How is an Ordinance Made?

Since taking office last March, the Village Council has been adopting a new convention for how the Village considers a new Ordinance.  After the initial discussion and the decision to “publish and post” a new ordinance, the Council traditionally had two more “readings” before a final vote on whether to pass it.  We are now skipping that middle discussion, and some have asked why?  What difference does it make?  Here’s some useful information.

First, here’s what the law says:  “Notice by publication of the title and subject matter of any ordinance proposed for adoption by the governing body of any municipality must take place at least two weeks prior to consideration of final action upon the ordinance in open session of the governing body. . . .” [This is followed by an exception for emergencies].  Section 3-17-3 NMSA 1978 (enacted in 1973).

As a practical matter, after we make our decision to “publish and post,” it generally takes about 5 days to get the notice published in the Albuquerque Journal.  So after the decision to “publish and post,” final action must be no sooner than about 3 weeks later (two weeks in the statute plus the time it takes to publish).  Our attorneys advise us that various municipalities handle this in several different ways.

Most municipalities have two readings—“publish and post” and then, generally about 4 weeks later, the final consideration.  Municipalities whose governing bodies meet two or three times a month will generally just skip intervening meetings (that is, if there hasn’t yet been two-week notice for final hearing and consideration, the proposed ordinance simply won’t be on the agenda).   A few municipalities have only one “reading,” because they have delegated the authority to publish and post to the municipal clerk or administrator.  In those municipalities, the governing body may not see the proposed ordinance until it comes up for adoption (though in some cases they may see it at a work study during the interval).

Corrales is the only municipality of which our Village Attorney is aware that has generally conducted three readings of each ordinance, with the third reading and final vote always being at least four weeks after the first reading and therefore having two-week notice as required.  This was done as a matter of custom, not specifically mentioned in the Village Code.  The intervening “discussion only” meeting may have less than two weeks after publication.  And the problem was, in addition to taking up a lot of time, they generally weren’t “discussion only” and changes resulted as the ordinance evolved.  Many villagers observed (and rightly so) that what was ultimately discussed and voted upon at the final hearing, wasn’t what was ‘published and posted” in the first place.

So, in my continuing effort to streamline our processes and keep information more clearly available, we have moved to the “two reading” format as used by most other towns.  After publication, a hearing date will be set for a future council meeting, and during interim meetings, that date will be listed as a Future Agenda Item for information purposes.  That date will also be included in the publication.  Of course, you can also track the unofficial postings on our Village website.