Can Minneapolis Voters Raise The Minimum Wage By Ballot Initiative?
No – the Minneapolis City Attorney recently published a legal opinion stating that a ballot initiative cannot be used to enact a new minimum wage in the City of Minneapolis.
In June of 2016, a group called 15 Now Minnesota submitted a petition with 20,000 signatures to the City of Minneapolis. The petition sought to include a ballot initiative in the upcoming November election, which would amend the Minneapolis City Charter to increase the minimum wage. The proposed amendment would have gradually raised the minimum wage in Minneapolis over time so that it would reach $15.00 per hour by August of 2022.
On July 28, 2016, the Minneapolis City Attorney issued a legal opinion that concluded that the proposed amendment to the city charter was not a proper subject for a ballot initiative. The City Attorney reasoned that, under Minnesota law, city charters may only be used for the “establishment, administration or regulation of city government.” See Minn. Stat. § 410.07. In contrast to a charter amendment governing the administration of city government, a legislative ordinance may only be implemented through ballot initiative if specifically authorized by the city charter. See Minn. Stat. § 410.20.
The City Attorney concluded that the proposed minimum-wage amendment was “legislative in nature” and did not relate to the establishment, administration or regulation of city government. Because the Minneapolis City Charter does not specifically authorize the implementation of legislative ordinances through the ballot initiative process, the City Attorney further concluded that “the proposed amendment is not a proper subject for a charter amendment and the Council should decline to place the provision on the ballot.”
Takeaway: The 20,000 signature petition seeking to amend the Minneapolis City Charter to increase the minimum wage is likely not a valid means of enacting a higher minimum wage within the City of Minneapolis.