Municipal Ordinances

Revised July 1, 2013

Introduction

An ordinance is a law enacted by a local government. It establishes the rules for the operation of the local government or provides rules and regulations governing public activity in the community. Ordinances are usually intended to be permanent and are assembled in an indexed book called a code of ordinances. To be valid, the ordinance cannot conflict with state or federal law and the governing body must properly enact the ordinance. An ordinance applies only to the community in which it is adopted.

Narrative

State law specifies numerous actions of a local government that can only be authorized by ordinance in order to be valid. In some cases, Alaska law establishes rules or procedures that a municipality must follow, but the municipality may establish different rules and procedures as long as they are adopted by ordinance. An example of this is the Alaska statute state that specifies a mayor of a second class city  serves a one-year term unless a longer term is passed by ordinance. Alaska Statutes: Title 29 Municipal Government, Chapter 25 lists acts that require an ordinance.

There are two classifications of ordinances: code and non-code. The basic difference is that a code ordinance is permanent and general in nature and a non-code ordinance is temporary and/or accomplishes a single action. When introduced, the ordinance should state whether it is a code ordinance or non-code ordinance.

  • A code ordinance is any ordinance that is intended to be permanent. Code ordinances define the local government and how it will operate or regulate behavior or activity of people in the community. They are called code ordinances because they are required to be “codified” (assigned a permanent number and entered into an indexed book called a “code of ordinances”). The task of codifying the ordinances is generally the responsibility of the municipal clerk.
  • A non-code ordinance is an ordinance that authorizes a specific action or that is intended to be temporary. It is not incorporated into the code (book) of ordinances.

A common example of a non-code ordinance is the ordinance adopted each year to authorize the annual budget. State law requires budgets to be authorized by ordinance.  The budget ordinance is not considered a permanent ordinance that would be included in the code because the authority to accept or spend money established in the ordinance expires at the end of the fiscal year. The annual City Budget Manual produced by the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development provides an example of a non-code budget appropriations ordinance. A second example of a non-code ordinance is one that authorizes sale of public land. The sale of a parcel of land is a one-time transaction that is required to be authorized by ordinance.

  • An emergency ordinance is a form of non-code ordinance. State laws allows municipalities to approve emergency ordinances and bypass the normal procedures for enacting an ordinance when there is a public emergency that requires immediate action. Emergency ordinances cannot last longer than 60 days and must include a statement of facts explaining (or describing) why an emergency exists. The emergency must be serious enough to justify immediate action. An emergency ordinance may not be used to levy taxes, to grant renew, or extend a franchise, or to regulate public utility rates.
Frequently Asked Questions

Additional Resources

  • Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks (AAMC) Handbook
  • Liberati v Bristol Bay Borough, 584 P 2d 1115
  • Title 4 Local Option Law: Controlling Alcohol in Alaska’s Cities and Villages

Applicable Laws

  • AS 29.10.200 Limitation of Home Rule Powers
  • AS 29.20.160(f) Procedures of Governing Bodies
  • AS 29.20.230 Election and Term of Mayor
  • AS 29.20.380 Municipal Clerk
  • AS 29.20.500 Powers and Duties of a Manager
  • AS 29.25.010 Acts Required by Ordinance
  • AS 29.25.020 Ordinance Procedure
  • AS 29.25.020(b)(2) Set Public Hearing
  • AS 29.25.020(b)(3) Time Requirement for Posting Notices
  • AS 29.25.030 Emergency Ordinances
  • AS 29.25.050 Codification
  • AS 29.26.100-190 Initiative and Referendum
  • AS 29.45.670 Referendum, Adoption, and Modification
  • AS 29.71.800(18) Definition of “Published”