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Amending the City Charter

There are two paths to amend the city charter, as provided under Minnesota Statutes, Section 410.12:

  1. By ballot question - An amendment submitted to the electorate must be approved by an affirmative majority vote of those voting on the question for it to be enacted.
  2. By ordinance - An amendment may be enacted by ordinance if passed by the unanimous affirmative vote of the entire membership of the City Council and the approval of the mayor.

The following graph provides details about each of the two pathways to amend the city charter.

For more detail, see our Guide to Amending the City Charter (pdf)

Charter Amendment Process

(1A) Charter Commission amendment by ballot process

  1. Charter Commission: The Commission considers proposed topics from its membership or the public for possible charter amendments and works with the City Attorney to prepared desired proposals in proper legal form. Under its rules, the Commission conducts a public hearing prior to voting to place a proposed amendment on the ballot. Once the Commission approves an amendment, it submits it to the City Council to be placed on the ballot.
  2. City Council: The Council refers the submission by the Charter Commission to its standing committee with subject-matter jurisdiction.
  3. Council Committee: The Council Committee having subject-matter jurisdiction reviews the proposed amendment and prepares ballot language with the advice of the City Attorney and submits that proposed language to the Council.
  4. City Council: The Council approves the final language of the ballots question to be referred to voters.
  5. Mayor: The Mayor must approve the official action of the City Council; if not, the Council may authorize the action by a two-thirds vote, notwithstanding the veto of the Mayor.
  6. Election: The amendment is submitted to voters as a ballot question at the next general election if one is scheduled within six months of the transmittal to the City Council by the Charter Commission. If there is not a general election within that period, a special election must be held within 90 days.
  7. Public Notice: The City Clerk publishes the full text of the amendment and the actual ballot language once each week in the two weeks before the election in a newspaper having a regular circulation of at least 25,000 subscribers.
  8. Passage: Approval of the amendment requires 51% of those voting on the amendment, or 55% if the amendment concerns the sale of intoxicating liquor or wine. Within ten days after the general election, the City Council acting as the Municipal Canvassing Board canvasses and certifies the official results of the election.
  9. Effective Date: The charter amendment becomes effective 30 days after the election unless the amendment itself includes a different effective date.

(2) Citizen petition amendment by ballot process

A group of citizens may prepare a proposed charter amendment, in proper legal form, to circulate for signatures by registered voters as required under Minnesota Statutes, Section 410.12.

Significant Dates for Placing Charter Amendment Questions on the 2020 General Election Ballot
This calendar includes regularly scheduled meeting dates. It is possible the Charter Commission or the City Council may schedule additional or special meetings.

Petition language
If the proposed amendment is less than 1,000 words, the full text must accompany the signature page. If the amendment is greater than 1,000 words, a summary of the text accompanies the signature page. If a summary is necessary, it must be limited in length to be between 50 and 300 words and must be approved by the Charter Commission.

Signature requirements
Petitions to amend the City Charter must be signed by a number of qualified voters equal to at least five percent of the total votes cast in the City of Minneapolis in the last state general election. Signatures must be in ink or inerasable pencil and cannot be electronic.
A total of 207,114 Minneapolis residents cast ballots in the 2018 state general election; therefore, a citizen petition would require signatures from a minimum of 10,356 registered Minneapolis voters to be validated under the statute. Signatures must be from Minneapolis voters who are registered to vote under their current name and at their current address. An address using a post office box is invalid.

Filing and verification of the petition
A petition to amend the City Charter must be filed with the Charter Commission, which is the agency designated by state law to receive and accept such petitions. The Charter Commission is required to transmit the petition to the City Council through the Office of City Clerk. Within ten days of being transmitted by the Charter Commission, the City Clerk must certify that the petition either satisfies the statutory requirements and is sufficient in form or certify that the petition fails to satisfy the statutory requirements and is insufficient in form. If the petition is certified as sufficient, it is referred to the City Council for formal consideration and the drafting of ballot language to submit to the electorate. If the petition is certified insufficient, then the petitioner(s) have up to an additional ten days to collect more signatures to meet the statutory threshold of required signatures by filing an amended petition. When the amended petition is submitted, the City Clerk has five days to verify the additional signatures. If there are still not enough signatures, no further action is taken and the petition dies. If there are enough valid signatures, then the City Clerk certifies the petition and refers it to the City Council for formal consideration and the drafting of ballot language to submit to the electorate.
Any petition proposing to amend the City Charter must be submitted to the voters as a ballot question at the next general election, if one is to be held within six months but not less than 17 weeks from the date the petition is submitted to the Charter Commission. If there is not a general election within that period, a special election must be held within 90 days.

Placing the question on the ballot
Once the petition is referred to the City Council, the City Attorney works with the appropriate standing policy committee to draft appropriate ballot language. The full text of the proposed amendment as well as the actual approved ballot language, in final form, must be published in a newspaper having an aggregate regular paid circulation of at least 25,000 copies once each week in the two weeks prior to the election.

Approval of the amendment
To be approved, the amendment must receive the affirmative votes of at least 51% of the electorate casting a vote on the ballot question. Any amendment that concerns the sale of intoxicating liquor or wine must be approved with the affirmative votes of at least 55% of those voting on the question. Within ten days after the general election, the City Council acting as the Municipal Canvassing Board canvasses and certified the official results of the election. The charter amendment  becomes effective 30 days after the election unless the amendment itself provides a different effective date.

For additional information, see Minnesota Statutes, Section 410.12 or contact the Office of City Clerk via Minneapolis 311 or 612-673-2216. Individuals or groups seeking to prepare and circulate an amendment via petition are encouraged to seek legal guidance to ensure their efforts are in compliance with the law.

(3) City Council amendment by ballot process

  1. Council Member(s): A Council Member (or Members) wishing to propose a charter amendment works with the City Attorney to draft the specific proposal in the form of an ordinance.
  2. City Council: The process begins with the formal introduction and first reading of the ordinance, after which it is referred to the standing committee having subject-matter jurisdiction for consideration.
  3. Council Committee: The Council Committee with subject-matter jurisdiction considers the proposed ordinance and submits its recommendation on the proposed amendment to the Council. If required, the Council Committee conducts a public hearing on the proposal.
  4. City Council: The Council receive the recommendation of its Committee and determines whether to refer the proposal to the Charter Commission for its input and recommendation.
  5. Charter Commission: Within 60 days of receiving the ordinance from Council, the Commission must complete its review and evaluation of the proposed charter amendment, or may extend that review period for an additional 90 days. The Commission may either approve or reject the proposed amendment referred by the City Council, or it may offer a substitute amendment of its own design. The Commission submits its recommendation to the Council.
  6. City Council: After receiving the recommendation of the Charter Commission, the City Council must decide whether to forward its original proposed amendment or the substitute provided by the Charter Commission (if any) to the voters. The City Council is not bound by the recommendation of the Charter Commission. Once a decision is made on which question will be referred to voters as a ballot question, the Council refers the matter to its Committee for the development of recommended ballot language.
  7. Council Committee: The Council Committee develops and recommends final ballot language with the advice of the City Attorney.
  8. City Council: The Council approved the ballot language for the question to be submitted to voters.
  9. Mayor: The Mayor must approve the official action of the City Council; if not, the Council may authorize the action by a two-thirds vote, notwithstanding the veto of the Mayor.
  10. Election: The amendment must be submitted to the voters as a ballot question at the next general election, if one is to be held within six months of the date it is transmitted to the City Council by the Charter Commission. If there is not a general election within that period, a special election must be held within 90 days.
  11. Public Notice: The Office of City Clerk publishes the full text of the amendment and the actual ballot language once each week in the two weeks before the election in a newspaper having a regular circulation of at least 25,000 subscribers.
  12. Passage: Approval of the amendment requires 51% of those voting on the amendment, or 55% if the amendment concerns the sale of intoxicating liquor or wine. Within ten days after the general election, the City Council acting as the Canvassing Board canvasses the election results and submits a report to the Council stating the results of the election, including whether the amendments passed or failed.
Effective Date: The amendment becomes effective 30 days after the election unless the amendment itself includes a different effective date.

(1B & 4) Amendment by ordinance process

Non-controversial or housekeeping amendments may be recommended by the Charter Commission and passed by the City Council upon a unanimous vote of all its members plus the approval of the Mayor. These amendments are typically recommended by City staff to clarify or update the Charter.

  1. City Council: Action begins with an ordinance introduction and referral, following the Council’s regular legislative process. It is then referred to the standing committee having subject-matter jurisdiction for consideration.
  2. Council Committee: The Council Committee reviews the proposed amendment and forwards its recommendation to the Council, to be referred to the Charter Commission.
  3. City Council: The Council approves the recommended ordinance language, including any changes recommended by the Committee, and refers the proposed charter amendment to the Charter Commission for its consideration.
  4. Charter Commission: The Charter Commission reviews the proposed charter amendment, may amend or make changes to it, and then submits its final recommend on the proposal that the Council.
  5. City Council: The Council refers the Commission’s recommendation on the proposed charter amendment to its standing committee having subject-matter jurisdiction for a public hearing.
  6. City Clerk: Within 30 days of the Charter Commission’s referral, the Office of City Clerk must publish in the City's official newspaper a notice of a public hearing to be held by the Council Committee having subject-matter jurisdiction, and that notice must include the text of the proposed amendment.
  7. Council Committee: The Council Committee conducts a public hearing at least two weeks but not more than one month after the required notice is published. The Committee can recommend a vote for or against the amendment to the Council but cannot make any changes to it.
  8. City Council: The City Council may adopt the ordinance upon the unanimous affirmative vote of all its members.
  9. Mayor: The Mayor must approve the official action of the City Council; if not, the Council may authorize the action by a two-thirds vote, notwithstanding the veto of the Mayor.
  10. Effective Date: The amendment becomes effective 90 days after passage and publication in the City's official newspaper, currently Finance and Commerce, unless a different effective date is included in the charter amendment. During the first 60 days after publication, citizens may petition for a ballot referendum on the amendment by obtaining the signatures of at least 2,000 registered voters. The Council then may either submit the amendment to the voters as a ballot question at any general or special election held at least 60 days after the submission of the petition and signatures or may reconsider its action in adopting the ordinance.

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Last updated Nov 12, 2020

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