A judge ruled Thursday that the Indiana legislature's last minute amendment to a 2017 bill to stop Bloomington’s proposed annexations of land was unconstitutional, according to court documents. The state has until May 20 to make an appeal.
The lawsuit, which has been going on for nearly two years, was filed after state legislators added a clause to the state budget bill in April 2017 that halted municipal annexations in the state for five years. Bloomington was the only city affected.
Judge Frank Nardi of Monroe Circuit Court 6 ruled that because the clause halting annexation had nothing to do with the budget bill and only affected Bloomington, the legislation was unconstitutional.
The city began annexation efforts in February 2017 to move 10,000 acres within city limits. Mayor John Hamilton has repeatedly said this was a standard choice for a city looking to grow. The city planned for the annexation to be voted on by late June 2017 after several public outreach meetings and hearings.
On April 21, 2017, the state legislature passed the amendment to the state budget bill that effectively stopped Bloomington — and all other Indiana cities — from annexing any land for five years. In May, the city filed a lawsuit against the state claiming the legislation targeted Bloomington.
The state defended the amendment, saying it was necessary because of Bloomington’s annexation efforts’ “urgency.” Nardi ruled against this defense, saying the city’s proposed plan was not abnormal in timing since the last annexation was in 2004. He also said the city built in adequate time and opportunities for residents to voice their concerns.
In a press release, Hamilton said Thursday’s ruling underlined the importance of stopping special state legislation that singles out specific communities.
“We are pleased that this ruling affirms the very deliberate, detailed and considerate approach we took in 2017 to expanding our City limits,” Hamilton said in the release.
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