Home Rule cities operate in an inverse manner from General Law cities in that their power is derived expressly from their Charter, instead of State law. If a General Law City is not granted the express or implied power by the State to initiate a particular action, none may be taken.
There are numerous distinctions between a Home Rule City and a General Law City. The following are a few distinctions that tend to receive the most attention amongst cities considering transition to Home Rule:
- Home Rule is self-governance in its ultimate form. The Charter is written by the citizens, adopted by the citizens, and defines the local government. The community prepares its Charter based on community norms, values, and priorities. Unlike the general laws of the State, which may address a multitude of conditions faced in many Texas communities, Home Rule cities define for themselves how they want to be governed.
- Home Rule communities have a variety of tools available to manage the affairs of city government. The Charter provides a local response to the form of government desired by citizens; defines the structure of city government; establishes controls over city finances; and limitations on the powers of city government.
- Initiative, Referendum, and Recall are three separate facets of direct democracy reserved for exclusive use by local voters that provide direct remedies in unusual situations. These powers are unique to Home Rule cities and not available to voters at any other level of government.
- An initiative petition asks the City Council to act on a specific issue when it has not done so previously. If valid, the Council must adopt the petition or submit it to a vote of the people.
- A referendum petition asks the City Council to reverse an action already taken or proposed. The Council can rescind the ordinance that is the subject of the referendum petition or submit it to a vote of the people.
- A recall petition asks the City Council to call an election for a vote to remove one or more Councilmembers and/or the Mayor from office. The elected official may resign or stand for the recall election.
- As communities grow, they must deal with increasingly complex issues and require flexibility in addressing those issues. The Home Rule Charter provides the flexibility to address the complexity of local government. The vast majority of Texas cities that have reached the required threshold have elected to pursue their own Home Rule Charter rather than to remain a General Law City.
- Once a Charter is adopted, the citizens retain control over the Charter through the amendment process. This ensures the citizens are always in a position to determine the form, power, and authority of their city government.