As you may be aware, on July 20th, a special meeting of the Minneapolis Charter Commission, called for this purpose, accepted a proposed charter amendment offered by Commissioner Giraud-Isaacson which it intends to submit as a ballot question at the general election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. The proposal that Commissioner Giraud-Isaacson put forward essentially strikes from the city charter the provision which establishes a minimum required MPD staffing level. It makes no other changes from the current charter.
The Charter Commission called a special meeting for next Monday, July 27, 2020, at 5 p.m. for the purpose of conducting a public hearing on this new proposed charter amendment.
The Charter Commission is empowered to submit proposed amendments to voters, as one of the primary pathways to securing a change in the city charter. If this new proposed amendment is adopted by the Charter Commission, the City Council and Mayor have the duty of setting the ballot language of the question that is referred to voters.
You can access all these details from the meeting agenda, including the new proposed charter amendment, shown as LIMS File No. CH2020-00020, at:
Last night, the Charter Commission accepted a new proposal to amend the city charter which, if adopted, would be submitted to voters as a separate ballot question at the general election in November 2020. It would not be a substitute for the proposal that was initiated by City Council. The Charter Commission serves as a kind of “standing constitutional convention” and is the body that holds the city charter in trust for the people of Minneapolis. Any proposal to amend the charter must involve the Charter Commission, and the Charter Commission itself may initiate amendments and refer those to the City’s voters in the form of ballot question.
Q. What is the status of the original proposal initiated by the City Council?
The Council’s proposed amendment remains in the custody of the Charter Commission. The Charter Commission has created a Public Safety Work Group to examine the Council’s proposal and to submit recommendations back to the full Commission for its consideration. Under state law, amendments that are initiated by the City Council (to be referred to voters as ballot questions) must first be submitted to the Charter Commission for its review and recommendation(s), if any. The statutes give the Charter Commission a total of not to exceed 150 days to complete its review and to make its report with recommendations, if any, to the City Council. Until the Charter Commission submits its report back to the City Council, it remains in the custody of the Charter Commission, and the City Council cannot take any further action on the proposal.
Q. What actions can the Charter Commission take with regard to the Council’s proposed amendment? What actions can the City Council take in response?
Under state law, the Charter Commission may only take one of three actions with respect to the City Council’s proposed charter amendment; these are:
(1) Accept the proposed amendment and return a report that recommends the question be submitted to the voters;
(2) Return a substitute proposal drafted by the Charter Commission and return a report that recommends that that substitute question be submitted to the voters; or
(3) Reject the proposed amendment and return a report that recommends the question not be submitted to the voters.
Once the Charter Commission reports its recommendation(s), if any, to the City Council, the matter is back in their jurisdiction, and the City Council may take any of the following actions:
(1) Submit the original proposed amendment it had initiated, with (or without) the Charter Commission’s approval, to the voters as a ballot question;
(2) Submit the substitute amendment provided by the Charter Commission (as is, with no further changes) to the voters as a ballot question; or
(3) Refuse to submit any question to the voters—and the proposal dies.
The point is that once the Charter Commission reports back to the City Council, then the City Council gets to decide (1) if a ballot question is submitted to voters and, if so, (2) what that question will be.
Q. What is the deadline for submitting the ballot question? What happens if the clock runs out?
The statutory deadline for submitting ballot questions is no later than 74 days before the date of the general election at which the ballot question is intended to be submitted to voters. This year, that statutory deadline is Friday, August 21. If the question is not submitted by that deadline, then it will not be referred to voters in November 2020.
The Charter Commission has up to a total of not to exceed 150 days to review the City Council’s proposed amendment. The Charter Commission received that proposed amendment at a special meeting called for that purpose on Wednesday, July 1, which means the full 150-day review period extends through November 27, 2020, which is well after the date of the general election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
If the deadlines are missed for the 2020 general election, the question could be reintroduced next year and referred to voters as part of the 2021 general election (Tuesday, November 2, 2021).
For both proposals, the Charter Commission needs to act by its regular meeting on Wednesday, August 5, in order to meet the statutory deadline for submitting ballot questions (Aug. 21). That would give the City Council one two-week cycle to complete all its work within that statutory timeline.
Additional FAQ’s about the public safety charter amendment.