A municipal charter, which defines the powers and duties of a municipality, may be granted directly, by a special law, or indirectly, by general laws providing procedures by which municipal corporations may be formed. In states where incorporation of municipalities is governed by general laws, alternative methods of organization and forms of government are often provided. A charter may provide for a commission form of government in which a commission performs both executive and legislative functions, or it may provide for a city manager form of government, which involves a mayor with nominal power, a city council with legislative power, and a city manager, appointed by the council or council and mayor, who exercises the executive and administrative powers of the municipal corporation. Another form of government, the mayor-council form of government, is charactereized by a mayor who is vested with the executive powers of the corporation, with veto powers over the legislative council.
In general, the powers of a municipality are effected through the enactment of ordinances and resolutions by the governing authority of the municipality. The permanent rules of conduct or government of a municipality are enacted by ordinances. Ordinances are considered to be local laws and have only local applicability, unlike state laws which have general applicability. A resolution is a less formal and more limited action, not considered to be a law, usually dealing with administrative functions. Resolutions and ordinances may be required to be published.
Municipalities have only those powers that are expressly granted to them by legislative or constitutional provisions, that are implied from those granted, or that are essential to carry out of the declared intentions and purposes of the corporation. The power of municipalities or counties to enter into contracts must comply with all constitutional and statutory requirements.
The governing body of a political subdivision generally can act only as a body and when in session. Statutes or charters ordinarily provide for regular meetings of such bodies, and allow the presiding officer or a specified number of the members of the governing body to call special meetings . Meetings of the governing bodies of political subdivisions ar not automatically required to be publicly held, however, statutes or ordinances frequently require such meetings to be open to the public.