A bill that would allow Brookhaven residents to vote on unlimited terms for the mayor passed the Georgia Legislature on the last day of the session.

If signed by the governor, a referendum vote to eliminate mayoral term limits will be on the ballot during the November general election this year. If a majority votes to remove the term limits, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

The unlimited terms, if approved, would apply to incumbent Mayor John Ernst. The bill has the support of three of four City Council members, whose offices currently have no term limits.

House Bill 695 is a revived bill from last year that was amended this session to remove the mayor term limits completely instead of extending the limit to three terms. It also adds a referendum vote so residents could make the ultimate decision instead of the Legislature.

State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), who made the last-minute change to include the referendum during the last session, made the motion to pass the new bill in the Senate on June 26. It passed both the Senate and House with no opposing votes.

The Brookhaven City Council voted 3-1 to approve a resolution in support of the bill during a June 23 council meeting.

In the council meeting, Ernst said the Legislature made the decision to add the referendum and remove mayoral term limits completely, but he did not give his opinion about the bill.

Currently, the mayor can serve two consecutive four-year terms, while council members have unlimited terms. Ernst was elected in 2019 for his second term, meaning the change would allow him to serve as long as he kept getting the majority vote.

In addition to a referendum to eliminate mayoral term limits, the bill includes other changes that were recommended by the charter review, such as having the city appoint a new mayor or council member if the elected official is unable to finish the last year of their term.