Chartering a Course

The Home Rule Charter of New Orleans.

During the 1940s, relations between New Orleans and the Louisiana state government were strained at best. Efforts were being made at the state level to diminish mayoral power and institute state control over the city. In an effort to protect the city from state government, a push for home rule began.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit independent organization dedicated to the improvement of government in New Orleans, began drafting a home rule charter for the city of New Orleans. This charter would give the city back the powers that had been lost during the Huey P. Long era.

The Home Rule Charter was authorized by constitutional amendment in 1950, with the caveat that it be approved by the electorate. In ’52, voters approved the Home Rule Charter, and on May 1, ’54, the charter took effect.

The Home Rule Charter changed the government of New Orleans from the mayor-commission form that had been in effect since 1912 and replaced it with a mayor-council form, which in turn replaced the Commission Council with the City Council. This new form of government lessened state interference in city affairs, and according to the charter’s preamble, allowed New Orleans “to possess and exercise the broadest rights, powers, privileges and authority of self-government allowed under the Constitution and laws of the State.” It was decided that the city of New Orleans was capable of making and enforcing its own laws, as long as they didn’t conflict with state law, and put the power back into the hands of city government.

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