Ordinance Publication Requirements: New Law Effective March 26, 2008

Municipal Law Alert, May 2008

On March 11, 2008, Governor Jim Doyle signed into law Senate Bill 335, 2007 Wis. Act 72, permitting local governments to publish summaries of newly enacted ordinances. Prior to passage of this new law, in most circumstances, municipalities were required to publish (or post) the entire text of a newly enacted ordinance. Since publication costs can be substantial, sometimes running into the thousands of dollars, this new law will allow a municipality to save considerable publication expense.

The new law applies to cities, villages, towns and counties. Essentially, it allows a local government to publish a summary of the ordinance as long as the summary meets four statutory requirements. A “summary” must contain:

  1. The number and title of the ordinance;
  2. The enactment date of the ordinance;
  3. A “brief, precise, and plain language description [of the ordinance] that can be easily understood”; and
  4. Information stating where someone can obtain the full text of the ordinance. This information must contain the applicable municipal clerk’s phone number, the street address where the full text of the ordinance may be viewed, and a Web site, if any, where the ordinance may be accessed.

This new law makes changes to Wis. Stat. Chapters 59 (counties), 60 (towns), 61 (villages) and 62 (cities). In the case of towns, the law allows summaries of ordinances and resolutions, and also rules and orders of town sanitary districts. For villages, the law includes ordinances and bylaws.

A copy of the newly enacted law can be obtained at the Wisconsin State Legislature’s website at the following link:


The new law went into effect on March 26, 2008.

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