Bloomington annexation case heads to Supreme Court

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A battle over a voided annexation ordinance between Bloomington and the Indiana Governor’s Office will continue this week when the Indiana Supreme Court hears oral arguments.

The case of Eric Holcomb, in his Capacity as Governor of Ind. V. City of Bloomington, 19S-PL-00304, will go before the high court at 9 a.m. Thursday.

In April 2017, the Indiana General Assembly added Section 161 into the budget bill. The special legislation, codified at Indiana Code § 36-4-3-11.8, voided a Bloomington annexation ordinance and prohibited the city from pursuing any municipal annexation until July 1, 2022.

Bloomington filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, claiming the provision targeting the city’s attempts to annex nearly 10,000 acres was unconstitutional. Frank Nardi, a Brown County magistrate judge serving as special judge in the Bloomington case, granted summary judgment to the city in April 2019.

Specifically, the trial court found I.C. 36-4-3-11.8 to be unconstitutional special legislation in violation of Article 4, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution because the statute applies only to Bloomington annexation efforts and could have been made generally applicable. It additionally ruled that the part of legislation that added the statute violates the Single Subject Clause of Article 4, Section 19 because it did not bear a logical and proper connection with the biennial budget into which it was inserted for enactment.

The governor appealed directly to the Indiana Supreme Court, challenging both the trial court’s declarations of unconstitutionality and its ruling that he is a proper defendant to the city’s lawsuit. Holcomb asserts he is not a proper defendant because he is not charged with enforcing the statute’s implementation, among other things.

The case will be heard in the Supreme Court courtroom on the third floor of the Indiana Statehouse.

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