How to Stay Up-to-Date with Changing Laws in Your Community

Written by Julie Lovelace, Esq.

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The safest, cleanest, and most productive communities are the ones comprised of residents who are knowledgeable about local laws, codes, and the procedures people need to follow to comply with local requirements. We all want to live in a community where people pay their taxes, register their pets, and know when to put their leaves out for the annual seasonal pick-up. No matter where you’ve chosen to call home, you have a responsibility to your neighbors, friends, and family to stay informed about the laws that govern your shared community.  

If you’re worried that staying informed about local legislation means pouring over dusty legal tomes at your hometown library or carving out time in your calendar to attend local council meetings, know that it’s never been easier to proactively receive the updates and alerts you need to be a responsible and informed neighbor.  

If you’re ready to do your part (or just need to know what your community’s regulations are about keeping chickens in your backyard—it’s a hot topic, we know), this article can help you navigate the process of signing up for local legislative alerts, no matter where you live. 

What Does Codify Mean? 

First, let’s start with some basic terminology you’ll need to understand if you want to stay informed about local legislation. 

Codification is a process that occurs when laws and ordinances are drafted into a book of laws called a code of ordinances. Think of it like your community’s operations manual. It includes all the rules and regulations that keep a community safe and well-run. For example, your community’s code of ordinances will outline everything from the rules that dictate where you can put a fence on your property, how tall buildings can be downtown, the fees you’ll pay if you’re caught littering, and the answers to the ever-critical question, can I keep chickens on my property? 

How to Access Your Local Code of Ordinances  

The codification process is time-consuming and highly detailed. As a result, many governments outsource the process to third parties with the experience and staff needed to take legislation and carefully codify it. The nation’s largest and most established codifier is Municode Codification, powered by CivicPlus®. That’s us (👋) 

It’s likely that you’ll be able to find your community’s code of ordinances here in our online code library. Your local government’s website should also include a link to your code of ordinances if it’s available online or instructions for how to access paper copies if your community has not yet digitized its code. 

Staying Informed of Changing Laws and Legislation 

Your local leaders are busy people. They continually refine your community’s laws and regulations to meet your and your neighbors’ changing needs. This type of progress is a critical component of the legislative process. Still, to remain compliant, you need to remain informed.  

If your local government is a CivicPlus customer, when you search your Online Code, you’ll be able to browse through laws that govern your community in a way that makes sense to you. You can even see how the laws have changed over time. If you’d like more information about a recent change, such as when and why your leaders made an update, you can navigate to read notes from the applicable council meeting or watch an available video recording of the meeting for complete details. 

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Signing Up for Notifications and Alerts 

At CivicPlus, we’ve been creating technology to connect local governments and their residents for over 20 years. If you’re reading this, you’re the kind of responsible resident who does their part to keep their community running smoothly. That means you’re likely to benefit from proactive updates and alerts when your leaders update the aspects of your code of ordinances that impact you most. If your community is a CivicPlus Codification customer, as an example, you can sign up for notifications through the online code portal on any code section of interest, proactively sent right to your mobile phone. In addition, as a resident of a CivicPlus customer, you can sign up directly on your municipal website to be notified the next time a council meeting is scheduled for your community. 

If your community is not a CivicPlus customer, and you are struggling to easily access your community’s code of ordinances, we’re happy to work with your municipal leaders to codify or recodify their code and add it to our comprehensive code library.