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.
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.”
Proponents 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.
July 10, 2015 9:00 PM· By Peter Blake
Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes
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
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
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.”
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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.
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.
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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
Yes, you can get involved in your city or state. TABOR gives citizens the right to vote yes or no on the government increasing your taxes. To learn more, send an email to info@theTABORcommittee.com
The first tax and expenditure limitation (TEL) was proposed by California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972. In the years since then, numerous states have adopted TELs. By studying these laws, we have discovered principles and design concepts for effective tax limitation.
In spring 1978, under the leadership of State Rep. David Copeland, the people of Tennessee adopted the first constitutional tax limitation measure in the nation, the work product of a state constitutional convention.
Then came Proposition 13 in California in June 1978. While not itself a TEL (it was primarily a limitation on the growth of property taxes), Prop. 13 was the catalyst that ignited a national tax revolt. Things began to happen quickly across the country:
- Arizona, under the leadership of then-Senate Majority Leader Sandra Day O’Connor, adopted a TEL referendum in 1978.
- In November 1978, Michigan adopted the Headlee Amendment, which restricted state spending as a share of personal income.
- In 1979, California adopted a Prop. 1-type TEL (the Gann Limit) that for the first time limited the growth of state spending by measuring it against inflation and population or per-capita personal income growth, instead of a percentage of state personal income growth, which really tightened the year-over-year control over taxes and government spending.
- Also in 1979, Washington State adopted a TEL (Initiative 62).
- In 1980, Missouri adopted the Hancock Amendment, again using a percentage of state personal income growth as the measure.
- In 1980, Massachusetts’s Prop. 2 ½ drew heavily on the language of California’s Prop. 1 in order to control the growth of local governments.
Many other states have since adopted constitutional or statutory controls. But many were not tough enough or sufficiently well enforced or honored to be effective. Circumvention began in earnest in Missouri as the legislature and courts played games with the revenue base and school financing. In California in 1989, wily Assembly Speaker Willie Brown corrupted the Gann Limit formula in a statewide initiative devoted to improving California’s roads and highways. Continue reading