounttoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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