Mpls council rejects efforts to change charter for minimum wage, police insurance

Susan Segal, Minneapolis city attorney
Susan Segal, Minneapolis city attorney, speaks at the council meeting on adding the $15 minimum wage issue to a referendum on the city charter, while protesters hold up signs during the meeting on Aug. 3, 2016.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

The organizers of two separate efforts to amend the Minneapolis city charter say they'll continue their fight in court after being blocked by the city council Friday.

A majority of Minneapolis City Council members voted against adding a proposal to require police officers to carry liability insurance and another to mandate a city-wide minimum wage of $15 an hour to the ballot this fall.

Many of the council members have said they believed the minimum wage proposal was not appropriate for a charter amendment. And they said the police insurance requirement conflicted with state law.

However, council member Alondra Cano said she believes both measures are legal and appropriate. She said the city has an obligation to help low wage workers have a better standard of living. And Cano said the city is well within its right to amend the charter to require police officers to carry insurance.

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"It's certainly within our powers to regulate and oversee our employees," she said. "Of course Minneapolis officers are part of that mix."

Dave Bicking is an organizer with the group Committee for Professional Policing, which led the petition drive on the insurance amendment. He announced Friday that his group is filing a lawsuit in state court to compel the council to put the question on the ballot. Bicking said the council's vote to block the proposal was illegal.

"Because there is no one on that council who can say 'I am certain beyond a reasonable doubt, that this is an illegal proposal,'" he said.

The city attorney's office determined the insurance proposal conflicted with existing state law.

Organizers of the effort to get a $15-an-hour minimum wage added to the city charter say they will announce a lawsuit Monday.

"Rather than following the law, the city council voted against placing the minimum wage charter amendment on the November ballot because of their policy and political objections to the proposal," said Bruce Nestor, a member of the "15 for Minneapolis" legal team, in a statement. "The city clearly has the power to establish a minimum wage. While it could be done by ordinance through City Council action, it can also be accomplished by amending the charter."

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal and the head of the city's charter commission have both said it appears the supporters of the amendment are trying to create an ordinance through the referendum process. And they say the city charter doesn't allow that.

The measure is also opposed by some business groups. Both the Downtown Council and the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce have said the proposals risked setting a dangerous precedent.

While the council rejected the minimum wage ballot proposal, it did approve a motion directing officials to begin the process of exploring a citywide minimum wage hike with a proposed committee schedule that would start in the spring of 2017. However, the motion doesn't mention a dollar amount.

Supporters of both charter amendments are asking the courts to expedite their lawsuits. The deadline for getting questions on the fall ballot is August 26th.