Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The City With A Population Between 4950 and 5000

When I was looking at the special exemptions to Indiana's Sunday-only alcohol sale prohibition (a prohibition that will not survive the current session of the Indiana General Assembly -- or so all intelligent and decent people hope) that over the years have gradually been written into Indiana law, I found one exemption -- a limited one -- that only has effect in specific Indiana cities and counties.  The code section (IC 7.1-3-1-25(a)) that identifies the cities and counties that have the benefit of this exemption does not identify them by name, which would almost certainly violate the Indiana Constitution's prohibition of special and local laws (Article 4, Sections 22 and 23).  Instead of identifying the affected cities and counties by name, the code section (in a practice that has evidently managed to "pass" for constitutional, so far*) identifies nearly all of them by limiting its applicability to certain stated population ranges within which the communities to be affected happen to fall.

The code section specifies that it applies to counties falling within one of six listed population ranges, to any consolidated city and its county (which, for nearly fifty years, has described only Indianapolis - Marion County), to a Second class city (which itself is defined mainly by whether it falls within a particular population range), or to a city -- presumably no more than a single city, for reasons that you are about to see -- that the code section identifies using a population range ... a very peculiar population range.

I have been unable to determine which city the code section was even meant to identify and affect, but this is how the code section describes it: "A city having a population of more than four thousand nine hundred fifty (4,950) but less than five thousand (5,000)."

Considering the language used in expressing it, the actual range within which the city's population must fall runs from 4,951 through 4,999 -- within a window of forty-nine.  Of course, we can afford to be a little more accommodating than that, but even the most generous treatment of it can only expand the window to fifty-one.  So, while it is possible for a small Indiana city to enjoy the benefit of this special, limited exemption from Indiana's Sunday-only alcohol sale ban, the population of that city must be equal to one out of fifty-one possible numbers, ranging from 4,950 through 5,000 (inclusive).

I noticed that there were some things about the population ranges that the code section designated for the counties that did not make a lot of sense, either, but in this post, I choose to focus on the mystery city whose population is (unless somebody made a mistake!) equal to one of the fifty-one numbers between and including 4,950 and 5,000.  I am focusing on this because this decision that legislators made at some point (I do not know when it was done, but I do know that it was not done recently), that this legal provision should specifically target and apply to a lone city to be identified using a population range so narrow that it includes a mere fifty-one allowable population totals, provides an example (another example) of not only how absurd Indiana's alcohol laws have become but also an example of how population ranges can be abused in an attempt to evade the Indiana Constitution's prohibition of local and special laws (when general laws can be made applicable).

What conceivable characteristic possessed by a city with a population of 4,950 through 5,000 (inclusive) distinguishes it from other cities in such a way as would explain why it might be fit to have the benefit of an exemption from the Sunday-only alcohol sale ban while other cities are not?  There is none.  The population range, in this case, is nothing but an amusingly incompetent attempt to conceal the fact that the General Assembly was (many years ago, whenever it was that it actually did this) making a special rule for a single, specific city.

Depending on whether or not there is a better set of population figures for Indiana cities than I have managed to find, so far, the use of such a narrow population range in that code section might also be an amusingly incompetent attempt to apply that special rule to the single, specific city that the General Assembly of that time actually intended.  As I write this, I have not yet found a listing of the populations of Indiana cities that identifies any city as having 4,950 - 5,000 people.  Does anyone else know which city this was meant to target?  If so, does anyone know what legislators might have felt was so special about that city?

* Legitimate uses of population ranges to classify political subdivisions (in order to allow state law to be designed to account for their differences in characteristics and circumstances) do exist.  Of course, those classifications are at least somewhat arbitrary, in the same kind of way that it is arbitrary to establish a given age as the threshold for legal adulthood, but also in that same kind of way, it can serve a useful purpose.

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