Ordinances & Resolutions

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Introduction

The legislative bodies of Counties, Cities, and Towns have various options available for taking legislative action, including the passage, adoption, or approval of Ordinances, Resolutions, Rules, Regulations, Motions, and Orders. The City of SeaTac uses three of the options: 1) Ordinances; 2) Resolutions; and 3) Motions. Following are descriptions of the three options. 

Ordinances


An "Ordinance," as that term is typically used, refers to a "local law of a municipal corporation, duly enacted by the proper authorities, prescribing general, uniform, and permanent rules of conduct, relating to the corporate affairs of the municipality." Ordinances may be used for purely administrative purposes, such as to establish an office or set salaries. An Ordinance can either regulate conduct or, for example, when establishing a crime, prohibit described conduct or actions altogether. 

Resolutions

A "Resolution" typically is less solemn and formal than an Ordinance and, "generally speaking, is simply an expression of the opinion or mind of the official body concerning some particular item of business or matter of administration coming within its official cognizance." In practice, Resolutions are often limited to expressions of opinion. Contrasted with an Ordinance, which generally prescribes permanent rules of conduct or government, a Resolution usually deals with matters of a special or temporary character.

Ordinance or Resolution?

When should an Ordinance be used instead of a Resolution? Obviously, if a State statute requires one form be used instead of the other, that requirement must be followed. If no particular form is specified, either a Resolution or Ordinance may be used. Ministerial and administrative acts may be exercised by Resolution. It has been suggested, however, that Legislative acts should be made by Ordinance.

What is "legislative"? The general guiding principle is that "action[s] relating to subjects of a permanent and general character are usually regarded as legislative, and those providing for subjects of a temporary and special character are regarded as administrative."

Motions

A "Motion" provides authority to do a specified act. A Motion is a proposal by a member, made at a meeting, that a legislative body take a particular action. The proposed action may be substantive, or it may express a certain view, or direct a particular action be taken, such as an investigation. A Motion, once approved and entered into the record, is the equivalent to a Resolution.