City Council writes and passes local laws that affect the day-to-day lives of people living in, working in, or visiting Wilmington. As the legislative body, the City Council is responsible for setting City policy through ordinances and resolutions.
The Legislative Process
Step 1: Bill introduction
Council Members work with Council staff and the City Solicitor’s Office to craft a bill that is introduced at stated meetings, where it is assigned to the appropriate Committee.
Step 2: Public hearings
The Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill to obtain feedback from the public and other government entities who may be affected by the bill. This may result in amendments to the bill.
Step 3: Voting
The Committee votes on the bill. If the bill passes the Committee by majority vote, the bill is then sent to the full Council where it will be considered and voted on at a Stated Meeting. The bill must again pass by majority vote.
Step 4: Mayoral decision
After a bill is passed by the Council, it is presented to the Mayor, who has 10 days to either sign the bill into law, veto the bill or take no action. If the Mayor vetoes the bill, it is sent back to the Council. If this happens, the Council can override the Mayor’s veto with a 2/3 vote. If the Mayor doesn’t sign or veto the bill within 10 days, it becomes law.
Step 5: Bill becomes law
Once a bill is signed by the Mayor (or its veto has been overridden by Council), it’s then added to the Wilmington City Charter or Administrative Code.
Abstain: When a member of council elects not to vote on a particular motion.
Amend: A proposal to alter the text of an ordinance or resolution by substituting, adding, or deleting language.
Chairperson: The member of council who presides over a particular committee and its meetings. In the absence of the chairperson the vice-chairperson shall preside over the committee.
Clerk of Council: An employee of city council, he or she is responsible of managing the council office, distributing information to council members, preparing notices for public hearings, recording council actions during meetings and preparing the minutes of the meetings.
Committee: A smaller group of members of council that meet to consider legislation before it is considered or voted upon by all of council. Standing committees are established by the Rules of Procedure of Council and have five members each. Special committees are appointed by the president. Committee meetings take place on Monday afternoons.
Consent Agenda: One or more ordinances and/or resolutions that can be acted on at one time under a single motion. The consent agenda usually is composed of routine legislation that does not require any discussion.
Declaring an Emergency: Allows council to dispense with the requirement that a piece of legislation be read at three separate council meetings, and allows the legislation to go into effect earlier than 30 days from passage of the legislation.
Executive Session: A closed-door session of council for the purpose of discussing a particular confidential matter, in accordance with law.
Legislation: An official act of council that takes the form of either an ordinance or a resolution.
Minutes: The official record of a meeting of council or a committee of council.
Motion: A formal request for consideration of a proposal for action by council members. Examples include a motion to pass an ordinance, a motion to amend, or a motion for time.
Ordinance: A formal act of council. Examples of ordinance topics include: authorizing the Director of Public Works to enter into a contract for the construction of a project, approving a union agreement, approving a conditional use application, or amending the Codified Ordinances of the City.
President: The member of council who presides over council and its meetings. In the absence of the president, the vice president shall be the presiding officer. In the absence of both the president and the vice president the president pro tem shall be the presiding officer.
Public Hearing: When a hearing is held before council or a committee of council on a particular piece of legislation. Members of the public wishing to testify before council at a public hearing are asked to first take an oath to swear or affirm that the testimony they will provide is the truth.
Public Comment Period: The portion of a regular council meeting where members of the public are invited to address council for three minutes on topics that are germane and relevant to council business. Members of the public are asked to provide their name and address, and to refrain from making personal attacks or disrespectful remarks.
Quorum: The minimum number of members who must be present to officially conduct business. A quorum of Wilmington City Council is seven (7) members, a quorum of a committee is three members.
Refer: When council delays taking on a piece of new legislation until a future meeting, the committee chair will as for the item to be referred to the regular agenda of the next meeting. It is the same as taking time.
Resolution: A formal expression of the opinion or will of council. Examples of resolution topics include congratulating a local high school that has won a state championship, supporting or opposing a bill pending before the Delaware General Assembly, or approving the appointment of members of a board or commission.
Second: An indication by a member of council, other than the member who made the motion, that he or she agrees that the proposed motion should be considered.
Substitute offered as an Amendment: An amended version of an ordinance or resolution that replaces an earlier version before council.
Suspension of the Rules: Procedural rules require that legislation be read at three council meetings before a vote (see Declaring an Emergency). When there is a need to pass legislation immediately, the committee chair or sponsoring council representative may ask for a Suspension of the Rules to allow an immediate vote on the legislation.
Roberts Rules of Order: A manual on parliamentary procedure. In the absence of any provision governing matters of business in either Council Rules of Procedure, the laws of the State of Delaware, or the City Charter, Roberts Rules of Order shall be the standard of parliamentary procedure for Council.
Roll Call: When the names of council members are called out by the Clerk of Council to confirm their vote on the previous motion.
Time: similar to Refer, it is when council delays taking any action on a piece of legislation on the regular agenda until a future meeting.
Vote: “Aye” or “Yea” is an affirmative or favorable vote on a motion. “Nay” or “No” is a negative or unfavorable vote on a motion.