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Vasseur v. City of Minneapolis

Supreme Court of Minnesota

November 23, 2016

Tyler Vasseur, et al., petitioners, Respondents,
v.
City of Minneapolis, et al., Appellants, Ginny Gelms, in her official capacity as Elections Manager, Hennepin County, Respondent.

         Hennepin County Office of Appellate Courts

          Paul J. Lukas, Nichols Kaster, PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bruce D. Nestor, De León & Nestor, LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Karen E. Marty, Marty Law Firm, LLC, Bloomington, Minnesota; and Laura Huizar, National Employment Law Project, Washington, D.C., for respondents Tyler Vasseur, et al.

          Charles N. Nauen, David J. Zoll, Rachel A. Kitze Collins, Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Tracey N. Fussy, Brian S. Carter, Assistant City Attorneys, for appellants City of Minneapolis, et al.

          Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Daniel P. Rogan, Senior Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent Ginny Gelms.

          Bruce Jones, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Minneapolis Minnesota, for amici curiae Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Minneapolis Downtown Council, Warehouse District Business Association, Lake Street Council, Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Southwest Business Association, Minnesota Restaurant Association, Minnesota Lodging Association, Minnesota Grocers Association, Minnesota Retailers Association, Minnesota Recruiting & Staffing Association, and West Broadway Business & Area Coalition.

          Thomas L. Grundhoefer, Edward S. Cadman, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus curiae League of Minnesota Cities.

          Took no part, Stras, Lillehaug, Chutich, and McKeig, JJ. Peterson, Randolph, and Bjorkman, Louise, Acting Justices [*]

         SYLLABUS

         The district court erred in granting respondents' petition pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 204B.44(a) (Supp. 2015), and directing the Minneapolis City Council to include a question regarding a proposed minimum-wage amendment to the Minneapolis City Charter on the ballot for the general election because the City Charter vests general legislative authority solely in the City Council.

         Reversed.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         In August 2016, respondents Tyler Vasseur, et al. (collectively, "Vasseur") filed a petition with Hennepin County District Court pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 204B.44(a) (Supp. 2015), asking the court to order the Minneapolis City Council to place a charter amendment before the voters on the November 2016 general election ballot establishing a local minimum-wage standard in the City of Minneapolis. The district court granted Vasseur's petition, concluding that the proposed charter amendment was the proper subject of a citizen initiative and, therefore, ordered the proposed amendment placed on the general election ballot. We granted the petition for accelerated review filed by the City of Minneapolis. This opinion confirms our order,, reversing the district court. We reverse because we conclude that the proposed minimum-wage amendment falls within the exclusive authority vested in the City Council over legislation and policymaking.

         The respondents are members of Vote for 15MN, a coalition of organizations and individual citizens working together to advocate for minimum-wage standards for those who live and work in the City of Minneapolis. In April 2016, Vote for 15MN began collecting signatures on a petition to amend the Minneapolis City Charter to require provisions establishing minimum-wage standards and regulations. By June 2016, Vote for 15MN had collected the required number of signatures for a petition to amend the City Charter, and submitted the petition to the Minneapolis Charter Commission. The Commission transmitted the petition to the Minneapolis City Council. On July 20, 2016, the City Clerk certified that Vote for 15MN's petition met the statutory signature requirements. See Minn. Stat. § 410.12, subd. 1 (2014) (stating that a petition to amend a municipal charter must be signed by "voters equal in number to five percent of the total votes cast at the last previous state general election in the city").

         The proposed charter amendment sets standards and regulations for minimum wages paid to those who work in the City ("the wage amendment"). In general, the wage amendment aims to address "[i]ncome inequality, low wages, and a high cost of living" based on the City's interest in promoting the "health, safety, and welfare of workers, their families, and their communities" by gradually phasing in minimum-wage standards for employees who work within the geographic boundaries of the City.[1] ...


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