Legislative Research Guide

We have some tools to help you find out more about City of Seattle laws both before and after they're passed. This guide walks you through how to:

For example, perhaps you heard that Seattle passed something called paid parental leave, and you want to know more about it. Here are some ways you can do that.

Find Recent Legislation

  • Go to the City Clerk's Legislative Information Center.
  • On the Welcome page, choose Legislation

    Legislative Information Center with Legislation tab highlighted
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    Tip: Bookmark this page if you will use it regularly.
  • Enter your search criteria.

    In Record No: enter 124753 and for Type:, select Ordinance (Ord).

    Tip: Record numbers may be found in press releases and other publications about the legislation you are researching. If you don't know the number of any specific legislation, in the Title field, enter key terms. In this example, you could enter "paid parental leave". For some legislation, you may need to vary your search terms to find the right thing.

    Tip: The default entry for Year is “This Year”. You may not know when the legislation was passed, so for Year:, select All Years. (Note: "All Years" in the Legislative Information Center includes everything introduced to Council from February 2015 onward.)

    Tip: The default setting limits Number of results: to 100. We're not expecting a lot of results since we know the legislation is new, so this should be fine for now.

    Once you have entered your search criteria, click Search Legislation.

    Legislative Information Center set to search All Years for an Ordinance with Record No 124753
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  • The search results are at the bottom of the web page—you may need to scroll down. Click the link for CB 118356.

    Tip: “CB” stands for “Council Bill,” which is what ordinances are called before they have been fully approved.

    Search results with CB 118356 highlighted
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  • On the Text tab, you can see the City Clerk's complete online record for the bill, including the full text, any changes ("amendments") that were made to the text along the way and other Supporting Documents that were presented to Council while they were reviewing the Bill.

    The History tab shows the bill's journey through the legislative process, including details about each step along the way, like who voted and how.

    Council Bill 118356 legislative details page
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Subscribe to Legislative Updates

In this example, you might wonder whether Seattle will eventually change the amount of leave they offer or you may just be interested in the topic.

Use the Legislative Information Center's Alerts function to find out when new items on this topic come up for discussion.

  • While viewing the ordinance or search criteria that you are interested in, choose the Alerts button.

    Alerts button
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  • Either sign in if you already have an account or click Sign Up and follow the directions to create an account and add an alert.

    Tip: Another way to follow current legislation or legislative actions about a topic you're interested in is to sign up for agendas, including Full Council agendas, committee agendas, Introduction and Referral Calendars, and other notices that come out at various points in the legislative process.

Find a Seattle Municipal Code Section

You may have noticed that CB 118356, like many other ordinances, adds a chapter to and changes ("amends") a section of the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC).

The SMC is a compilation of all of the "general and permanent ordinances" of the City. In other words, the SMC contains the laws that are in effect in Seattle.

Note: The following directions and images focus on using a mobile display. Those using larger, desktop displays, can skip some steps, which are marked [Mobile only].

  • Go to Seattle Municipal Code
    MuniCode home screen with search in header, browsable titles in the left navigation, and information about updated information in the main section
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    Desktop display

    MuniCode home screen with search button in header and information about updated information in the main section
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    Mobile display
  • [Mobile only]
    In the Municipal Code header bar, select the magnifying glass icon.

    Municipal Code header bar with magnifying glass icon highlighted
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    Use this magnifying glass icon to display the Search field.
  • In the Search field, type “Paid Parental Leave” followed by your keyboard's Enter or Go.

    Tip: If you have an ordinance, you can also search for the SMC section number, which is in the Ordinance title.

    Search text returning more than six hundred results in Codes as well as in Ordinances
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    The search returns over 600 results in Codes and also in Ordinances.

    Notice that the results are not exact text matches, even though the search terms were enclosed in quotation marks. Narrow your results using the next step.

  • To search for exact text using quotation marks, Advanced Search must be turned on. Use the directions that match what you see—this changes depending on the size of your screen.

    Smaller screens

    To the right of the Search field, select the three dots icon.
    Header showing Search field with the dot menu icon highlighted
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    The Options menu opens. Select Advanced Search. Click the x to close the options menu.
    Options menu with Advanced Search Mode selected and x to close highlighted
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    Click in the Search field and press your keyboard's Enter or Go to update your Search results.

    Larger screens

    Below the Search field, select ADVANCED. The Advanced section expands. Select the Advanced Search Mode checkbox. Select the Search button to update your search results. Click ADVANCED to close the Advanced section.
    Advanced section with Advanced Search Mode selected and Search button highlighted
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    All search results now include the exact text that you searched for.

    For more information on advanced search functions, see the Municode Support Center's Advanced Search Options article.
  • The first result looks promising.
    Select Chapter 4.27.

    Search results screen with Chapter 4.27 highlighted
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  • You can now read the legislation as passed in the Seattle Municipal Code.
  • At the end of each Seattle Municipal Code section is a list of ordinances that affected that section, with the most recent listed first.

    The code of Chapter 4.27 with the link to Ordinance 124753 highlighted
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Find Older Legislation and Background Information

Research ordinances acted before February 2015 in the legislative databases

  • Open the City Clerk's Online Information Resources page.

    Tip: Most researchers find it useful to open the legislative databases in a second tab or new window
  • In the Ordinance No field, enter the ordinance number that you found in the Seattle Municipal Code and then choose Search

    City Clerk's Online Information Resources with Ordinance No field and Search button highlighted
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  • For a more general search, use the Additional Search Options For example, in the Words in Title field, enter keywords and then choose Search.

    City Clerk's Online Information Resources set to search Words in Title for paid leave
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  • In the search results, each document title links to information about the legislation's journey through the legislative process. Full text is available for legislation introduced from 1996 forward and for some earlier legislation.

    Tip: If the text of earlier legislation is not online, contact the Office of the City Clerk or visit the City Clerk's research room to review the documents on microfiche.

    City Clerk's Online Information Resources search results
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Seattle Municipal Archives' Guide to Historical Legislative Research walks you through finding background information on legislation. It includes what options might have been discussed, who participated in the discussion, and how much time the item was under discussion.