Types of Council Action

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Council Bills and Ordinances

A Council Bill is a proposal for the enactment of a new law, amendment or repeal of an existing law, or appropriation of public money.

When it is passed by Council, it becomes an Ordinance.

The City Charter requires that every legislative act be by ordinance.

For detail on this process, see How a Bill Becomes a Law. You may also search historical Council Bills and Ordinances or in-process legislation.

The Seattle Municipal Code

Many Ordinances amend the Seattle Municipal Code ("SMC"), which is a compilation of laws of a general and permanent nature.

For more information on the SMC, see the SMC Guide.

You may browse or search the most current SMC online.


Council Resolutions state policy or give guidance. Resolutions are not binding law.

A Resolution may be proposed by the Executive branch or the City Council.

A Resolution generally follows the committee process, similar to the Council Bill process.

The Mayor may concur on a Resolution; however, lack of concurrence has no legal effect.

As with Ordinances, the SMC, and Clerk Files, the Clerk's Office provides a searchable index of Resolutions.

Clerk Files

Clerk Files are documents that have been officially filed with the City Clerk by Council, by another City agency, and in certain cases provided for by law, citizens.

Examples include:

  • official filing of annual department reports
  • decisions on quasi-judicial land use applications
  • decisions on street vacation petitions
  • appointment or confirmation of department heads
  • appointment or confirmation of board and commission members

Many administrative Clerk Files are directly filed with the Clerk without going before Council; however, some are referred to Council for review and action. Search Clerk Files.

Quasi-judicial Actions

Quasi-judicial actions are those in which the Council is acting as a panel of judges, rather than a legislative body.

Quasi-judicial actions are defined by the state statute on appearance of fairness as:

...those actions of the legislative body, planning commission, hearing examiner, zoning adjuster, board of adjustment, or boards which determine the legal rights, duties, or privileges of specific parties in a hearing or other contested case proceeding. Quasi-judicial actions do not include the legislative actions adopting, amending, or revising comprehensive, community, or neighborhood plans or other land use planning documents or the adoption of area-wide zoning ordinances or the adoption of a zoning amendment that is of area-wide significance. (RCW 42.36.010)

The most common quasi-judicial actions that come before the City Council are requests to rezone property and review of major institution master plans.

Citizen Initiatives and Referenda

The City Charter and State law provide for certain types of legislation to be enacted through the Citizen's Initiative process.

Laws may also be brought before the voters in a Referendum.

In both cases, Council takes specific action as set out in the City Charter, the RCW, and in City procedures.

See the City Clerk's Citizen Initiatives and Referenda Guides and the City Charter Article IV for more information.