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Be Informed, Be Involved
Be Informed. Be Involved.
Governance Structure
Legislative Process
Types of Council Action
How a Bill Becomes a Law
The City Budget Process
Public Comment Guide
Legislative Glossary
How to Read a Bill
Seattle Facts

Legislative Glossary

Adjournment
The conclusion of a City Council meeting.

Agenda
The proposed order and items of business to be considered at City Council meetings.

Amendment
Any revision made or proposed to be made to an item, e.g., motion, agenda, or legislation.

Appropriation
A legal authorization granted by the City Council to make expenditures and incur obligations for specific purposes.

Briefing Meeting
A meeting regularly held on Mondays at 9:30 a.m., in which all Councilmembers discuss and receive briefings on issues of general interest.

Budget - Adopted and Proposed
Annually, the Mayor submits to the City Council a recommended expenditure and revenue level for all City operations for the coming fiscal year as the Proposed Budget. When the City Council agrees upon the revenue and expenditure levels, the Proposed Budget becomes the Adopted Budget, funds are appropriated, and legal expenditure limits are established. For a comprehensive list of Budget-related terms, please visit the Budget Glossary.

Budget - Endorsed
The City of Seattle implements biennial budgeting through the sequential adoption of two one-year budgets. When adopting the budget for the first year of the biennium, the Council endorses a budget for the second year. The Endorsed Budget is the basis for a Proposed Budget for the second year of the biennium, and is reviewed and adopted in the fall of the first year of the biennium. For a comprehensive list of Budget-related terms, please visit the Budget Glossary.

Call to Order
Announcement by the Committee Chair or presiding officer that a meeting of the City Council is officially in session.

City Charter
A legal document, enacted by the People of the City of Seattle, that establishes the municipal corporation of the City of Seattle, that embodies the fundamental principles of the City, defines the City's powers, duties and boundaries, and guarantees certain rights to the people.

City Clerk
The administrative head of the Legislative Department. The Office of the City Clerk provides access to the City of Seattle's legislative process, local laws, policies, and regulations, ensuring the integrity and preservation of the public record.

Clerk File
Permanent records filed with the City Clerk that may include reports, initiatives and referenda, agreements, appointments, and land use applications.

Committee, Standing
A committee comprised of at least three members of the City Council who study specific areas of concern and then report to the Full Council their findings and recommendations. Standing committees meet on a regular schedule established biennially by Resolution. For a list of committees and their meeting schedules, please visit the Committees and Agendas webpage.

Committee, Special
A committee with a specific focus and duration, created and appointed by the Council President when a need arises. Special committees are commonly comprised of all nine Councilmembers. For a list of committees and their meeting schedules, please visit the Committees and Agendas webpage.

Committee Chair
The presiding officer of the committee.

Committee Report
The final recommendation on any legislation reported out to the Full Council by a committee.

Council Bill ("Bill")
A proposed ordinance that creates new law, amends or repeals existing law, appropriates money, prescribes fees, transfers functions from one agency to another, provides penalties, or takes other action.

Council Chamber
The meeting room where the City Council conducts its business. The Seattle City Council Chamber is located on Floor 2 of City Hall, 600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle.

Council President
The presiding officer of the City Council and head of the Legislative Department, elected biennially by Seattle City Councilmembers.

Council President Pro Tem
A Councilmember acting as President on a temporary basis; pro tempore, "for the time being."

Council Rules
The official Rules and Procedures of the City Council, required by the Charter and adopted by Resolution, that governs the organization and operation of the City Council.

Divided Report
A report issued by a committee when its members cannot reach consensus on a legislative item. The report contains a summary of both the majority and minority recommendations and is presented at a Full Council meeting.

Effective Date Clause
The section of a Council Bill that indicates the number of days until the bill will take effect once passed and approved.

Emergency Clause
A provision in a bill that allows a measure to become effective immediately upon the signature of the Mayor, when an emergency exists in which it is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety.

Executive Session
A portion of a City Council meeting that is not open to the public. The State Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30) governs which types of discussions can be closed to the public.

Fiscal Note
A document that provides a background summary and an estimate of the expected financial impact of a Council Bill or Resolution.

Full Council Meeting
A meeting regularly held on Mondays at 2:00 p.m. in which all members of the City Council formally take final action on legislation reported from a committee or referred directly to the Full Council.

Initiative
The right of Seattle voters, guaranteed by the Charter, to directly initiate and enact legislation. The process requires an initial petition containing no less than ten percent of the total number of votes cast for the office of Mayor at the last election. See Initiative Guide.

Introduction and Referral Calendar
A list of new legislation that is being introduced and referred to a committee or to the Full Council. The list contains the legislation type, identifying number, title, committee assignment, and sponsor of each item.

Initiative
The right of Seattle voters, guaranteed by the Charter, to directly initiate and enact legislation. The process requires an initial petition containing no less than ten percent of the total number of votes cast for the office of Mayor at the last election. For more information about the Initiative process, please visit the Citizens' Initiative Petition Guide.

Journal of Proceedings
The official written record of action taken at a Full Council meeting.

Lobbyist
A person who is employed by an organization to represent its interests before the City Council.

Motion
A parliamentary procedure by which proposals are submitted by a Councilmember for consideration by the body.

Open Public Meetings Act
State Law (RCW 42.30) passed by the Legislature in 1971 with the intent that all public agencies take their actions and conduct their deliberations openly.

Ordinance
A Council Bill passed by the Full Council and approved by the Mayor.

Proclamation
A form of official announcement by the City Council that generally relates to matters of commemorative observance.

Quorum
The number of Councilmembers required before certain business can be transacted or a meeting can come to order.

Referendum
The right of Seattle voters, guaranteed by the Charter, to have an ordinance that has been enacted by the City submitted to the voters for approval or rejection. The process requires an initial petition containing no less than eight percent of the total number of votes cast for the office of Mayor at the last election. For more information about the Referendum process, please visit the Citizens' Referenda Guide.

Resolution
Legislation adopted by the City Council that is administrative or temporary, or which expresses policy.

Seattle Municipal Code (SMC)
A compilation of all City laws, grouped by topic.

Simple Majority
A simple majority of the nine-member Council is five.

Special Meeting
A City Council meeting held at a time, day, or location that differs from the schedule previously established by legislative act.

Sponsor
The Councilmember who agrees to consider a legislative item. Legislation can have multiple sponsors and co-sponsors.

Supermajority
A requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which exceeds a simple majority. Two-thirds of the nine-member Council is six.
Three-fourths of the nine-member Council is seven.

Tie Vote
Evenly divided vote which effectively prohibits adoption of a proposal, including final votes on legislation or amendments to legislation.

Unanimous Consent
A parliamentary procedure commonly used for routine procedural questions, in which no Councilmember present objects to a proposal.

Veto
Authority of the Mayor to disapprove a Council Bill passed by the City Council. The Council must reconsider a vetoed Bill and can override the Mayor's veto by a two-thirds vote.