On Sunday morning (Feb. 14), no tents were set up Seminary Park and no one was congregated there.
Highlights of the proposed new law include a requirement of 15-day notice by the city to a houseless person living in a city park encampment, before they and their belongings can be removed from the park.
Those two morsels make for some pretty thin civic gruel in the post-Thanksgiving news cycle. But it’s not too thin to feed a proposal that would tweak the city council’s legislative process.
One part of the approach served up here would change a single line of the local code, which prohibits any debate on a new law when it is first introduced to the city council.
The other change to the process would make routine for all legislation a practice that the city council already uses for the annual budget: Councilmembers submit written questions, which are then answered by staff in writing, and posted for the public to review.
In 2017, Bloomington filed suit against Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, over an annexation law that was enacted by the state legislature as a part of that year’s biennial budget bill.
Indiana’s Supreme Court is still weighing the arguments in the case, which were presented in January this year.
As Monroe County residents inside and outside Bloomington continue to wait for the state’s highest court to rule, it’s worth remembering the reasons why Bloomington filed its lawsuit.
When those reasons are recalled, in the context of a potential new local law in front of Bloomington’s city council, it’s hard to miss the parallels—between the approach taken by Republican-dominated legislature of 2017 and today’s Bloomington city council, which is composed entirely of Democrats.
In Bloomington’s view, when the annexation law was incorporated into the biennial budget bill, that caused the legislation to be unconstitutional—because it was not confined to a single subject, as required by the state’s constitution.
The annexation law was also unconstitutional special legislation, according to Bloomington, because it applied to Bloomington, and only Bloomington.
On the local level, a remarkable parallel to the 2017 annexation legislation could unfold in connection with an ordinance that Bloomington city councilmembers might enact this Wednesday.
If you leave your car in a private lot where you’re not allowed to park, you risk getting your vehicle towed at your own expense. That’s not really news—for Bloomington or any other place.
What is new for Bloomington is a proposed ordinance to regulate companies that provide towing service to parking lot owners. Such companies would have to pay the city $350 a year for a “non-consensual tow business license” and face, on first offense, a $2,500 fine for failure to obtain a license.
The $350 license fee is the same as what a one-year license cost for mobile food vendors in Bloomington, according to the staff memo in the city council’s information packet.