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There are numerous distinctions between a Home Rule Town and a General Law Town, and the following are just a few of the distinctions that tend to receive the most attention amongst towns considering the transition:
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Home Rule towns are required to write and adopt a Charter. The Charter, for all practical purposes, is a Municipal Constitution that is written and adopted by the citizens of the Home Rule town via an election. The Charter defines and limits the powers, duties, and responsibilities of local government based on local preferences and desires. It defines the form of local government and establishes organizational provisions. The citizens determine the necessary controls over their town government such as elections, referendums, initiatives and recall, and definition of the procedures to amend the Charter. Essentially, the Town Charter describes and defines local government based on local preferences and controls as opposed to general laws which have been written by the Texas legislature such as:
Texas towns operate under 2 different types of local government, General Law and Home Rule.
General Law is a town whose powers are limited by the specific authority granted by Texas statutes. They are restricted to doing what state statutes direct or permit them to do. A specific grant of authority or permission must be provided for in the statutes to initiate a particular action or it may not be taken. General Law towns are generally smaller and most often under 5,000 in population.
Home Rule is towns with a population over 5,000 in which the citizens have adopted a home rule charter to define the structure, power, duties, and authority of their local government. The legal position of Home Rule towns is the reverse of general Law towns. Rather than looking to state statutes to determine what they may do, Home Rule towns look to their local Charters to determine what they may do. Thus, a Home Rule town may take any action that is not prohibited by the Texas Constitution or statutes as long as the authority is granted in the Charter of the town. Home Rule towns have the full power of self-government and may take any action in the interest of the citizens’ health, safety, and welfare which is not contrary to the Texas and U.S. Constitutions or federal or state laws.