The Title Board rejected on Wednesday a proposed ballot initiative to drastically revamp the direct democracy process in Colorado, concluding the proposal was an attempt to repeal sections of the state constitution without actually being a constitutional amendment.
“You simply cannot amend the Colorado constitution by enacting a statute,” said Jason Gelender, a board member representing the Office of Legislative Legal Services. “It would be like if the General Assembly tried to do what the measure seems to try to do, saying ‘we’re going to repeal TABOR,’” referring to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
Initiative #6, from designated representatives Donald L. “Chip” Craeger III of Denver and John Ebel of Lone Tree, mirrored three other proposals the Title Board considered within the past year. Nicknamed the “Petition Rights Amendment,” the measure would expand the right of ballot initiative to most units of government, change the process by which initiative titles are set and appealed, and alter the number of signatures required to place an initiative on the statewide ballot.
Can voters ignore the state constitution when passing an initiative?
By The Editorial Board
Dec. 6, 2020 5:43 pm ET
Voters wait in line at the Surprise Court House polling location in Surprise, Arizona, Nov. 3.
PHOTO: CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES
The outcome of the presidential race isn’t the only election result being contested in Arizona, and the other has even greater consequences for the law. Last week two lawsuits were filed against Proposition 208, the ballot initiative that imposes a new 3.5% tax surcharge to raise an estimated $827 million for education. It passed with 51.7% of the vote.
The suits are challenging whether Prop 208, which passed as a statute, must conform to the state constitution. One suit was filed by businesswoman Ann Siner and retired judge John Buttrick, the other by the Goldwater Institute, the influential Arizona think tank.
The suits claim that Prop 208 contradicts a constitutional amendment that limits the amount of revenue provided to school districts each year. It also overrides another constitutional provision requiring a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to approve a tax increase.
The Legislative Council, a nonpartisan legislative office that reviews bills and ballot measures for form and constitutionality, held that Prop 208’s language exempting the money it raises from an existing cap on education spending “is likely invalid” because it violates express constitutional limits. Supporters went ahead anyway. The state Supreme Court declined to rule on claims that Prop 208 unconstitutionally curtails the Legislature’s authority but said it couldn’t consider the issue until it passed.
Colorado Rising Action executive director Michael Fields speaks to anti-Proposition CC supporters gathered for the No On CC campaign’s election night watch party at Great Northern in Denver on Nov. 5, 2019.
(Photo by Andy Colwell, special to Colorado Politics)
Colorado Rising State Action isn’t done with lower taxes yet.
The conservative advocacy organization is dropping the language for another tax decrease on the 2021 statewide ballot.
The question would reduce the residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% and the non-residential property tax assessment rate from 29% to 27%.
Colorado Rising State Action opposed the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment, Amendment B, last month. The 38-year-old constitutional constraint set an equation between the rates for homes versus commercial property.
And how, at the same time, progressives duped them into massive tax increases elsewhere.
In an election year where the political Left won nearly every ballot question and contested political race in the state, Colorado voters approved two conservative-backed ballot measures demanding fiscal restraint.
Proposition 116 reduces the state’s flat income-tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent, and Proposition 117 requires the legislature to receive voter approval of large new government fees.
Most outcomes from Colorado’s 2020 ballot come as no surprise in a state now largely dominated by the Left. Democrats flipped a seat in the state senate while losing nothing. The Republican-to-Democrat ratio in the House remained unchanged. Voters rejected a ban on abortion after 22 weeks of gestation. The state agreed to join the National Popular Vote compact. Environmental activist groups won on Proposition 114, a measure to introduce gray wolves to the Colorado Rockies. The tax and fiscal issues, however, have left many Colorado policymakers and pundits baffled.
As the grassroots organization Vote on Fees points out, with liberal majorities in the legislature the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is the only thing preventing Democrats from going completely out of control at the state capitol.
Colorado’s state legislature uses the word “FEE” to grow state programs and spending without having to ask Coloradans for the permission to raise taxes required under our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Massive revenue increases like FASTER (car registration) fees, are taxes coming out of our pockets to pay for state programs, and should go through the same voter approval process as all tax increases. It’s not complicated — just ask the people.
Two-thirds of state revenue now falls outside of TABOR. We need to do a better job of managing our state’s more than $30 billion budget. The status quo of continuing to grow and create new state programs and finance them off of “fees” needs to end.
Democrats have recently been using fee increases as an end-run around the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a state Constitutional amendment that gives voters the final say on all statewide tax increases. The recent use of “fees” to short-circuit our Constitutional rights is extremely troubling, and fiscally responsible voters need to put a stop to it immediately.
Prop 117 is a major threat to Democrats and their socialist vision for Colorado.
Thomas Jefferson pointed out that “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. That government is best which governs least.” As taxpayers, our wisdom was used by voting on an amendment back in 1992 to limit state spending to about the same as state growth — well known as the TABOR Amendment.
This has almost worked to keep the state from taxing us out of our hard-earned wages or profits. The problem is those in government always want to spend on their pet programs and have found a way around what we taxpayers have established as a very fair limit on government spending. We elect those to our legislature to care for our state and control our government so we can carry on with our own lives and families. That confidence really can be disappointing as the con in confidence can also be the con in conman.
In 1992, Colorado voters passed the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. The amendment to the Colorado Constitution is widely despised by elected officials at every level of government. It is also widely loved by the majority of taxpaying citizens who pay the bills to employ those same elected officials.
Among its other provisions, TABOR contained an exemption for fee-based services that the government provides to citizens. It was a logical concession. After all, if the city wanted to operate a parking lot, it would be impractical to have a vote every time the city wanted to increase the cost to park your car in their lot.
TABOR’s intent was that “government-owned businesses that provide goods or services for a fee or surcharge” are “paid for by the individuals or entities that are purchasing the goods or services.” This is in contrast to “government agencies or programs that provide goods or services that are paid for by tax revenue.” Letting no good deed go unpunished, it didn’t take the state too long to figure out how to take advantage of TABOR’s allowance for fee-based enterprises.
Colorado voters this November will make decisions on nearly a dozen proposed changes to the state’s laws and constitution. It’s one of the longest statewide ballots in recent history, with three measures referred by state lawmakers, seven proposals from citizen groups and one effort to repeal a recently-passed state law.
The decisions voters make on these questions will affect Colorado’s tax rates, government budgets, ecology and more. Many of these measures are supported and opposed by a range of organizations. CPR News is including those listed on the Secretary of State’s website or who are actively campaigning.
Proposition 113 – Adopt Agreement To Elect U.S. Presidents By National Popular Vote
The Question: Should Colorado reintroduce gray wolves on certain lands west of the Continental Divide? If approved, it could help an endangered species recover its place in Colorado’s ecology, but the measure faces criticism from ranchers who fear they’ll lose livestock to the predators. Read more from CPR. Read the initiative text.