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City of Normandy v. Greitens

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

May 16, 2017

CITY OF NORMANDY, et al., Respondents/Cross-Appellants,
v.
ERIC GREITENS, et al., Appellants/Cross-Respondents.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COLE COUNTY The Honorable Jon E. Beetem, Judge

          Mary R. Russell, Judge

         When the General Assembly chooses to pass a special law, the State can preserve the law from constitutional infirmity by offering evidence of substantial justification if challenged in court. City of DeSoto v. Nixon, 476 S.W.3d 282, 287 (Mo. banc 2016). The State failed to offer any evidence in the trial court of a substantial justification for the special laws in Senate Bill 5 ("SB 5") that were passed by the General Assembly in 2015. Consequently, the challenged provisions of SB 5 violate the Missouri Constitution's special law prohibition.

         Twelve municipalities in St. Louis County, along with two taxpayers (referred to collectively as "Plaintiffs"), filed a petition against the Governor, the Attorney General, the Auditor, and the Director of Revenue (referred to collectively as the "State") for declaratory judgment alleging that provisions of SB 5 violate the Missouri Constitution, including the special laws provision in article III, section 40(30), the Hancock Amendment in article X, sections 16 and 21, and five other constitutional claims.

         Of course, special laws like this may be passed by the General Assembly in the future and can survive a special law challenge as long as evidence of substantial justification is offered in the trial court. Because the State failed to present any evidence of substantial justification for enacting either section 67.287, [1] in its entirety, or section 479.359.2, insofar as it creates a separate cap on counties with a charter form of government and with more than 950, 000 inhabitants, they are special laws. The statutes target municipalities in one political subdivision: St. Louis County. The trial court's judgment permanently enjoining the State from enforcing these provisions is, therefore, affirmed.

         Section 479.359.2, insofar as it provides "except that any county with a charter form of government and with more than nine hundred fifty thousand inhabitants and any city, town, or village with boundaries found within such county shall be reduced from thirty percent to twelve and one-half percent, " is severed from the rest of section 479.359.2. By severing this language, section 479.359.2 imposes a uniform cap on fines, bond forfeitures, and court costs of 20 percent statewide.

         This Court reverses the trial court's judgment that sections 67.287 and 479.359.3 are Hancock violations as these claims are not ripe for review because the General Assembly has until August 28, 2021, to appropriate funds, and the alleged increased duty is de minimis. The trial court's dismissal of the Plaintiffs' other constitutional claims is affirmed. In total, the trial court's judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part.[2]

         Facts and Procedural Background

         Over the last two decades, the General Assembly has passed various limitations on the amount of revenue municipalities may generate from traffic fines. The first limitation, known as the "Macks Creek Law, " was enacted in 1995. Sec. 302.341. It prohibited any city, town, or village from receiving more than 45 percent of its total annual revenue from fines for traffic violations. Id. Excess revenue would be remitted to the state's department of revenue and distributed to the county's schools. Id. The General Assembly reduced this cap from 45 to 35 percent in 2009 and to 30 percent in 2013. Sec. 302.341.2, RSMo Supp. 2009; sec. 302.341.2, RSMo Supp. 2013. The 2013 amendment further required an accounting of the percentage of general operating revenue that came from traffic violations be included in the annual financial report. Id.

         In 2015, the General Assembly passed SB 5 and the Governor signed it into law. The bill moved the Macks Creek Law from section 302.341.2 to section 479.359 and requires every county, city, town, and village to

annually calculate the percentage of its annual general operating revenue received from fines, bond forfeitures, and court costs for minor traffic violations, including amended charges for any municipal ordinance violations and minor traffic violations, whether the violation was prosecuted in municipal court, associate circuit court, or circuit court, occurring within the county, city, town, or village.

Sec. 479.359.1 (emphasized to show changes from the previous version). SB 5 also lowered the percentage cap from 30 to 20 percent. Sec. 479.359.2. The General Assembly created one exception to the new 20-percent cap: "any county with a charter form of government and with more than nine hundred fifty thousand inhabitants and any city, town, or village with boundaries found within such county shall be reduced from thirty percent to twelve and one-half percent." Id. (emphasis added).

         In addition, section 479.359.3 now requires all counties, cities, towns, and villages to submit an addendum with their annual financial report to the state auditor pursuant to section 105.145. This addendum must include an accounting of the political subdivision's annual general operating revenue, "total revenues from fines, bond forfeitures, and court costs for minor traffic violations occurring within the county, city, town, or village, including amended charges from any minor traffic violations, " and a calculation of the percent of the annual general operating revenue that the fines, bond forfeitures, and court costs for minor traffic violations represent. Sec. 479.359.3(1)-(3). Finally, "a representative with knowledge of the subject matter as to the accuracy of the addendum contents" must certify its accuracy and sign "under the penalty of perjury, and witnessed by a notary public." Sec. 479.359.3(4).

         SB 5 also enacted section 67.287, which lists "minimum standards" for certain municipalities. The statute defines such a "[m]unicipality" as "any city, town, or village located in any county with a charter form of government and with more than nine hundred fifty thousand inhabitants." Sec. 67.287.1(2). Section 67.287, in relevant part, requires covered municipalities to have "[a] police department accredited or certified by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies or the Missouri Police Chiefs Association or a contract for police service with a police department accredited or certified by such entities" within six years.

         After the enactment of SB 5, twelve municipalities in St. Louis County[3] and two taxpayers filed a petition in the Cole County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunction. They alleged the new statutes created by SB 5 violate the Missouri Constitution's: (1) special law prohibition in article III, section 40(30); (2) restrictions on unfunded mandates in violation of article X, sections 16 and 21; (3) guarantee of separation of powers in article II, section 1; (4) prohibition on amending Supreme Court Rules without specifying which rules are being amended or limiting the amendments to a single bill as provided in article V, section 5; and (5) limit on the amount of fines a municipality can keep from minor traffic accidents in violation of article V, section 27(16).

         In the trial court, Plaintiffs offered the testimony of two witnesses. Plaintiffs also introduced an affidavit from the certified public accountant who prepares the annual financial reports for both Normandy and Pagedale. The State conceded it did not offer any evidence, let alone any evidence to support a substantial justification. The trial court entered a judgment declaring (1) section 67.287's provision of minimum standards for certain municipalities, in its entirety, and section 479.359.2, insofar as it creates a lower cap applicable to only municipalities in counties with a charter form of government and more than 950, 000 inhabitants, are unconstitutional special laws and (2) the requirement in sections 67.287 and 479.359.3 that annual financial reports include an addendum certified under oath and penalty of perjury are unconstitutional unfunded mandates. The trial court also entered a permanent injunction enjoining the State from enforcing the provisions declared unconstitutional. Finally, the trial court dismissed Plaintiffs' other constitutional claims for failure to state a claim.

         The State appeals the trial court's judgment declaring that SB 5 contained special laws and unfunded mandates and permanently enjoining the enforcement of those provisions. Plaintiffs appeal the trial court's dismissal of their other claims.

         Standard of Review

         Challenges to a statute's constitutional validity are questions of law, which this Court reviews de novo. Earth Island Inst. v. Union Elec. Co., 456 S.W.3d 27, 32 (Mo. banc 2015). Similarly, a trial court's grant of a motion to dismiss is reviewed de novo. Conway v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 438 S.W.3d 410, 413 (Mo. banc 2014). A judgment awarding equitable relief "will be affirmed unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law." St. Louis Police Officers' Ass'n v. Bd. of Police Comm'rs of City of St. Louis, 259 S.W.3d 526, 528 (Mo. banc 2008).

         Analysis

         I. SB 5 Contains Special Laws in Violation of the State Constitution

         Missouri's first constitution in 1820 did not contain a prohibition against special laws. Washington Univ. v. Baumann, 108 S.W.2d 403, 404 (Mo. 1937). And prior to 1859, 87 percent of all legislation passed by the General Assembly was special legislation. Jefferson Cnty. Fire Prot. Dists. Ass'n v. Blunt, 205 S.W.3d 866, 868 (Mo. banc 2006). Since 1865, however, the Missouri Constitution has prohibited special laws. See Mo. Const. of 1865, art. IV, sec. 27; Mo. Const. of 1875, art. IV, sec. 53; Mo. Const. of 1945, art. III, sec. 40(30). Currently, article III, section 40(30) of the Missouri Constitution provides that "[t]he general assembly shall not pass any local or special law . . . where a general law can be made applicable, and whether a general law could have been made applicable is a judicial question to be judicially determined without regard to any legislative assertion on that subject."

         The test employed to determine if a statute is a special law is whether the statute's applicability is based on open-ended or closed-ended characteristics. City of DeSoto, 476 S.W.3d at 287. A law based on closed-ended characteristics - e.g., historical facts, geography, or constitutional status - is facially special and presumed to be unconstitutional as others cannot come into the group nor can its members leave the group. Id. A law based on open-ended characteristics - e.g., population - on the other hand, is presumed to be constitutional. Id. "This 'open-endedness' allows the legislature to address the unique problems of size with focused legislation; it also permits those political subdivisions whose growth or decline brings them into a new classification the advantage of the legislature's previous consideration of the issues facing similarly situated governmental entities." Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens v. St. Louis Cnty., 816 S.W.2d 219, 222 (Mo. banc 1991).

         Typically, population-based classifications are considered open-ended as others may fall into the classification and some current members may leave it. City of DeSoto, 476 S.W.3d at 287; see, e.g., State ex rel. Fire Dist. of Lemay v. Smith, 184 S.W.2d 593, 595 (Mo. banc 1945) (holding that a statute applying only to counties with 200, 000 to 400, 000 inhabitants was not a special law, despite only applying to St. Louis County at the time, because the act would apply to other counties that attain such a population in the future); Hull v. Bauman, 131 S.W.2d 721, 723 (Mo. 1939) ("The classification of counties or cities according to population so that other counties and cities may come within the terms of the law in the future does not make the act a special law in violation of our Constitution, although such act applies only to one county or one city in the state at the time of its enactment because the population thereof is the only one within the limits fixed by the act at the time of its passage."); State ex rel. Hollaway v. Knight, 21 S.W.2d 767, 768 (Mo. banc 1929) (holding that a statute applying only to counties with more than 300, 000 and less than 600, 000 inhabitants was not a special law because "[t]he classification of counties or cities according to population, so that other counties and cities may come within the terms of the law in the future, does not make the act a special law").

         Some population-based statutory classifications may nonetheless be considered special laws if the presumption of their constitutional validity is overcome. The rationale for holding that population classifications are open-ended is defeated when the classification is so narrow that "as a practical matter others could not fall into that classification." 205 S.W.3d at 870. In Jefferson County, a population-based classification applying to counties with more than 198, 000 but fewer than 199, 200 inhabitants was held to be a special law because it applied only to Jefferson County. Id. at 871. Jefferson County outlined a three-prong test to determine when the presumption of the constitutional validity of a population-based classification is overcome:

(1) a statute contains a population classification that includes only one political subdivision, (2) other political subdivisions are similar in size to the targeted political subdivision, yet are not included, and (3) the population range is so narrow that the only apparent reason for the narrow range is to target a particular political subdivision and to exclude all others. If all three circumstances exist, the law is no longer presumed to be general, but is presumed to be a special law, requiring those defending it to show substantial justification for the classification.

Id. at 870-71. When a statutory population classification is so narrow, to consider it open-ended "would contravene the purpose behind the constitutional prohibition against special legislation." Id. at 870.

         A. SB 5 satisfies the Jefferson County three-prong test

         1. St. Louis County is the only political subdivision to meet the classification in the challenged sections of SB 5

         The State agrees the population-based classification and the charter form of government requirement in sections 67.287 (requiring minimum standards for certain municipalities) and 479.359.2 (imposing a lower revenue cap for certain municipalities) meet the first prong of the Jefferson County test as the classifications only apply to one political subdivision. According to the 2010 census of the United States, [4] only one county in Missouri has more than 950, 000 inhabitants: St. Louis County with 998, 954 people.[5] St. Louis County also has a charter form of government.

         2. Other municipalities similar in size to those within St. Louis County are excluded from SB 5

         Although the applicability of the next two prongs of the Jefferson County test are contested by the State, they are satisfied under the facts of this case. The State argues the second prong is not met because no county is similar in size to St. Louis County and is excluded from coverage. The most populous counties after St. Louis County, according to the 2010 census, are Jackson County with 674, 158 inhabitants[6] and St. Charles County with 360, 485 inhabitants.[7] All remaining counties have fewer than 300, 000 inhabitants.[8]

         This argument ignores the fact that the challenged statutes in SB 5 target not only St. Louis County but also the municipalities within it. Because of the special law provisions in SB 5, the 90 municipalities in St. Louis County are the only municipalities in the state that are required to enact minimum standards (section 67.287) and a lower cap on fines, bond forfeitures, and court costs (section 479.359.2). Populations of municipalities within St. Louis County range from 52, 158 (the city of Florissant) to 13 (the village of Champ), [9] yet there are hundreds of municipalities throughout the state with populations falling within that same range that are not required to establish minimum standards or be subject to the separate lower cap on fines, bond forfeitures, and court costs. Because those municipalities, which are similar in size to those in St. Louis County, are not subject to the special law provisions in SB 5, the second prong of the Jefferson County test is satisfied.

         3. The only apparent reason for the challenged classifications in SB 5 was to target St. Louis County

         The third prong of the Jefferson County test was recently clarified in City of DeSoto. The statute at issue in City of DeSoto excluded from its coverage any city that met all of the following six criteria:

(1) operate[s] a city fire department, (2) [is] a third-class city, (3) [has] more than 6, 000 but fewer than 7, 000 inhabitants, (4) [is] located in any county with a charter form of government with (5) more than 200, 000 but fewer than 350, 000 inhabitants, and (6) [is] entirely surrounded by a single fire protection district.

476 S.W.3d at 288. City of DeSoto rejected the State's argument that the Court should look at each criterion individually, "asking itself whether any other city someday might meet any particular criterion." Id. Because the statute required a city to meet all six criteria to be excluded from coverage, the Court considered "[t]he combined effect of the six criteria." Id. at 288-89 (emphasis added).

         To begin, De Soto was the only city that fell into the third-class city population window. Id. at 289. Both parties agreed Jefferson County was the only county that fell within the 200, 000 to 350, 000 county population range set out in the statute. Id. Neither party identified any other county that, "as a practical matter, is likely to fall within the range of 200, 000 to 350, 000 in the foreseeable future." Id. (emphasis added). The other four criteria solidified the Court's decision that the statute was a special law because

[t]he likelihood of all of these factors converging and of another city coming within the scope of [the statute] is sufficiently unlikely that, in the words of Jefferson County, "the only apparent reason for the narrow range is to target a particular political subdivision and to exclude all the others."

Id. at 290 (quoting Jefferson Cnty., 205 S.W.3d at 871).

         While the statutes in this case do not involve as many criteria as the statute at issue in City of DeSoto, sections 67.287 and 479.359.2 nonetheless include two criteria: counties with a charter form of government and with more than 950, 000 inhabitants.[10]The criteria in SB 5 currently apply only to St. Louis County, and as a practical matter, it would be highly unlikely that both criteria would converge in the foreseeable future such that another county would come within the scope of the statutes. [11]

         Further, quoting the language of City of DeSoto, "as a practical matter, " St. Louis County is not "likely" to leave the statutory classification by its population falling below 950, 000 inhabitants in the "foreseeable future." See 476 S.W.3d at 289. Although City of DeSoto does not define "foreseeable, " it is defined as "being such as may reasonably be anticipated" or "lying within the range for which forecasts are possible." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 890 (unabridged 1993). No evidence was offered in the trial court that it could be "reasonably anticipated" or "lying within the range for which forecasts are possible" that, as a practical matter, St. Louis County is likely to fall below the 950, 000 population level by losing 5 percent of its population from the 2010 census figure by falling below 950, 000 inhabitants in the foreseeable future. Neither was evidence offered that it could be "reasonably anticipated" or "lying within the range for which forecasts are possible" that, as a practical matter, any other county in the state is likely to increase in population to cross SB 5's 950, 000-inhabitant threshold in the foreseeable future.

         Over the past 100 years, St. Louis County's population has increased every census except in 2010, when its population dropped 1.7 percent from 1, 016, 300 in 2000 to 998, 954. [12] Data from the United States Census Bureau demonstrates that St. Louis County's less than two-percent drop in population in 2010 is not indicative of a trend of decreasing population. As shown in the table below, St. Louis County has shown steady growth since it first reached a population of 950, 000 in 1970.[13]

Census Year

St. Louis County's Population

1970

951, 671

1980

974, 180

1990

993, 508

2000

1, 016, 300

2010

998, 954

         The United States Census Bureau further estimates St. Louis County's population in 2016 to be 998, 581.[14] While its population is estimated to have dropped since 2010, this estimated 0.04-percent decrease over seven years is not enough to persuade this Court that St. Louis County, "as a practical matter, " is "likely" to fall below SB 5's population ...


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