A municipality is commonly defined as an organized body, consisting of inhabitants of a designated area, which is a legal entity, constituting a subdivision of the state, and having delegated powers[i]. The powers of a municipal corporation are those which are given to it by the state[ii].
Since, municipal corporations are subordinate branches of state government established by the legislature for the purpose of administering local affairs of government, they possess only such powers as are conferred upon or delegated to them by the state[iii].
The number, nature, and duration of the powers conferred upon these corporations and the territory over which they should be exercised rests in the absolute discretion of the state[iv].
When a charter is adopted, that instrument becomes the fundamental law of the municipality in the same manner that the constitution is the fundamental law of the state[v]. The only limitation upon these powers is that the charter may not be in conflict with the general laws of the state or in contravention of the constitution.
A municipality can exercise only such powers as are expressly granted by the charter, or those which may be reasonably implied from the powers granted, or those that are incidental to the purpose for which the corporation was created. Thus, it is fundamental that a municipal corporation possesses no power that is not conferred by its charter or by the general laws under which it was formed[vi].
A municipal corporation derives not only its existence but its power from the legislature[vii]. Since, a municipal corporation is a political arm of the state it has the power to regulate and administer the local and internal affairs of the area covered by the corporation[viii]. In its broad sense, the term includes quasi-public corporations created as instrumentalities of the state for limited purposes.
Municipalities have no sovereignty independent from that of the state, and the only power available to them is the power that has been delegated to them by the state[ix]. Thus, a statute takes precedence over a municipal ordinance.
Although municipal ordinances are inferior in status to state statutes, where there is no direct conflict between the two, both should stand[x].
[i] Central Power & Light Co. v. City of San Juan, 962 S.W.2d 602 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi 1998).
[ii] Sanderson Lincoln Mercury, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 205 Ariz. 202 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2003).
[iii] La. Associated Gen. Contrs., Inc. v. Calcasieu Parish Sch. Bd., 586 So. 2d 1354 (La. 1991).
[iv] Sanderson Lincoln Mercury, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 205 Ariz. 202 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2003).
[v] Central Power & Light Co. v. City of San Juan, 962 S.W.2d 602 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi 1998).
[vii] Brooks v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc’y, 706 So. 2d 85 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1998).
[viii] Matthews v. Wenatchee Heights Water Co., 92 Wn. App. 541 (Wash. Ct. App. 1998).
[ix] Ahearn v. Town of Wheatland, 2002 WY 12 (Wyo. 2002).
[x] Brooks v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc’y, 706 So. 2d 85 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1998).