Researching Local Law – Municipal & County Legislation, Tracking, & Legislative History

When researching a legal issue, local laws are an often overlooked resource.  Municipal and county governments pass ordinances on a variety of topics, including administrative procedures, standards of conduct, and zoning.  Although many of these laws are available online through local government websites or through services such as eCode or municode, they can be difficult to locate.  Fortunately, the Wisconsin State Law Library has created a comprehensive guide to Wisconsin Ordinances and Codes.

Some larger municipalities and counties enable you to delve even deeper into their legislation and legislative history.  Legistar from Granicus is a legislative management software used by large cities & counties to manage the legislative process, from drafting files to publishing agendas and minutes.  These documents are then made available to the public through online legislative information centers.

Here’s a sampling of the type of information that you can find in these legislative information centers:

  • Agendas and minutes of the Common Council and other meeting bodies
  • Agendas of subcommittees, ad hoc committees and additional public meetings
  • Detailed information about resolutions, ordinances, and other matters
  • Information regarding City Council Members, Council committees, and other citizen boards, committees, agencies and commissions
  • Contact information regarding city staff for each board, commission, and committee
  • Email alerts on legislation, agendas, and minutes as they are posted

These resources can be extremely useful when researching or tracking local developments.  Searching isn’t always easy, but I’ve found that contacting the local clerk’s office is often quite helpful.

A number of Wisconsin cities and counties use Legistar.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find a comprehensive list, but here are a few:

Don’t see your city or county listed above?  Try Googling the name of the city/county and Legistar or “legislative information center”