MN Supreme Court Hears Bloomington City Charter Challenge

yesnoballot.jpgA movement by some Bloomington residents to seek a ballot referendum on the city council’s action to “organize” city trash collection has come a long way. The citizens’ movement, sometimes referred to as “Hands Off my Cans”, and the City of Bloomington presented their oral arguments to the Minnesota Supreme Court on May 2.

Through a series of petitions, court hearings and appeals that started in 2016, the question now has become whether or not the citizens of Bloomington, a charter city, can petition their government to amend that charter to address an initiative that was the subject of a state law.

A Minnesota Appeals Court earlier found that the proposed charter amendment was preempted by the state law. The state law did not mandate the “organizing” of trash collection, but it put in place language that would facilitate such a move if a city wished to constrain competitive trash collection, taking upon itself the role of contracting for residential collection rather than leave it to individual residents to select their own collectors.

During oral arguments to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the lawyer for the citizens group argued that the legislation did not preempt the rights of the citizens of a home rule charter city to seek a charter amendment.

Most of the questions posed by the justices did not touch on preemption. If one can judge by the nature of the questioning, the case put forth by the citizens appeared to go well.


In the best case scenario, the MN Supreme Court could overturn the finding of the Appeals Court and rule that Bloomington should allow the proposed charter amendment to go forward to a vote of the citizens. The Supreme Court could also overturn the preemption ruling but return the suit to the Appeals Court to decide the original contentions by the city that the request for a citizens referendum was “manifestly unconstitutional” and that the charter amendment proposed was improper.

While the Supreme Court ruling could be issued at any time, it is more likely to come down in three- to five-months