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League of Women Voters Minnesota joins ACLU-MN’s Supreme Court brief in State Auditor case

League of Women Voters Minnesota joins ACLU-MN’s Supreme Court brief in State Auditor case


September 15, 2017


Michelle Witte, LWV Minnesota

          [email protected] 651-402-3184 cell or 651-224-5445 ext. 231

Jana Kooren, ACLU of Minnesota

          [email protected] 651-485-5925 cell or 651-529-1693

St. Paul, Minn. – The League of Women Voters Minnesota has joined a brief filed by American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota in the Minnesota Supreme Court with 17 other organizations and individuals 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. ACLU-MN’s clients include a vast array of parties from across the political spectrum.

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 ACLU-MN and its clients—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 its brief, the ACLU-MN argues this tactic violated the Minnesota Constitution.

The Minnesota Constitution’s Single-Subject-and-Title Clause has two parts: First, no law may include more than one subject.  Second, that subject must be expressed in the title.  More than 40 state constitutions have similar provisions.  The 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 ACLU-MN’s 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.”

No date has been set for the Minnesota Supreme Court arguments.

"Transparency in the legislative process has been sorely lacking in recent years,” stated Terry Kalil, president of the League of Women Voters Minnesota. “11th hour backroom deals, voluminous bills mashed together and made public a few hours before the final vote all make it impossible for voters to know what their representatives in the legislature are doing. Legislators serve to represent voters’ interests, and this clear violation of Minnesota’s Constitution must be stopped by the Supreme Court. The League of Women Voters Minnesota strongly encourages all Minnesotans to send this message to their legislators — omnibus bills do not serve the public’s interests.”

Other clients joining together 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; 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 ACLU-MN.

Single Subject Toolkit (press release, information sheet, brief)