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Legislative History Research Guide

Many researchers need to find not just the law that is currently in effect, but also the history of that law. This guide takes you through the steps of researching a simple legislative history question.

Suppose you want to know if it is legal to own miniature goats in the City of Seattle. And, if it is legal, you would like to know when that law took effect. Following are the steps to research this topic using the Clerk's online search tools.

1.  Go to the Seattle Municipal Code:  http://clerk.seattle.gov/public/code1.htm 

2.  In the "Words in Text of Code" field, enter the search term goats and press the "Submit Query" button.


3.  You will receive a list of results that includes every instance where "goats" are mentioned in the Seattle Municipal Code.  The last item listed, "Keeping of Animals," sounds promising.


4.  Clicking on the "Keeping of Animals" link takes you directly to the complete text of SMC 23.42.052.  Toward the end you will see that Section F addresses the topic of the legality of Miniature Goats.  Below the text you can see that three ordinances have either created or amended SMC 23.42.052, Ordinance 123378 in 2010, Ordinance 122508 in 2007, and Ordinance 122311 in 2006. 

5.  You want to find when subsection F of SMC 23.42.052 was added. If you don't have an idea of the year, you can start by clicking on the link to Ordinance No. 123378, which was the last ordinance to amend this section of the SMC. Additions and deletions in ordinances are shown using underlining and strike-through. Looking at the amended text in subsection F, you can see that only a citation in the subsection was changed by this ordinance. So, this is not the ordinance that created the subsection.

5.  Return to the SMC section and click on the link to the next ordinance in the list. This is Ordinance No. 122508.

6.  The Ordinance title tells you that this is the ordinance that amended SMC 23.42.052 to allow the keeping of miniature goats for the first time in Seattle. 

The record shows that the Ordinance passed on September 24, 2007, and was signed by the Mayor on October 3, 2007. Scrolling to the end of the record, you can see that this Ordinance took effect 30 days after the Mayor's signature date.