Legislation considered by City Council takes one of two forms – a resolution or an ordinance. A resolution expresses the views of City Council on a particular topic, while an ordinance directs that a specific action be taken. Resolutions are adopted; ordinances are passed.
In order to enact a new "law" or to enact any of the legislation necessary for the operation of the city, action is required by City Council and at least one other branch of municipal government. Some ordinances allow for the purchase of equipment, supplies or services. Others change the zoning standards for specific property. Still others make amendments to the City Codes.
The department requesting authorization almost always writes the specific ordinance or resolution. They are submitted to City Council using a prescribed format and contain background information, a fiscal impact, specific accounting information, and, when appropriate, reference to the applicable City Codes.
Most ordinances require an Auditor's Certificate certifying that the funds specified within the ordinance actually exist, and the City Attorney's Office approval as to the form and legality of the legislation. Some ordinances require additional approvals. The Equal Business Opportunity Commission Office reviews legislation to ensure the bidding process was not discriminatory or adverse to the ability of small and emerging businesses to compete fairly. The Finance Department reviews legislation to ensure compliance with the adopted Capital Improvements Budget (CIB).
Each Councilmember chairs at least one Standing Committee and is responsible for the ordinances or resolutions falling under that committee's jurisdiction. As legislation is presented to City Council it is automatically assigned to the Rules and Reference Committee. From there it is assigned to a specific City Council Standing Committee based on the action being requested and/or the specific department requesting the action. When an ordinance or resolution appears on the City Council agenda, the chair of the assigned Standing Committee becomes its sponsor. A vote of the entire Council determines whether the legislation is passed or adopted.
Numbers are electronically assigned to each ordinance or resolution while in draft mode. Ordinance numbers consist of four digits followed by a hyphen and year of drafting (for example, Ordinance 2941-2006). Resolutions are assigned numbers in the same manner as ordinances; however, an “X” is placed after the number (for example, Resolution 208X-2006).
Thirty-day legislation has a first reading at one City Council meeting but is actually voted upon after its second reading at the next regular City Council meeting. Emergency legislation is voted upon following its first reading. A majority of Councilmembers are required for passage of thirty-day legislation; however, six votes are required for passage of emergency legislation. Thirty-day legislation takes effect 30 days from the date of passage regardless of when the Mayor signs the legislation. Emergency legislation takes effect on the date it is signed by the Mayor, or 10 days later if not signed by the Mayor.
After passage, all legislation is indexed and permanently filed by the City Clerk. All legislation passed by City Council is published in the Columbus City Bulletin. The Bulletin is published every Saturday. It contains the text of all ordinances and resolutions acted upon by Columbus City Council, bid advertisements, legal notices, and all City Code changes. Free, online distribution of the City Bulletin began in 2002.
The Mayor can veto any ordinance or resolution passed by City Council; however, City Council has the right to overturn the Mayor's veto as long as the number of votes in their override is the same as the number that were required for its original passage or adoption. If the Mayor does not sign and return legislation within ten days after its passage or adoption by the Council then it becomes law without the signature.
A citizen's right to question or initiate legislation is provided within the City Charter. With a few limitations, the right to overturn an ordinance or resolution of City Council can be accomplished by a voted referendum of the people, provided a valid petition is signed by no less than five percent of the total vote cast at the last general municipal election. An initiative for a specific action is also permissible; again provided that no less than five percent of the total vote cast at the last general municipal election agrees to sign a petition. Whether a referendum or initiative prevails is determined by majority vote during the next municipal election.
If you have a question or concern with an ordinance or resolution, contact the Councilmember's office that chairs the appropriate Standing Committee. Each Councilmember has a legislative aide who will assist you.