Skip to main content

Voices. Knowledge. Solutions.

How Ordinance Codification Works

As cities and towns make local laws by enacting ordinances, they systematically identify those ordinances by title and, in most cases, ordinance number. But over time, as the volume of enacted ordinances increases, it may become hard to research and find local laws on a given subject. All levels of government face the challenge of organizing the laws that have been enacted through the years.

The solution is “codification” — the process of collecting, organizing, and indexing all of the applicable local laws. 

In fact, SC Code Section 5-7-290 requires codification of municipal ordinances: “Each municipal council shall provide by ordinance for the codification and indexing of all ordinances, either typewritten or printed, and the maintenance of ordinances in a current form reflecting all amendments and repeals.” 

The resulting document is called the city or town code of ordinances.

For cities and towns that have never codified their ordinances, the first step is to gather all existing ordinances enacted by the city. The clerk or other official will then review all ordinances and determine whether each ordinance remains effective and in what form, since some may have been repealed or amended. Next, the clerk or official will organize the operative ordinances into categories, assign article and section numbers to them, and publish them in a single, indexed volume.

Once the initial code of ordinances is published, the city or town may keep it updated by periodically repeating the process, but only going back to the last codification date. The clerk or official will need only to review those ordinances and either add them in an appropriate place to the code, for new laws, or revise existing language in the code for laws that amend prior ordinances.

Most cities and towns use a codification service like Municode or American Legal Publishing. Although hiring a professional service can be expensive, the expertise and experience of the codification companies can be a valuable and time-saving tool.