Left, right and middle join
forces to protect
Minnesota's single-subject rule
Civic Caucus joins group headed by
in filing Supreme Court amicus briefin State Auditor
St. Paul, Minn. - The American Civil
Liberties Union of Minnesota yesterday filed an
amicus brief in the Minnesota Supreme
Court on behalf of itself and 17 other individuals and
organizations, including the Civic Caucus, in Rebecca Otto v.
Wright County. The brief argues that the lower courts erred in
refusing to enforce the single-subject clause of the Minnesota
Constitution. The amici include an array of organizations and
individuals from across the political spectrum.
Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto sued
in February 2016, claiming that the Legislature had no authority to
allow Minnesota's 87 counties to hire private auditing firms rather
than using her office. One of her claims--the one supported by the
amici--focuses on the process used to pass the measure. That
process included tacking the provision that reduces the auditor's
authority onto a completely unrelated bill. In their brief, the
ACLU-MN, the Civic Caucus and the other amici argue this
tactic violated the Minnesota Constitution.
The Minnesota Constitution's
Single-Subject-and-Title Clause has two parts: (1) no law may
include more than one subject; and (2) that subject must be
expressed in the title. More than 40 state constitutions have
similar provisions. The Minnesota Supreme Court has warned the
Legislature repeatedly over the years against violating this part of
the Constitution, but has been lax about enforcing it, according to
the amicus brief.
"The single-subject clause is important to
protect government transparency and accountability," stated Teresa
Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU-MN. "The public
should be able to trust that what is stated in the title and
description of a bill clearly aligns with what the Legislature
passes and the governor signs. And legislators should be able to
vote for policies they favor and against policies they oppose,
without logrolling that coerces votes for unpopular measures. The
Minnesota Legislature violated this rule in 2015, when it snuck a
provision governing auditing into an 'omnibus' bill that had nothing
to do with auditing."
"The Civic Caucus is dedicated to
fostering a culture of innovation in public policy in Minnesota,"
added Civic Caucus Chair Paul Ostrow. "The single-subject rule in
our Constitution is critical to restoring a legislative process that
can generate and welcome the creative ideas we need to keep our
state competitive. The Civic Caucus is pleased to join with the
other amici coming together in a nonpartisan fashion to
promote change that will benefit all of Minnesota."
No date has been set for the Minnesota
Supreme Court arguments.
The amici on the brief are American
Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota; Center for Popular Democracy;
Center of the American Experiment; Civic Caucus; Gender Justice;
Growth & Justice; Honorable Jack Davies; Immigrant Law Center of
Minnesota; Indian Land Tenure Foundation; Jewish Community Action;
Key Investment; League of Women Voters Minnesota; Minnesota
Association of Black Lawyers; Minnesota Coalition on Government
Information; Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association; David Schultz;
Warren Spannaus; and TCF Financial Corporation.
Cooperating attorneys in the case include:
Melissa Muro LaMere, William Z. Pentelovitch and Michael C. McCarthy
of Maslon LLP, along with Teresa Nelson and John Gordon of the
The Civic Caucus, a Minnesota-based,
nonprofit study group, has been conducting weekly interviews on
public policy for the past 12 years. Summaries of all Civic Caucus
interviews can be found at
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmermany,