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Local Governments and School Districts Blog

Milwaukee’s Ordinance on Residency Remains Enforceable

Authored by Ruder Ware Attorneys
Posted on July 23, 2015
Filed under Local Governments and School Districts

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled on July 21, 2015, that the City of Milwaukee’s ordinance requiring all city employees to live within the City of Milwaukee remains enforceable and is not superseded by a state statute abolishing local residency requirements.  The statute, Wis. Stat. §66.0502, became effective July 2, 2013, and prohibits local governments from enacting and enforcing residency requirements as a condition of employment, except for law enforcement, fire, or emergency personnel who could be required to reside within fifteen miles of the boundaries of a municipality. 

The appellate court agreed with the City of Milwaukee’s position that the statute violates the Wisconsin Constitution’s home rule amendment.  The home rule amendment provides that any state law must yield to a city or village law unless it involves a matter of statewide concern and it affects every city or village uniformly.  The court found that there was insufficient evidence in the record to conclude that the state law was drafted with municipalities in mind other than Milwaukee.  Because of the evidence and legislative drafting focus on Milwaukee, the court held that the state law did not involve a matter of statewide concern.  As to uniformity, the court noted while the statute does not single out any particular municipality, it will have an unusually large-sized impact on the City of Milwaukee.  Regardless of the statute’s language, the court concluded the evidence shows that only Milwaukee will be deeply and broadly affected.  Therefore, the court found that the statute does not meet the uniformity requirement.

This decision applies to the City of Milwaukee’s residency requirements.  It leaves open whether other cities or villages can rely on this decision to adopt a residency ordinance.  According to one media report, a petition for review to the Wisconsin Supreme Court is anticipated.