Appoint Rather than Elect County Officers

This bill would enable any county to transition from elected county officers to appointed county officers once a vacancy in the position occurs or the board has signed a contract with the incumbent county officer that the officer will be appointed to the position. Additional provisions are in the bill to ensure incumbent officers are not forced out of office due to the transition. If incumbent elected officials notify the county 104 days prior to the filing date they plan to run for their position again, the office remains elected and other candidates are allowed to file for the election as usual. If the incumbent notifies the county he or she does not intend to run again, the board may pass a resolution making the office appointed. 80% of the board must approve the resolution and it may not go into effect until 30 days after adoption. Currently, county boards may pass a resolution for a voter referendum to determine whether certain county officer positions (auditor, treasurer, or recorder) should be appointed rather than elected. Approximately 20 counties have been given an exemption from the requirement for a referendum by the legislature in rural counties with limited resources to conduct county-wide referendums.

Those in favor of this change emphasize the inconvenience to counties and cost to taxpayers by requiring county boards to conduct a referendum to approve appointed county officers. Counties that have been provided a referendum exemption by the legislature have not had problems with the appointment process and have saved money by not having a county-wide vote. Supporters argue county officers are still accountable because they are appointed by elected board members. Further, this bill would finally resolve the issue and the legislature would no longer need to consider individual bills allowing county officer positions to be transitioned to an appointment process.

STATUS: The bill is in the Rules Committee. (S.F. 675)

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