This is the first of a two part mini bonus episode series which Jeff covers how you can do your own research on laws, city charters, and state legislative bills with a little bit more ease. In this episode, Jeff walks you through some information about your city charter and municipal codes.
Let it be known…
We are not a layers and by no means does this episode stand to be a substitute for legal advice if you need it. Please use this information as a suggested way of better navigating your local information and seek actual legal counsel if you are going to be getting involved with any matters regarding the City Charter or Municipal Codes.
Your City Charter
So what is the city charter?
A city charter defines a city’s governing system rather than by general law. It is issued by the state and may be modified by the city’s governing body (How the city is run), and is good for seeing the process of how local governments operate.
Not all cities have a city charter though. Some Cities are charter cities while other’s are not. Cities that are not are governed by the state and do not have as much autonomy as charter cities.
Where to find City Charter
You can typically find it at your states legislative website. To look up your Legislative website you can go to congress.gov
If you would like to see the City of Sparks city charter and follow along in the podcast episode you can visit the link below:
Most charters are Broken Down into Articles or Chapters (General Category), then into sections.
You may then see Title/Subject of each section that falls under the article then Lines (These are the actual rules or instructions on how it works). This is not the case for all charters though.
Often in many city charters you may also see “pursuant to sections” which basically means following the rule of the other section. Or you may also see notes that are pursuant to a section in the Statutes of the state. If it is, it will probably will have a link or at least reference the number to that Statutes on that line and have references at the end of that section line.
With some charters you may also see links at the end of a section that will include amendments to the section at the end of each section
Your Municipal Code of Ordinances
And what is Municipal Code?
Municipal codes are the rules, regulations, and codes enacted into law by the city’s governing body (laws within the city), and is good for knowing what is the law in your city for certain things.
Where to find Municipal Code of Ordinances
you can find your municipal codes at https://library.municode.com. Which from there you can easily select your state then city.
1. Side menu bar to left
2. Search bar up on top
3. Version at top of Title list as well as usually A link to what’s changed, and any ordinances not yet codified in the catalog on first page seen
4. Link to history table of when an ordinance was adopted and if it was included or omitted
6. General Category of the title, clicking on it opens it up and starts with the Chapter and titles of the chapters
7. The sections and lines with similar layouts to what you might see in the city charter including amended codes at the bottom of each section
8. You will also notice that at the beginning you will see Definitions. Used to define specific terms such as “What constitutes as an ‘Operator’” or what is the codes definition of an Equivalent residential unit” etc.
The municipal code site is very powerful, fairly user friendly, and provides a lot of cool features such as being able to print email, share links or sections. Also, there are editor notes and highlight feature when using the search bar at the top.
Some cities may have additional documents that can be attached that you can access and also is now updated with Google Translate so you can change the language to make it easier to read if you are fluent in other languages.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to utilize that search feature. Keep it generic in your keywords and don’t be too specific to start, try wording key words differently if you can’t find what you are looking for.
Tips on deciphering this information
- Read it slowly and out loud, emphasis different words in a line to help break up the dryness and let your brain process it
- Go line by line
- You may need to repeat it a few times
- Don’t visit the extra links until you’ve read it thoroughly, then proceed because sometimes the Statues will have way more
- Draw a diagram if you are more visual, go line by line
- Be well rested and not hungry
- Print it out and take notes
Questions to you, the listener
- Was this information helpful?
- What would you like to learn in future episodes?
- Did you try the different languages with Google Translate? How well did it do?
Links and research
Visit your state legislation website:
City of Sparks City Charter: