Laws and Lawmaking

Follow the process of how a Bill becomes an Ordinance and is adopted into the City Revised Code.

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How a Bill Becomes an Ordinance

Legislation is introduced by Aldermen in the form of bills. The mayor may introduce bills or cause them to be introduced by requesting the chairmen of specific committees to sponsor such a bill. Bills are read before the entire Board upon introduction. After the first reading the bill is sent to specific standing committee for study and recommendation. The committee, after considering the bill, reports it back to the full Board for a second reading.

It may be referred back to committee for some reason or it may be put on the informal calendar. It is possible, however, to suspend the rules so that a Bill may be read for a third time and passed in the same meeting. If the Bill is delayed in committee or elsewhere it eventually will be read a third time being either passed or defeated.

Approval by a simple majority of fifteen or more is required for passage except for those dealing with the sale of any of the City's real estate or for the discontinuance or establishment of administrative divisions which require a two-thirds or 20 vote. The Mayor may sign or veto a bill within 10 to 20 days after it is presented to him. If he or she does not take action, the bill automatically becomes law. A two-thirds majority is required to over-ride a mayoral veto. Unless the measure is an emergency it does not take effect until 30 days after the Mayor signs the bill or it is adopted over his veto.

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What is a Resolution?

The practice of submitting and voting on resolutions is a typical part of the legislative business. Resolutions are usually for two purposes. First, resolutions express consensus on matters of public policy: lawmakers routinely deliver criticism or support on a broad range of social issues, legal rights, court opinions, and even decisions. Second, resolutions are passed for internal, administrative purposes. Resolutions are not laws;they differ fundamentally in their purpose. However, under certain circumstances resolutions can have the effect of law.

In all legislative bodies, the process leading to a resolution begins with a lawmaker making a formal proposal called a motion. The rules of the legislative body determine how much support must be given to the motion before it can be put to a general vote. The rules also specify what number of votes the resolution must attract to be passed. If successful it becomes the official position of the legislative body.

Typically resolutions are used when passage of a law is unnecessary or unfeasible. In many cases relevant laws already exist. The resolution merely asserts an opinion that lawmakers want to emphasize. Political frustration sometimes leads lawmakers to declare their opposition to laws that they cannot change. Additionally, resolutions are common in times of emergency.

When resolutions are mere expressions of opinion, they differ fundamentally from laws. In essence, laws are intended to permanently direct and control matters applying to persons or issues in general; moreover, they are enforceable. By contrast, resolutions expressing the views of lawmakers are limited to a specific issue or event. They are neither intended to be permanent nor to be enforceable. Nor do they carry the weight of court opinions. In a certain respect, they resemble the opinions expressed by a newspaper on its editorial page, but they are nonetheless indicative of the ideas and values of elected representatives and, as such, commonly mirror the outlook of voters.

In addition to delivering statements for public consumption, resolutions also play an important role in the administration of legislatures. Lawmakers pass resolutions to control internal rules on matters such as voting and conduct. Typically legislatures also use them to conduct housekeeping: resolutions can thank a member for service to the legislature or criticize him or her for disservice. The latter form of resolution is known as censure, a rarely used formal process by which the legislature as a whole votes on whether to denounce a member for misdeeds.


After a bill is adopted by the Board of Aldermen and signed by the mayor it becomes a City Ordinance. St. Louis City Ordinances available in electronic format cover 1991 - present.

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City Code and Revised Code

Ordinances which are compiled in the Code are organized according to topic (i.e. Personnel, Administration, Health and Hospitals, etc). Ordinances related to neighborhood redevelopment projects, traffic regulations and street closings do not appear in the Code.

Although ordinances are adopted throughout the year, the Code is only updated twice a year. The Revised Code of the City of St. Louis is a compilation of ordinances which are generally enforceable throughout the city. Recent amendments to the code can only be determined by a search of the ordinances adopted during the six months prior to your search.

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