Q&A: Ordinance passed on first reading


Submitted by The Standard (Boonville):

Q: I attended a public meeting last night. An ordinance was introduced and discussed. It was never read by title and number or in its entirety.

The governing body ended up passing it on first reading. Is this proper?

A: There isn’t any statute requiring an ordinance be read during a public reading in its entirety. The Open Door Law does say that if a governing body uses an agenda, it can’t pass an item based on agenda number alone – the public has the right to understand the substance of the action being taken. But you said the ordinance was discussed, so that doesn’t appear to be an issue.

I would say it’s unusual to have an ordinance introduced and passed at the same meeting. Generally, an ordinance is introduced at one meeting. Then it might be amended and/or passed at a following meeting. This generally gives the governing board and the public time to examine the ordinance and have some input on the final product.

But I have seen the parliamentary rules waived so an ordinance could be acted upon in one meeting – sometimes due to a perceived need to move immediately, sometimes to circumvent the possibility that opponents might galvanize against it if given a month before the next council meeting.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.