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Amending the City Charter

The Charter Commission has the power to review and propose amendments to the City Charter at any time. To fulfill this function, the Commission solicits ideas from citizens, elected officials, and City departments. The Charter Commission also accepts proposals to amend the City Charter in the form of citizen petitions.

There are two paths to amend the city charter, as provided under Minnesota Statutes, Section 410.12:

  1. By ballot question - An amendment submitted to the electorate must be approved by an affirmative majority vote of those voting on the question for it to be enacted.
  2. By ordinance - An amendment may be enacted by ordinance if passed by the unanimous affirmative vote of the entire membership of the City Council and the approval of the mayor.

The following graph provides details about each of the two pathways to amend the city charter.

Charter Amendment Process

Charter Commission amendment by ballot process

  1. Charter Commission: The Commission considers proposed topics from its membership or the public for possible Charter Amendments, and works with the City Attorney to prepared desired proposals in proper legal form. Under its rules, the Commission is required to hold a public hearing prior to voting to place a proposed amendment on the ballot unless two-thirds of the Commissioners present vote not to hold one. Once the Commission approves an amendment, it submits it to the City Council to be placed on the ballot.
  2. City Council: The Council refers the submission by the Charter Commission to the IGR Committee.
  3. Intergovernmental Relations Committee: The IGR Committee reviews the amendment and recommends ballot language with the advice of the City Attorney to the Council.
  4. City Council: The Council approves the final ballot language.
  5. Election: The amendment must be submitted to the voters as a ballot question at the next general election, if one is to be held within six months of the date it is transmitted to the City Council by the Charter Commission. If there is not a general election within that period, a special election must be held within 90 days.
  6. Public Notice: The Office of the City Clerk publishes the full text of the amendment and the actual ballot language once each week in the two weeks before the election in a newspaper having a regular circulation of at least 25,000 subscribers.
  7. Passage: Approval of the amendment requires 51% of those voting on the amendment, or 55% if the amendment concerns the sale of intoxicating liquor or wine. Within seven days after the general election, the City Council acting as the Canvassing Board canvasses the election results and submits a report to the Council stating the results of the election, including whether the amendments passed or failed.
  8. Effective Date: The amendment becomes effective 30 days after the election unless the amendment itself includes a different effective date.

City Council amendment by ballot process

  1. City Attorney: At the request of a Council Member or staffer, the Attorney’s office drafts a propopsed amendment and prepares it in the form of an ordinance.
  2. City Council: Public action generally begins with an ordinance introduction in Council and referral to the Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Committee.
  3. Intergovernmental Relations Committee: The IGR Committee considers the proposed ordinance to amend the Charter and makes its recommendation to the Council regarding referral to the Charter Commission. A public hearing is not required, but may be scheduled and held at the determination of the Committee and its Chair.
  4. City Council: The Council determines whether to refer the proposal to the Charter Commission.
  5. Charter Commission: Within 60 days of the referral of a proposed ordinance to place a question on the ballot to amend the Charter, the Commission will review it or may request a 90-day extension in writing to the City Clerk. The Commission can approve or reject the proposed amendment, or offer a substitute amendment, and refers the action taken back to the Council. The City Council is not bound by the action of the Charter Commission, but it is provided as a recommendation.
  6. City Council: The Council refers the proposed ballot question with the Charter Commission's recommendation to the IGR Committee.
  7. Intergovernmental Relations Committee: The IGR Committee reviews the Charter Commission's recommendation and recommends ballot language with the advice of the City Attorney to the Council.
  8. City Council: The Council can approve either the original amendment or a substitute amendment if one was submitted by the Charter Commission, but cannot make any other amendments or changes to the proposal, and approves the final ballot language.
  9. Election: The amendment must be submitted to the voters as a ballot question at the next general election, if one is to be held within six months of the date it is transmitted to the City Council by the Charter Commission. If there is not a general election within that period, a special election must be held within 90 days.
  10. Public Notice: The Office of the City Clerk publishes the full text of the amendment and the actual ballot language once each week in the two weeks before the election in a newspaper having a regular circulation of at least 25,000 subscribers.
  11. Passage: Approval of the amendment requires 51% of those voting on the amendment, or 55% if the amendment concerns the sale of intoxicating liquor or wine. Within seven days after the general election, the City Council acting as the Canvassing Board canvasses the election results and submits a report to the Council stating the results of the election, including whether the amendments passed or failed.
  12. Effective Date: The amendment becomes effective 30 days after the election unless the amendment itself includes a different effective date.

Citizen petition amendment by ballot process

Any citizen or group of citizens may prepare an amendment, in proper legal form, to circulate for signatures by registered voters as required under Minnesota Statutes, Section 410.12.

Significant Dates for Placing Charter Amendment Questions on the 2018 General Election Ballot

This calendar includes regularly scheduled meeting dates. It is possible the Charter Commission, the City Council Intergovernmental Relations Committee, or the City Council may schedule additional or special meetings.

2018 Charter Petition Dates
May 7 - July 11 Period to submit a petition to the Charter Commission to place a City Charter question on the November General Election ballot.
July 11 - Aug. 17 Council review period to consider ballot language
Aug. 24 Last day to provide ballot language to Hennepin County, 74 days prior to the General Election (M.S.205.16 Subd. 4.).
Nov. 6 General Election.

Petition language

If the proposed amendment is less than 1,000 words, the full text must accompany the signature page. If the amendment is greater than 1,000 words, a summary of the text accompanies the signature page. If a summary is necessary, it must be limited in length to be between 50 and 300 words and must be approved by the Charter Commission.

Signature requirements

Petitions to amend the City Charter must be signed by a number of qualified voters equal to at least five percent of the total votes cast in the City of Minneapolis in the last state general election. Signatures must be in ink or inerasable pencil and cannot be electronic.

A total of 137,362 Minneapolis residents cast ballots in the 2014 state general election; therefore, a citizen petition would require signatures from a minimum of 6,869 registered Minneapolis voters to be validated under the statute. Signatures must be from Minneapolis voters who are registered to vote under their current name and at their current address. An address using a post office box is invalid.

Filing and verification of the petition

A petition to amend the City Charter must be filed with the Charter Commission, which is the agency designated by state law to receive and accept such petitions. The Charter Commission is required to transmit the petition to the City Council through the Office of City Clerk. Within ten days of being transmitted by the Charter Commission, the City Clerk must certify that the petition either satisfies the statutory requirements and is sufficient in form or certify that the petition fails to satisfy the statutory requirements and is insufficient in form. If the petition is certified as sufficient, it is referred to the City Council for formal consideration and the drafting of ballot language to submit to the electorate. If the petition is certified insufficient, then the petitioner(s) have up to an additional ten days to collect more signatures to meet the statutory threshold of required signatures by filing an amended petition. When the amended petition is submitted, the City Clerk has five days to verify the additional signatures. If there are still not enough signatures, no further action is taken and the petition dies. If there are enough valid signatures, then the City Clerk certifies the petition and refers it to the City Council for formal consideration and the drafting of ballot language to submit to the electorate.

Any petition proposing to amend the City Charter must be submitted to the voters as a ballot question at the next general election, if one is to be held within six months but not less than 17 weeks from the date the petition is submitted to the Charter Commission. If there is not a general election within that period, a special election must be held within 90 days.

Placing the question on the ballot

Once the petition is referred to the City Council, the City Attorney works with the appropriate standing policy committee to draft appropriate ballot language. The full text of the proposed amendment as well as the actual approved ballot language, in final form, must be published in a newspaper having an aggregate regular paid circulation of at least 25,000 copies once each week in the two weeks prior to the election.

Approval of the amendment

To be approved, the amendment must receive the affirmative votes of at least 51% of the electorate casting a vote on the ballot question. Any amendment that concerns the sale of intoxicating liquor or wine must be approved with the affirmative votes of at least 55% of those voting on the question. An amendment which is approved becomes effective 30 days after the election unless the amendment itself provides a different effective date.

For additional information, see Minnesota Statutes, Section 410.12 or contact the Elections & Voter Services Division via Minneapolis 311 or 612-673-3000. Individuals or groups seeking to prepare and circulate an amendment via petition are encouraged to seek legal guidance to ensure their efforts are in compliance with the law.

Charter Commission amendment by ordinance process

Non-controversial or housekeeping amendments may be recommended by the Charter Commission and passed by the Council by a 13-0 vote. These amendments are typically recommended by City staff to clarify or update the Charter.

  1. Staff: City staff drafts the amendment in the form of an ordinance with the assistance of the City Attorney’s office. Council Members are usually consulted to ensure that the item is indeed non-controversial.
  2. City Council: Action begins with an ordinance introduction in Council and referral to the Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Committee. It is also possible for an ordinance introduction to be referred directly to the Charter Commission.
  3. Intergovernmental Relations Committee: IGR reviews the amendment and forwards it to the Council for referral to the Charter Commission.
  4. City Council: The Council approves the recommended ordinance language, including any changes it wishes to make, and refers the amendment to the Charter Commission for consideration.
  5. Charter Commission: Charter commissioners review the amendment, may make changes to it, and recommend that the Council pass the amendment by a 13-0 vote. It is also possible for the Charter Commission to initiate an amendment to refer to the Council, eliminating the preceding steps. 
    • Within 30 days of the Charter Commission's referral, the City Clerk's office must publish in the City's official newspaper notice of a public hearing to be held by the IGR Committee, and that notice must include the text of the proposed amendment.
  6. City Council: The Council refers the ordinance to the IGR Committee for the public hearing.
  7. Intergovernmental Relations Committee: IGR holds a public hearing at least two weeks but not more than one month after the required notice is published. IGR can recommend a vote for or against the amendment to the Council, but cannot make any changes to it.
  8. Council: The council may not change the recommended language, but must vote the language up or down. Passage requires a 13-0 vote.
  9. Mayor: The Mayor signs the ordinance containing the amendment.
  10. Effective Date: The amendment becomes effective 90 days after passage and publication in the City's official newspaper, currently Finance and Commerce, unless a different effective date is included in the charter amendment. During the first 60 days after publication, citizens may petition for a ballot referendum on the amendment by obtaining the signatures of at least 2,000 registered voters. The Council then may either submit the amendment to the voters as a ballot question at any general or special election held at least 60 days after the submission of the petition and signatures, or may reconsider its action in adopting the ordinance.

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Last updated Sep 25, 2018

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