Ordinances are how local government make laws. Ordinances tend to require or prohibit a certain action under certain circumstances. They are indexed and recorded into a code, which then becomes a part of the county or city's history. As access to technology increases, many local agencies make their ordinances available online to view. Though local agencies do not have to adopt an ordinance for an action to be taken, ordinances are one way that change is introduced at the local level (in a community, city, or county).
The ordinance adoption process can vary from area/city to area/city, so it's important to learn as much as you can about how it works in your local jurisdiction. Often however, local agencies will follow this procedure when adopting an ordinance:
STEPS TO MAKE AN ORDINANCE:
The item is first placed on an agenda for the public to be aware that the city council, or the board of supervisors, will discuss it.
A decision-making body votes to direct staff to draft an ordinance.
A local agency's staff and its attorney prepare a draft of an ordinance, which is reviewed by the decision-making group (City Council or Board of Supervisors) and the public.
The draft ordinance is then introduced to decision-makers who consider it and preliminary vote to move it forward; this step is commonly referred to as the first "reading."
After the first reading is complete, the ordinance moves along to the second reading, where it can be adopted. If someone from the decision-making group moves for approval of the ordinance, and another seconds it, the group votes whether to adopt the ordinance.
As the ordinance is being considered, sometimes decision-makers ask staff to make changes. These changes come from decision-maker's or the public's ideas or concerns. If a lot of changes need to be made, the ordinance will be reintroduced at a later date.
An effective date is identified in the ordinance, if adopted. Many ordinances take effect 30 days after it is adopted, but this is not always the case. After the effective date, the ordinance is then implemented.
Lastly, ordinance language can be dense and difficult to understand. The pdf below (3rd page) shows a guide on how to read them. To maximize your group's time, it is important to know how ordinances are structured and what they mean because if your group is advocating for a local policy, you need to be aware of the laws that already exist pertaining to the cause you are interested in.