Codification of Ordinances

Revised July 1, 2013

Introduction

In order to follow and enforce local ordinances, people must have access to the laws. Codification is the way municipalities make it easy for people to find and read the laws they are expected to follow. Codification is the process of organizing and recording all permanent ordinances adopted by the governing body into a code book in which the laws are arranged by subject matter. This book gives each ordinance a permanent identifying number and includes a table of contents and index so people can easily look up the law on any particular topic.

Narrative

State law requires that each ordinance shall be codified after it is adopted. Specifically it states that “within three years after incorporation of a municipality, the municipal clerk or clerk’s designee shall have prepared a general codification (organized book) of all municipal ordinances of general applicability having the force and effect of law. The municipal code shall be revised and printed at least every five years, unless the code is kept current by regular supplements.”

In addition to the legal and practical reasons for codifying your ordinances, there are financial reasons for doing so. State law requires a municipality to certify that the ordinances are codified in order to qualify for community revenue sharing payments. The Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) Local Government Specialists (LGS) are available to train and assist clerks with codification. The DCRA Community Aid and Accountability (CAA) program maintains an on-line library of adopted municipal codes.

Some municipalities codify ordinances in-house and some contract with a publishing company specializing in codes. Others may contract for the initial codification and maintain the supplements between periodic reprinting.

If your municipality has not codified its ordinances, the following process may be used to organize and codify:

  • Determine the system of titling and numbering for your code. A popular system is the State Statute Method. Like the Alaska Statutes, this method organizes ordinances by specific titles and subdivided into chapters and sections. For example, “Title 12, Chapter 20, Section 1” refers to the first section in the twentieth chapter of the twelfth title of the municipal code of ordinances. A municipality may adopt any titling and numbering system it chooses, as long as it is logical and consistent.
  • Separate by subject all ordinances passed by the council or assembly. This will allow you to determine the most recent ordinance on any given subject.
  • Determine which title each group of ordinances should be included under. 
  • Enter the provisions of each ordinance under the appropriate title, chapter, and section of your code.
  • Create a table of contents.
  • Index the code. This is a tedious but important step that will make it much easier for anyone to find what they are looking for in the code. The best method of indexing is to list topics and subtopics in alphabetical order in the back of the code with cross references and code numbers. For example:

Meetings (also see Ordinance)

    • agenda 2.12.040 (also see Regulations)
    • call to order 2.12.070
    • executive session 2.12.030
    • notice 2.08.055
  • Present the completed code to the council for review and official adoption
  • Once the titling and numbering system is established, any new proposed code ordinance should specify which title and section of the code it will be in based on the subject matter.

Your assigned LGS may assist you with scanning the complete code and providing you with a WORD version on disk. When updating your code, the WORD version will allow you to change the affected sections of the code without retyping the entire code.

Updating Your Code

As new ordinances are adopted, whether they add, amend or repeal portions of the code, it will be necessary to update the code. If you have the code of ordinances on your computer, it will be easy to codify new ordinances immediately after adoption. Enter the new provisions of each new code ordinance under the appropriate title, chapter, and section of the code. If your new ordinances were properly written, they will already include a reference to the title and section of the code where they are inserted. If the title and section is not referenced, use your best judgment to decide which title is most appropriate.

For ordinances that amend an existing section of the code, enter the amended language in the appropriate section and indicate the date of the amendment. For ordinances that repeal an existing section of the code, delete the repealed language from the code and enter the date of the repeal. Whenever updating the code, be sure to make the appropriate changes to the table of contents and the index. Any code ordinances that have not been codified should be entered in a supplement to the code until they are codified. If you have an outside source maintaining your code, submit any new adopted ordinances to that entity in order to make the changes to the code. The time and expense of periodic updating must be weighed against the public’s need to know the law and the municipality’s duty to inform the public.

Frequently Asked Questions

Publications

  • Alaska Statutes: Title 29 Municipal Government
  • State of Alaska Local Government General Records Retention Schedule
  • Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks Handbook

Applicable Laws

  • AS 29.20.380(a)(5) Municipal Clerk. Provide for codification of ordinances
  • AS 29.25.050 Codification