Parliamentary Procedure FAQ 5

Is a municipal governing body required to hold a public hearing before adopting an ordinance?

Not necessarily. There is no general statutory requirement that municipal governing bodies conduct a public hearing before taking action on proposed ordinances. In general, a public hearing is required only if a state or federal law, agency regulation, or local ordinance requires a hearing to be held.

There are several Wisconsin statutes that require municipalities to conduct a public hearing before taking certain actions. For example, municipalities must hold a public hearing before adopting or amending a zoning ordinance, amending an official map, acting on a petition for a conditional use permit or variance, and adopting the annual budget. Wis. Stat. §§ 62.23 and 65.90.

If the law does not require a hearing, municipal governing bodies may rely on their broad authority to determine their rules of procedure and may adopt ordinances or rules requiring public hearings to be held before taking certain actions. A municipal governing body may, for example, decide that a public hearing must be held on proposed ordinances dealing with certain subjects. (rev. 2/22)