Bloomington sues Indiana over state ban on annexing property

The city of Bloomington has filed a lawsuit claiming state legislation that blocked the city's attempt to annex 9,500 acres of property is unconstitutional.

Bloomington officials filed a suit Wednesday after the Indiana House approved a budget bill last month including an amendment that blocked its annexation efforts and barred the city from revisiting the plan for five years, The Herald Times reported.

The suit said the bill violated the state constitution's prohibition on "special legislation" and unfairly targets the city. The amendment language was added to the bill at the last minute and wasn't debated by the House.

"This gross overreach by state government we believe violates our state constitution and undermines the concept of home rule enshrined in our statutes," Mayor John Hamilton said.

The proposed annexation would've added about 15,000 people to the city, which has a current population of about 84,000.

The city had spent more than $770,000 on financial consulting, legal services, mailings, communications, surveying and hiring court reporters to prepare for the annexation before the law was passed.

Hamilton said the change in state law was costly to Bloomington and robbed the city of its ability to govern itself.

"I feel like the city has little choice but to protect our rights," he said.

Republican state Rep. Jeff Ellington of Bloomington said he doesn't believe the amendment specifically targets the city. He said some residents and lawmakers concerned about the annexation plans are unconvinced that the higher taxes are worth the benefit of living in city limits with city services.

Democrat state Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington said there are issues with the state blocking the city's plan.

"I don't know anything that was unique about the annexation process in Bloomington as opposed to other processes across the state that would justify blocking it," Pierce said.

This is the second consecutive year Republican lawmakers weighed in on matters affecting the liberal-leaning city.

Last year, the Legislature banned Indiana cities from prohibiting the use of plastic shopping bags after Bloomington considered the issue.

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