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Jennissen v. City of Bloomington

Supreme Court of Minnesota

June 20, 2018

Joel Jennissen, et al., Appellants,
v.
City of Bloomington, Respondent.

          Office of Appellate Courts Court of Appeals

          Gregory J. Joseph, Joseph Law Office, PLLC, Waconia, Minnesota, for appellants.

          George C. Hoff, Shelley M. Ryan, Hoff Barry, P.A., Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Susan L. Naughton, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus curiae League of Minnesota Cities.

         SYLLABUS

         A proposed city charter amendment to require voter approval to implement organized waste collection is not preempted by state law because the Legislature did not intend to occupy the field of regulation of the process by which municipalities organize collection of solid waste.

         Reversed and remanded.

          OPINION

          LILLEHAUG, Justice.

         This case requires us to decide whether state law preempts a proposal to amend the charter of the City of Bloomington (the City) to require voter approval before the City can implement organized collection of solid waste. Appellants, a group of Bloomington residents, proposed the charter amendment. The city declined to place the proposed amendment on a ballot on the ground that Minn. Stat. § 115A.94 (2016), which specifies processes that municipalities must follow before implementing organized collection, preempted the "field" of regulation of the process by which a city organizes waste collection. The district court and the court of appeals agreed with the City. We reverse.

         FACTS

         Late in 2014, the City initiated a process to switch from a system of "open collection" of mixed solid waste to a system of "organized collection." In open collection, individual residents contract with city-licensed solid waste collectors of their choice. In a system of organized collection, by contrast, a municipality contracts with a single solid-waste collector or an organization of collectors, who "collect from a defined geographic service area or areas." Minn. Stat. § 115A.94, subd. 1.

         The City initiated this process by passing a resolution to negotiate with existing City-licensed trash haulers. The City subsequently formed an "Organized Collections Options Committee" ("OCOC") to explore the details of implementing organized collection, while simultaneously negotiating with the haulers. The haulers submitted a proposal in April 2015. The OCOC produced a report that included an option to proceed with the haulers' proposal. The City held a public hearing on the option. The city council then voted for organized collection. On December 21, 2015, the City executed a contract with the haulers for organized waste collection.

         During this process, appellants petitioned the City for a ballot initiative seeking the enactment of an ordinance that would require voter approval before the City could implement organized collection. The city attorney rejected the ballot initiative on two grounds. The first ground was that the proposed ordinance was preempted by state law. Specifically, the city attorney opined that Minn. Stat. § 115A.94, which outlines steps that a municipality must take before organizing collection of solid waste, preempted the "field" of regulation of the process by which a city organizes collection. The second ground was that the ballot initiative was premature because it put an issue to the voters relating to an ordinance that the City had not yet passed.

         In Hennepin County District Court, appellants challenged the city attorney's decision not to approve the ballot initiative. The district court granted the City's motion for summary judgment. Jennissen v. City of Bloomington, No. 27-CV-15-11494, Order at 2 (Henn. Cty. Dist. Ct. filed Apr. 25, 2016). The court determined that appellants' initiative was "not a proper ordinance" because the citizens' "initiative power and the city council's power to enact ordinances are co-extensive." Id. at 8, 9. Thus, held the court, appellants' "proposed limitation on the power of the city council must be accomplished, if at all, by amendment of statute or city charter, not by ordinance." Id. at 7.

         Appellants then submitted a proposed charter amendment to the City for placement on a ballot. It read:

Unless first approved by a majority of voters in a state general election, the City shall not replace the competitive market in solid waste collection with a system in which solid waste services are provided by government-chosen collectors or in government-designated districts. The adoption of this Charter amendment shall supersede any ...

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