In recent weeks, two decisions have been handed down – one from the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and another by a panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals – on the powers of cities to enact ordinances that burden local businesses.
In the federal case, U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz turned away a set of challenges by the former Chief Building Inspector of Monticello, Minnesota, Frederick Patch. Patch filed civil rights claims after the City Council enacted an Ordinance which prevented him (and other high-ranking City officials) from moon-lighting for other local units of government and performing "the same or substantially similar duties."
Addressing in turn Patch's equal protection, due process and impairment of contract claims, perhaps the most interesting discussion follows from Patch’s assertion that the anti-moonlighting ordinance amounted to a Bill of Attainder aimed at punishing him. Rejecting the claim, Judge Schiltz held that even if Patch's consulting agreements with other municipalities prompted the City Council's concerns, and inspired the more restrictive Ordinance, because the restriction was contemporaneous only with service in the senior echelons of City Government (and would not bind him if he left City Government) the Ordinance was not a "punishment" under the Bill of Attainder clause.
The Court's complete analysis is accessible here
Likewise interesting, was the conclusion from a panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the City of St. Paul's action doubling the fee on pawnshop transactions – from $1.50 to $3.00 per transaction – did not single out pawnshop owners for a special tax that underwrote the general duties of local government. While acknowledging that the increased fee might render small surpluses over the costs of administering local pawnshop regulations, the panel held that those "revenue yields" were not substantially beyond the costs incurred in regulating these businesses.
The panel's complete analysis in accessible here