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Unity Church of St. Paul v. State

April 12, 2005

UNITY CHURCH OF ST. PAUL, ET AL., RESPONDENTS, ADATH JESHURUN CONGREGATION, ET AL., RESPONDENTS, CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS, RESPONDENT, PEOPLE SERVING PEOPLE, INC., ET AL., RESPONDENTS,
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA, APPELLANT.



Ramsey County District Court File No. C9-03-9570.

Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Minge, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

I. 2003 Minn. Laws ch. 28, containing the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003, an amendment relating to firearm possession for certain criminal offenders, and various natural resources amendments, violates the single-subject requirement of Minn. Const. Art. IV, § 17. Its three disparate provisions are not germane to a single subject.

II. Severance of the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003 from chapter 28 is the appropriate remedy where the act is the portion of chapter 28 being challenged and the act is not germane to the law's remaining provisions.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randall, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

This lawsuit involves respondent religious and charitable organizations' constitutional challenge to the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003 (PPA). The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of respondents, holding that 2003 Minn. Laws. ch. 28 violated the single-subject requirement of Minn. Const. Art. IV, § 17. The district court remedied the violation by severing the PPA from the rest of chapter 28.

Appellant argues that (1) 2003 Minn. Laws ch. 28 does not violate the single-subject requirement of Minn. Const. Art. IV, § 17 and (2) the PPA does not violate the Freedom of Conscience clause of the Minnesota Constitution as applied to respondents.

We conclude the district court properly found that chapter 28 violates the single-subject requirement of the Minnesota Constitution. Then, the district court properly severed the disparate portion of the bill (the PPA) from the remainder of chapter 28. Since we affirm the district court on the single-subject issue, we decline to address appellant's Freedom of Conscience clause argument on an advisory basis.

FACTS

The history of the PPA is an integral part of the parties' legal arguments. On January 30, 2003, Representative Lynda Boudreau introduced the PPA as H.F. 261. State of Minnesota, Journal of the House, Eighty-Third Session 174 (Jan. 30, 2003). H.F. 261 was titled in part, "a bill for an act relating to public safety: enacting the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003; . . . ." Id. The bill proposed a "must issue" system for issuing permits to carry handguns in public places, mandating statewide uniformity for handgun permitting and requiring sheriffs to grant handgun permits to anyone who meets specified criteria. H.F. 261, third engrossment. The bill also curtailed the ability of private establishments to ban firearms and proposed specific rules that private establishments must follow to ban firearms within set limits. Id. H.F. 261 further proposed amendments to the criminal law, creating new firearm crimes and modifying existing crimes. Id.

H.F. 261 passed through the House Civil Law Committee, the House Committee on Judiciary Policy and Finance, and the House Committee on Ways and Means, with the recommendation that it pass as amended. State of Minnesota, Journal of the House, Eighty-Third Session 242, 350, 1240 (Feb. 13, 2003, Feb. 27, 2003, Apr. 7, 2003). On April 23, 2003, H.F. 261 was placed on the House's calendar for consideration. Id. at 2643.*fn1

Meanwhile, S.F. 842 was introduced in the Senate on March 13, 2003 as a "bill for an act relating to natural resources." State of Minnesota, Journal of the Senate, Eighty-Third Session 337 (Mar. 13, 2003). S.F. 842 contained several statutory amendments relating to (1) natural resource grants; (2) gifts or grants of land to the state; (3) snowmobile registration applications; (4) snowmobile safety course reciprocity; (5) watercraft licensing; (6) game and fish fines; (7) fish house identification; (8) fish house license display; and (9) the state parks' working capital fund. After proceeding through the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, S.F. 842 passed the Senate on March 24, 2003 by a vote of 65-0 and was sent to the House for consideration. State of Minnesota, Journal of the Senate, Eighty-Third Session 426 (Mar. 24, 2003). The House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Finance amended S.F. 842 to (1) rescind the need for legislative approval for state park fees and (2) make adjustments to laws regulating and punishing littering within outdoor recreation systems and on highways. Hearing on S.F. 842 before the House Comm. on Env't and Natural Res. (Apr. 11, 2003).

On April 23, 2003, the same day the PPA was to be considered, S.F. 842 was brought to the House floor. State of Minnesota, Journal of the House, Eighty-Third Session 2644 (Apr. 23, 2003). Several representatives referred to S.F. 842 as a "DNR technical bill." House Floor Debate on S.F. No. 842 (Apr. 23, 2003) (statements of Rep. Cornish, Rep. Kelliher, Rep. Paulsen, Rep. Entenza). Representative Cornish offered an amendment to the bill, authorizing the DNR commissioner to recognize out-of-state safety courses for motorcycles, ATVs, and watercraft and adding a clause to the statutory provision requiring a firearms safety certificate to obtain a hunting license. Id.; State of Minnesota, Journal of the House, Eighty-Third Session 2644 (Apr. 23, 2003). The amendment passed.

Representative Boudreau then moved to amend S.F. 842 to include H.F. 261, the PPA, and to divide the PPA and DNR bill into 2 separate articles. House Floor Debate on S.F. No. 842 (Apr. 23, 2003). Before voting on this motion, Representative Lynn Osterman moved to amend H.F. 261 to include "Article 3," a lifetime ban on firearm possession for violent felons. State of Minnesota, Journal of the House, Eighty-Third Session 2660 (Apr. 23, 2003).

The House passed Osterman's amendment by a vote of 112 to 18. Id. at 2666. The House next passed Boudreau's amendment to S.F. 842, which now included both the PPA and the ban on firearm possession for violent felons, by a vote of 88 to 46. Id. at 2678. Following these amendments, the House passed S.F. 842, containing both the original DNR provisions and the new firearm legislation, by the same margin and returned the bill to the Senate on April 28, 2003. Id. at 2679. S.F. 842 was still titled "an act relating to natural resources." State of Minnesota, Journal of the Senate, Eighty-Third Session 1389 (Apr. 28, 2003).

Once in the Senate, Senator Olson moved that the Senate concur in the House amendments and re-pass S.F. 842. Id. After seven hours of debate, the Senate re-passed S.F. 842 as amended by the House by a vote of 37 to 30. Senate Floor Debate on S.F. No. 842 (Apr. 28, 2003). Governor Tim Pawlenty signed S.F. 842 into law the evening of April 28, 2003. State of Minnesota, Journal of the Senate, Eighty-Third Session 1534 (Apr. 29, 2003). When signed into law, S.F. 842 was divided into three articles. The PPA is Article 2. Article 1 relates to natural resources, and Article 3 relates to violent felons in possession of firearms.

Soon thereafter, respondents Unity Church of St. Paul d/b/a Unity Church Unitarian and White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church filed a complaint in Ramsey County District Court challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the PPA, arguing that the act violates the Freedom of Conscience clause of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn. Const. Art. I, § 16.*fn2 Over the next several months, three groups of intervenors joined the lawsuit, known during the litigation as "Religious Organizations," the City of Minneapolis, and "Charitable Agencies." The intervening respondents raised additional constitutional challenges to the PPA, including the claim that the PPA violates the single-subject requirement of Minn. Const. Art. IV, § 17. The original plaintiffs then amended their complaint to conform to the Religious Organizations' complaint.

Respondents filed motions for partial summary judgment on several different grounds, some raising Freedom of Conscience clause challenges, and others making "takings" (improper use of eminent domain-no compensation) arguments. But all respondents singularly argued that 2003 Minn. Laws ch. 28 violated the single-subject requirement of Minn. Const. Art. IV, § 17.

Appellant State of Minnesota moved the district court to dismiss the action. Instead, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of respondents, concluding that "the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act 200[3], known as Senate File 842, violates Article 4, Section 17 of the Minnesota Constitution because it embraces more than one subject." The district court severed the PPA from the rest of 2003 Minn. Laws ch. 28, leaving the DNR-amendments bill as law.

The district court did not rule on respondents' other arguments, namely whether the PPA violates the Freedom of Conscience clause of the Minnesota Constitution, and whether the PPA constitutes a property taking without compensation in violation of the state and federal constitutions. The district court "[made] comment ...


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