Minneapolis Charter Amendment Supporters Await Judges Ruling

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Is it the law or politics that is keeping a pair of charter amendments off the Minneapolis ballot this fall? That’s essentially the question that Hennepin County Judge Susan Robiner will need to decide in the next few weeks.

One amendment would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The other seeks to curb police misconduct by requiring “rogue cops” to pay higher liability insurance premiums. Despite having enough signatures to put them on the ballot, the city says both issues are improper topics for a charter amendment. The groups behind both petition drives are suing the city to get their amendments to a public vote.

“There is no conflict with the law and the city has no legal basis for keeping our amendment off the ballot,” said Michelle Gross, a member of the Committee for Professional Policing. “They have, however, a political basis — they just do not want to hold police accountable.”

Judge Robiner heard arguments in both cases on Friday and attorneys will be filing additional briefs this week. She is expected to rule before August 26 — the deadline for putting issues on the November ballot.

City Attorney Susan Segal says the Minneapolis City Charter does not provide for voter initiatives for the passage of ordinances by a ballot referendum.

Attorney Bruce Nestor, who is representing low-wage groups in the case, says the minimum-wage question is a charter amendment because it considers broad issues of the health and welfare of the city.

Segal argued the police liability insurance amendment is in conflict with state law, and for that reason should not be allowed on the ballot. Dave Bicking with the Committee for Professional Policing says the state law does not cover police “misconduct,” and that is what is addressed by the amendment, so there is no conflict.

“At its heart, the city’s case is fundamentally dishonest. It reads many things into a law that are not there. And it reads many things into our amendment that are not there and thereby creates a fictional conflict between our amendment and the law.”

“The city is currently covering for misconduct and giving the officers no consequence. Under our amendment there will at least be the consequence of the rise in the insurance rates.”

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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