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Mike Rouker
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roukerm@bloomington.in.gov
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State Legislation Targeting Annexation Efforts Ruled Unconstitutional

Bloomington, Ind. - The Monroe County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the City of Bloomington Thursday, finding state legislation terminating the 2017 annexation process was unconstitutional.

Judge Frank Nardi of Monroe Circuit Court #6 issued a ruling in the City's annexation lawsuit against the State of Indiana, declaring Indiana Code Section 36-4-3-11.8 to be “unconstitutional special legislation in violation of Indiana Constitution Article IV, Section 23” because it affected only the City of Bloomington. The Court also found that the statute, which halted Bloomington’s annexation and was included in the 2017 biennial budget bill in the last hours, violated the state constitution’s single subject clause in Article IV, Section 19, which requires that enactments of the legislature be confined to one subject and matters “properly connected” to that subject. The Judge’s order may be read in its entirety at  https://publicaccess.courts.in.gov/TrialCourt/Document?id=a421415d-9b1a-472a-bbca-794f3bc9a61d

The April 18 ruling came down two years after the City filed suit against Indiana Governor Eric Holcolmb in response to legislation that abruptly terminated the City’s annexation process and barred the City from additional annexation efforts for five years.  The legislation was enacted soon after the City initiated a process in early February 2017 to annex several areas beyond the current corporate limits, which have not changed since 2004. Although the State defended the legislation as warranted by the city’s “urgency” in its annexation efforts, Judge Nardi found that the City was merely following a proper statutory timeline for annexation, adding that evidence regarding the various public meetings on the proposed annexation indicated the City had considered citizen objections and acted in favor of citizens in some cases.  The Court noted that the State had not provided any support for its position that the legislation was justified, saying, “[I]t is not possible to know exactly what problem the General Assembly was trying to address with this legislation.”

“We are pleased that this ruling affirms the very deliberate, detailed and considerate approach we took in 2017 to expanding our City limits,” said Mayor John Hamilton.  “And importantly, that the ruling vindicates the constitutional principle prohibiting special legislation at the state level singling out municipalities for unfair treatment.”

The State has until May 20 to file a Notice of Appeal.


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