Milwaukee can no longer require its police officers and firefighters to live within the city limits, under a ruling issued by the state Supreme Court Thursday. The 5-2 ruling reverses a state appeals court decision, which found a 2013 state law banning residency requirements for public employees violated a “home rule” provision in the state constitution.
The law, passed by Republicans, only allows local governments to require workers to live within 15 miles of a community’s borders. While it applies statewide, Milwaukee argued it was unconstitutional because it was primarily aimed at striking down its residency rules. Union groups challenging the requirement contend it affects all communities the same though.
Writing for the majority, Justice Michael Gableman agreed with unions that the Legislature has the ability to create laws that impact local governments, as long as they are uniformly applied statewide. “As long as the statute, on its face, uniformly affects cities or villages throughout the State, the home rule amendment’s uniformity requirement is satisfied,” he wrote.
In her dissent, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote that the decision grants the legislature extensive power over decisions made by the state’s cities and villages. “Instead of freeing municipalities from interference by the legislature when dealing with local affairs, the majority limits the power and restrains the ability of municipalities to self-govern.”