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Supreme Court kills minimum wage, police liability insurance ballot questions

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that it's up to the Minneapolis City Council to raise the minimum wage, and that forcing police to buy extra liability insurance is illegal.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that it's up to the Minneapolis City Council to raise the minimum wage, and that forcing police to buy extra liability insurance is illegal.

On Wednesday afternoon, the state’s highest court ruled that Minneapolis residents will not to get to vote on either the minimum wage or police professional liability insurance in November’s election.

Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, 15 Now Minnesota, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) have been working for years to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. This summer, they collected nearly 18,000 signatures to prompt a ballot referendum to amend the city charter.

The Committee for Professional Policing, an anti-police brutality group, received 15,000 signatures for its proposal that would force Minneapolis police officers to carry their own professional liability insurance. Under the referendum, the city would continue to pay the base rate for cops’ insurance, but any premium increases due to misconduct settlements would be the responsibility of the officer at fault.

Both measures were first submitted to city attorney Susan Segal for legal consideration. Segal decided in late July that neither question belonged on the ballot. She reasoned that the $15 minimum wage was an issue better dealt with through a change in city ordinance instead of an amendment. She also said the police insurance proposal would be illegal under state law, which requires cities to defend officers working within the scope of their duties.

Advocates behind both measures filed lawsuits. Hennepin County judge Susan Robiner ruled in favor of the minimum wage, but against police liability insurance. She ordered Minneapolis to prepare the ballot to ask voters their opinion on the issue come November.

Minneapolis appealed that decision. The Committee for Professional Policing also pressed on and appealed Robiner’s ruling.   

The Minnesota Supreme Court ultimately decided to strike both down.

Regarding minimum wage, the court cited a state statute that says although a city charter may provide for submitting laws to the city council by petition, the Minneapolis city charter doesn’t include such a provision. Instead, Minneapolis defers policymaking power to the city council.

The SEIU labor union released a statement shortly after the ruling urging the Minneapolis City Council to pick up where activists were stalled and pass an ordinance to raise the city's minimum wage as soon as possible.

On police liability insurance, the court upheld Robiner, ruling that it's simply illegal under state law.  

“The Supreme Court’s order is proof that the system is rigged — we were never given a chance,” stated Dave Bicking, Chair of the Committee for Professional Policing, in a statement. “We know the Police Insurance Amendment is 100% legal. The city’s arguments were dishonest. But the system doesn’t want to be disrupted by ordinary folks just trying to participate in their government.”

The Committee says it will resurrect the issue somehow.