Judge says legislation that halted Bloomington’s annexations in 2017 is unconstitutional for two reasons

In a ruling issued late Thursday afternoon, Judge Frank Nardi found that legislation enacted by the Indiana state legislature in 2017—a law that halted the city of Bloomington’s annexation efforts—is unconstitutional for two separate reasons.

The city brought suit against Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb two years ago over the issue. Nardi’s ruling agreed with Bloomington’s position on both substantive points. First, Nardi found that the legislation was impermissible special legislation under the state constitution, because there were no unique characteristics of Bloomington that justified singling out only Bloomington as the one city that needed to pause its annexation efforts for five years. Second, Nardi found that the legislation violated the single subject clause of the state constitution, because it was included in the biennial budget bill of 2017.

[Link to Nardi’s ruling]

Among the more pointed observations in Nardi’s ruling was this comment about the governor’s attempt to justify the special legislation based on the “urgency” with which the city of Bloomington undertook its annexation effort, and the city’s counter that it had simply followed the timeline required in the state’s annexation statute: “The defendant appears to argue that it would be unique characteristic for governmental body to diligently follow the requirements of state statute.”

Nardi’s April 18 ruling followed a March 26 hearing, which  was held at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center in downtown Bloomington. [For a breakdown of the legal issues at stake, see “Question of burden adds some flavor to oral arguments in Bloomington’s annexation lawsuit”]

At the March 26 hearing, Nardi said he expected that however he ruled, the ruling would be appealed.