Bills Call for Changes to City Charter Commission Requirements

February 24, 2020

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The bills would modify the process to fill city charter commission vacancies and increase the reimbursement requirement.

Legislation was introduced last week to modify the statutory process to fill vacancies on city charter commissions. A separate bill, introduced in 2019, that would increase the charter commission expenditure reimbursement requirement was heard in the House Local Government Division.

Filling charter vacancies

The bills, SF 3298 (Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester) and HF 3483 (Rep. Duane Sauke, DFL-Rochester) would extend the time a district court chief judge would have to appoint a person to fill a vacancy. The time frame would increase from 30 days to 60 days.

The bill would also delete language that currently allows a city council to make an appointment if the district court judge fails to fill a vacancy within 30 days. The bill does not address what would happen if the chief judge fails to fill a position within the 60-day timeframe.

According to Sen. Senjem, the current 30-day appointment requirement may be difficult for some judges to meet. In addition, he believes the charter commission and appointments to the commission should be independent of the city council.

Charter expense reimbursement increase

A second bill, HF 1513 (Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton) and SF 1552 (Sen. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights), would adjust the allowable charter commission expense limits outlined in Minnesota Statutes, section 410.06. They were last adjusted to $1,500 in 1947 for all cities. In 1961, the first class city limit was increased to $10,000.

Under the bill, the limitation would be computed as the greater of .0007 multiplied by the city’s current certified general property tax levy, or $1,500, whichever is greater, but the amount cannot exceed $20,000.

There are currently 107 charter cities in Minnesota, but the cap would also apply to any statutory city that forms a charter commission to explore becoming a charter city. According to House Research, 684 cities would remain at the current $1,500 cap (41 of which are currently home rule charter cities), while 152 cities would have a cap between $1,500 and $20,000 (of which 56 are currently home rule charter cities). Finally, 17 cities would have a cap of $20,000 (of which 10 are currently home rule charter cities).

The League currently has no specific adopted position on the vacancy proposal and no longer has an adopted policy on the charter expense reimbursement increase. If you have additional reactions or concerns about these proposed changes, please contact LMC staff members Gary Carlson at gcarlson@lmc.org or Irene Kao at ikao@lmc.org. League staff will share reactions with the bill authors.