Sep 02

Blake: Sabotaging TABOR comes down to a single subject

Blake: Sabotaging TABOR comes down to a single subject

When it comes to sabotaging TABOR, term limits and the initiative process, the usual suspects tend to round themselves up.

The latest group, called “Building a Better Colorado,” is fronted by the otherwise estimable Dan Ritchie, who served 15 years as chancellor of the University of Denver, taking no pay and donating his $50 million ranch to the school.

The organization intends to hold “town hall meetings” throughout the state and produce a report recommending changes by year’s end.

Presumably most of these changes would necessitate ballot initiatives, since it’s hard to get the two-thirds majorities needed in the legislature to place referendums.

Photo and copyright: Tony's Takes -  used by permission

By proposing initiatives they are going to have to confront the awkward single-subject rule. More on that later.

Despite the clarity of their goals, the reformers like to talk in tiptoe-through-the-tulips terms. “It is subtle,” Gail Klapper of the Colorado Forum told The Denver Post, adding the discussions are about “nuanced changes” allowing Colorado “to move forward in the way we all want it to go.”

The Colorado Forum is just one of several civic groups behind Ritchie’s efforts. Its goals aren’t that subtle. It says on its Web site that “Colorado’s fiscal system has a structural imbalance — created by inherently conflicting constitutional mandates — that will continue to result in a widening gap between General Fund revenue and necessary expenditures.”

However “necessary” might be defined. The Forum goes on to recommend that TABOR-mandated refunds to the people be postponed and “revenue sources” not subject to the revenue cap be considered. Presumably that means imposing more “fees” instead of taxes that require a popular vote.

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Aug 14

Colorado at legal epicenter for business issues

And what about TABOR?

The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to the Tenth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal the task of deciding Kerr v. Hickenlooper, a lawsuit calling into question TABOR’s constitutionality. The eventual decision is likely to reverberate throughout the nation, because it will answer a simple question: Who is in charge of the American republic?

In 1992 Coloradans voted to amend their state constitution in order to impose restraints on their government’s power to tax and spend. The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) has since given citizens the final say on new or increased taxes and spending.

Opponents of TABOR, however, believe it makes it more difficult for government to pursue costly new programs, or to increase funding for existing programs, an argument they lost in the Colorado Supreme Court.

Safe to say, this will be the biggest decision any court will rule on this year relating to a state issue.

http://coloradostatesman.com/content/996010-colorado-legal-epicenter-business-issues

Jul 13

Nederland’s bag tax disguised as a ‘fee’ violates TABOR

Nederland’s bag tax disguised as a ‘fee’ violates TABOR

Nederland recently became the latest local government to enact a new tax in violation of the Colorado Constitution by disingenuously calling it a fee.

The town’s board of trustees in May passed an ordinance imposing a 10-cent charge on paper and plastic disposable bags used to carry purchases at point of sale at “any public commercial business engaged in the sale of personal consumer goods, household items, or groceries to customers who use or consume such items.”

icon_op_edProponents call this bag charge a fee. But with even a little scrutiny, the ordinance is obviously a tax rather than a fee. The difference between the two is hugely significant. Fees can be passed by elected representatives, while under Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), new taxes must be approved by voters through the ballot.

Here’s what the Clorado Supreme Court had to say about the difference between a fee and a tax in the 2008 case Barber v. Ritter:

If the language discloses that the primary purpose for the charge is to finance a particular service utilized by those who must pay the charge, then the charge is a “fee.” On the other hand, if the language states that a primary purpose for the charge is to raise revenues for general governmental spending, then it is a tax.

The drafters of the ordinance were careful to include that “No disposable bag fees collected in accordance with this chapter shall be used only for general municipal or governmental purposes or spending.”

This apparently is Nederland’s clumsy justification, based on at least one part of the Supreme Court’s definition, that the bag charge isn’t a tax.

 

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Jul 11

Blake: One TABOR loss could mean another TABOR victory

Blake: One TABOR loss could mean another TABOR victory

July 10, 2015 9:00 PM· By Peter Blake

Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes

TABOR Taxes

The courts keep knocking down TABOR-based lawsuits, but the tax law’s defenders keep coming back for more punishment.

Maybe they’ll win one someday. Hope can be found in a recent ruling in the TABOR Foundation’s lawsuit filed against the Colorado Bridge Enterprise in 2012, even though the foundation lost.

The CBE was established in 2009 by the General Assembly’s so-called “FASTER” Act as a “government-owned business” within the Colorado Department of Transportation. The additional bridge repairs were to be funded by increases averaging $41 in auto registration fees and much higher penalties for late payment.

The TABOR Foundation claimed they weren’t fees but taxes that voters weren’t given the opportunity to approve. What’s more, it said that the CBE didn’t qualify as a TABOR-exempt enterprise because it received more than 10 percent of its revenue from state grants.

The plaintiffs lost at the trial court, lost at the Colorado Court of Appeals and, the other day, the Colorado Supreme Court decided it wouldn’t even deign to review the case. Continue reading

Jul 10

MSLF speaks about TABOR on Friday, July 17th

Democrats want to get rid of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
How does TABOR protect your personal and business interests?
Is there a legal difference between a “tax” and a “fee”?
What difference does it make to your bottom line?

William Perry Pendley is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which defends constitutional liberties and the rule of law. His book, Sagebrush Rebel, Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today continues to draw rave reviews.

MSLF filed four lawsuits in defense of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). One was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court, but two remain alive, and another was filed just days ago. Two of the cases ask the Supreme Court of Colorado to rule on whether the words “tax” and “fee” have legal meanings, or can they be used interchangeably to collect revenue without the consent of voters?
You need not be a member to attend. Lunch is $25 for non-members, $20 for members and $10 for students. A portion of the lunch fee goes toward the CRBC Small Donor Committee or the CRBC Political Committee to support Republican candidates in the 2016 elections.

RSVP@smallbizgop.com (not required, but appreciated).
Colorado Republican Business Coalition Monthly Luncheon
Friday, July 17 from 11:30am – 1pm
Brooklyn’s at the Pepsi Center
941 Auraria Parkway, Denver

www.smallbizgop.com

Jul 04

Guest Commentary: Supreme Court’s order great for TABOR

By Rob Natelson

Posted:   07/03/2015 

Activist Douglas Bruce, author of TABOR and a constant proponent for cutting taxes, explained his latest proposal for cutting taxes to reporters and

Activist Douglas Bruce, author of TABOR and a constant proponent for cutting taxes, explained his latest proposal for cutting taxes to reporters and journalists at the state Capitol in November 1999. (Denver Post file photo)

 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent order in the case against Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a devastating blow to those seeking to overturn that part of the state constitution. The Supreme Court’s order amounts to a polite directive to the lower court to dismiss the suit.

Colorado voters approved TABOR in 1992. It offers several protections for Colorado’s financial health. It allows voter review when legislative bodies pass increases in taxes or debt, or adopt unusually high increases in spending. Under TABOR, the state legislature and local councils continue to initiate all financial measures, but the people are allowed to review some of them.

Four years ago, 34 plaintiffs, including a handful of state lawmakers, sued in federal court to have TABOR declared void. They argued that allowing the people to` check the legislature’s financial powers violated the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That’s the section that says that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_28424187/guest-commentary-supreme-courts-order-great-tabor

Jun 25

U.S. Supreme Court set to report whether it will hear TABOR case

Colorado court watchers are waiting with baited breath for the nation’s highest court to say whether it will consider a case challenging the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court isn’t considering the merits of a 2011 lawsuit, brought by a group of current and former elected officials, including state Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. Instead, the court is expected to announce whether justices are granting certiorari and will hear the case or whether they’re sending it back to a lower court.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in May 2011. Attorneys for the State of Colorado filed a motion to dismiss at that time, claiming the plaintiffs lack standing to file the lawsuit and arguing that the case itself is a political question, which federal courts typically avoid.

The District Court denied the motion and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals then denied a request by the state for a rehearing, leaving the Supreme Court to decide.

“We’re not yet at the point where (the Supreme Court) could be asked the merits of the case,” said David Skaggs, an attorney for the group that filed the suit.

The court considered the Petition for Writ of Certiorari in conference on Jan. 9 but has not yet issued a decision on it, a delay Skaggs called unusual.

Typically, when the court considers what’s commonly known as a Cert Petition in conference, it announces whether the petition has been granted or denied within a week or two.

“I think it means they’re taking [the issues] seriously,” said David Kopel, an attorney with the Independence Institute, who wrote an amicus brief supporting the state’s arguments in the case.

If the court grants certiorari, then the case will be set for oral arguments during next year’s session, which begins on Oct. 5. If certiorari is denied, the case will return to U.S. District Court in Denver for a hearing on the merits of the lawsuit.

 

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Apr 26

As session wraps up, major work remains for Colorado lawmakers

Colorado lawmakers begin a mad dash to the finish next week with more than a dozen significant bills in limbo and the session’s clock set to expire.

The final flurry before the May 6 adjournment is typical each session, but this year it is complicated by a divided legislature seeking elusive common ground on a wide range of issues and a series of late bills with huge implications.

The new bills include a repeal of the sales tax on soft drinks, a new$3.5 billion transportation bonds package, two resolutions to cut the length of the legislative session, an opt-out for mail ballots, the renewal of a state consumer watchdog and a ballot measure on how to spend $58 million of marijuana taxes.

To read the rest of this article, click the following link:

 

http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_27985297/session-wraps-up-major-work-remains-colorado-lawmakers?source=JBarTicker

Mar 21

Aurora leaders are lobbying against an anti-Gaylord bill that doesn’t exist yet

It’s not uncommon for interest groups or local governments to go into defense-lobbying mode once they see a bill put forward that they don’t like or even once they hear the details of a bill before its introduction.

But Aurora officials on Thursday launched a pre-emptive strike against a bill to hurt the proposed Gaylord Rockies project that they feel is coming — even though they don’t know what its details might be or who might be sponsoring it.

Members of Aurora’s legislative delegation are writing a letter to colleagues in the Colorado House and Senate letting them know their concerns and pleading for a fair and open process.

“We are concerned that anything that would shut down this project or anything that would affect the decision-making process of the Economic Development Commission would just close business in Colorado,” Hogan said. “If the rules are changed after they’ve been made, it is going to make it difficult for any business sector to come to Colorado with any confidence.” Continue reading