How to Read a Bill

Looking for specific information about a bill? Want to know what all the sections, lines, and jargon mean? Here is what each part of a bill is and what information it contains.

Sample Council Bill
This is an example of what a Council Bill looks like before it is sent to the City Council.

Sample one-page Council Bill. Line numbers go down the left edge of the page. City of Seattle and spaces for the ordinance and council bill numbers are at the top of the page. The numbers are not filled in. Ordinance text follows with signature and date lines at the bottom of the page. No signatures or dates are present.
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Legislative Act
Per the Seattle City Charter Article 4, Section 7, "Every legislative act of said City shall be by Ordinance.""

Top of the sample bill with the words City of Seattle, in all caps, highlighted.
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Ordinance Number
Upon passage and approval of a Council Bill, an Ordinance number is assigned.

Top of the sample council bill with the word Ordinance in all caps highlighted, followed by a blank where an ordinance number would later be written.
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Council Bill Number
A proposed Ordinance is given a Council Bill (Bill) number.

Top of the sample council bill with the words council bill in all caps highlighted, followed by a blank where a council bill number would later be written.
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Bill Title
The Seattle City Charter requires that Article 4, Section 7, "Every Ordinance shall be clearly entitled and shall contain one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title."

Sample council bill with the first paragraph after the Council Bill number line highlighted. The sample bill states 'An Ordinance,' in all caps, 'designating the color Emerald Green as the City of Seattle's official color;'
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This sample Bill is proposing an amendment to the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC).

The sample council bill with the end of the first paragaph highlighted, stating 'amending Seattle Municipal Code Section 1.18.010.'
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Recitals
After the title and before the ordaining clause, an Ordinance may include an explanation of its intent in the form of recitals, or "whereas" clauses.

The sample council bill with the second and third paragraphs highlighted. The first paragraph states: 'WHEREAS,' in all caps, 'in sample Ordinance 012345, the color Neon Green was originally designated as the official color of the City of Seattle;' and the second paragraph states 'WHEREAS,' in all caps, 'residents of the City of Seattle identify Seattle with the color Emerald Green;.' Following the last 'whereas' are the indented all caps words 'now, therefore'
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Ordaining Clause
Per the Seattle City Charter Article 4, Section 7, the enacting clause of every ordinance.

The sample council bill with the bold and all caps words highlighted, 'Be it ordained by the City of Seattle as follows:'
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Bill Section:
Following the ordaining clause, a Bill is divided into consecutively numbered sections that indicate the action(s) being taken.

The sample Council Bill with the words 'Section 1.' highlighted in the first paragraph following the ordaining clause.
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Introductory Phrases to Code Changes, aka "Jingles"
A jingle introduces or describes the changes to the SMC.
The sample Council Bill with the words following the Section number highlighted, 'Section 1.18.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code, last amended by Sample Ordinance 012345, is amended as follows:
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New Language
Underlined text describes the proposed new language to existing law.The sample Council Bill showing the SMC section text with the proposed edit. The word 'Emerald' is underlined and the word 'Neon' is struck through in the following: '1.18010 Cit Color - Color Designated.' line break. 'The color Emerald Neon Green is designated to represent the City of Seattle'
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Deleted Language
Striked-through phrases are proposed deletions to existing law.The sample Council Bill showing the SMC section text with the proposed edit. The word 'Emerald' is underlined and the word 'Neon' is struck through in the following: '1.18010 Cit Color - Color Designated.' line break. 'The color Emerald Neon Green is designated to represent the City of Seattle'
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Effective Date Clause
The Effective Date Clause indicates when the new law will take effect.
The sample Council Bill with the text of the last section highlighted: 'This sample ordinance shall take effect and be in force 30 days after its approval by the Mayor, but if not approved and returned by the Mayor within ten days after presentation, it shall take effect as provided by Seattle Municipal Code Section 1.04.020.'
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City Council President's Signature
Per the Seattle City Charter Article 4, Section 7, "Every Bill, after passage by the City Council, shall be signed by the President of the City Council in open session, in authentication of its passage."

The final paragraph of the sample Council Bill is highlighted: 'Passed by the City Council the [blank] day of [blank], 2017, and signed by me in open session in authentication of its passage this [blank] day of [blank], 2017.' This is followed by a blank on a new line where a signature would be placed, followed by a new line with the text, 'President [blank] of the City Council'
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Approval Date
This date determines the effective date of the Bill, if approved by the Mayor (SMC 1.04.020)

The sample Council Bill with the line above the blank for the Mayor's signature, reading, 'Approved by me this [blank] day of [blank], 2017'
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Mayor's Signature
The Mayor may sign the Bill, return it unsigned without disapproval, or may veto the Bill (City Charter Article IV, Section 12)

The sample Council Bill with the blank line below the approval date highlighted, followed by a new line reading 'Edward B. Murray, Mayor'
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Filed Date
This date indicates the date the Bill was returned to the City Clerk by the Mayor, which may help determine the effective date (SMC 1.04.020)

The sample Council Bill with the next line of text following the Mayor's name highlighted: 'Filed by me this [blank] day of [blank], 2017.'
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City Clerk's Signature
The City Clerk signs all approved Bills, and assigns an Ordinance number.

The sample Council Bill with the blank line following the filing date highlighted followed by a new line reading 'Monica Martinez Simmons, City Clerk'
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City Seal
Ordinances are embossed with the City Seal.

The sample Council Bill with an area in the bottom left corner highlighted, which contains the word '(Seal)'
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