Jun 04

Grand Lake rescinds municipal fee

Good news from Grand Lake!

I am pleased to announce that the Town of Grand Lake has rescinded the outrageous municipal fee this last Tuesday, May 29th by a vote of 6-1.  The action followed two unsuccessful attempts to rescind the municipal fee on January 8th and February 12th 2018

This could have not been possible, if it were not for the election of four new trustees at the April 2nd election.  All four new trustees voted to rescind the municipal fee along with the Mayor and myself.

A little background:  The municipal fee was adopted to cover approximately 50% ($80k annually) of the cost to cover police service including dispatch and street lighting.  Traditionally, these expenses were always covered by the normal taxes and fees collected in the general fund.

The Municipal fee became a “Hot Topic” during the election process and the candidate forum we had at the end of March.  The electorate was offended that they were not asked to vote for the municipal fee, but rather the money was stolen out of their pocketbooks just as a common thief would do.   Continue reading

May 23

Supreme Court upholds Aspen’s grocery bag fee

Supreme Court upholds Aspen’s grocery bag fee

Plastic Bags

Aspen City Council banned plastic grocery bags, shown here in a market in Snowmass Village, in 2011, while implementing a 20-cent fee on paper bags. The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday found that the fee was not a tax.  

The Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision announced Monday, upheld Aspen’s fee on paper grocery bags, finding that the 20-cent charge is not a tax because it offsets the costs of a municipal waste-reduction program.

The state high court upheld a district court decision from 2014 and a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from 2015. The Colorado Union of Taxpayers, a Lakewood-based group that advocates for conservative tax policy, brought the lawsuit following the program’s implementation in 2012, arguing that the fee is actually a tax. Since new taxes must be approved by voters under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment, the group argued that the fee, which was not put up for voter approval, was unconstitutional.

Aspen City Council in 2011 passed the so-called waste-reduction ordinance, which banned single-use plastic bags offered upon checkout at local grocery stores and required the 20-cent fee for paper bags. The program’s goal is to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags while ridding the community of the ubiquitous plastic bags that create an environmental hazard when not disposed of properly and otherwise contribute to the waste steam.

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May 22

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

Colorado’s TABOR amendment getting fresh scrutiny amid funding discussions, proposed ballot measures

DENVER — Whether you’ve lived in Colorado for a short time, or your entire life, you’ve probably heard about what’s known as TABOR: The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Promoted by Republican lawmaker Douglas Bruce, voters in Colorado passed it back in 1992.  Under the TABOR amendment, taxes can’t be raised without voter approval. That includes the state sales tax and property taxes.

“It ensures that government cannot grow beyond what the people want it to do,” said Michael Fields of the conservative-leaning group Americans for Prosperity.

Fields argues TABOR leads to smart spending with an existing budget, prevents government from getting out of control and gives people of Colorado the power to decide when it’s appropriate to raise taxes.

“I think you make the case to the people,” Fields said. “If you want to invest in something more, then go make the case to the people – convince them that they need more revenue and that’ll pass.”

But there’s another side to TABOR.

“It’s not something good to have on our books. It’s actually hindered our ability as a state to do many things,” said TABOR opponent Amie Baca-Oehlert, of the Colorado Education Association.

She says she feels TABOR is a roadblock for lawmakers that prevents them from making responsible spending decisions in places where it is needed most, like Colorado’s schools.

“That just doesn’t seem right in a state with such a fast-growing economy,” she said.

But Colorado needs money to fix our ailing roads and bridges. So a push is underway to convince voters to approve a sales tax hike this November.  Educators are also pushing a tax increase to help public schools after a 2013 $1 billion proposed tax increase to pay for school funding was rejected by voters.

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an Aspen grocery bag surcharge was not a tax and thus did not fall under TABOR – the second successful challenge in recent months.

But what’s next? For the moment TABOR is here to stay. In order for it to be reversed completely – we as Coloradans would have vote to change it.

May 21

Colorado Supreme Court upholds Aspen bag fee

When you look up the meaning of “clueless idiots” in the dictionary, it will redirect you to the Colorado Supreme Court.
SMH….

Colorado Supreme Court upholds Aspen bag fee

Author: Associated Press – May 21, 2018

A man carries multiple plastic bags. (ablokhin, istockphoto)

DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a 20-cent surcharge on grocery bags in the city of Aspen.

Monday’s ruling represents the second time in the last month that the court has rejected a constitutional challenge brought under the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. TABOR requires voter approval for all taxes.

The government can raise fees without asking voters as long as the proceeds pay for a related service. Park fees, for instance, can pay for park maintenance.

The Aspen City Council approved the fee in 2011 and has been using the proceeds for a waste management program.

A conservative nonprofit group sued, arguing that the bag charge was actually a tax.

The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the city’s waste reduction program was “reasonably” related to people using disposable grocery bags.

Colorado Supreme Court upholds Aspen bag fee

May 12

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Analysis: Colorado judges continue to erode taxpayer rights

Colorado Supreme Courtroom in the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center

Nagel Photography | Shutterstock.com

Over the last 25 years, the Colorado courts have consistently legislated from the bench to weaken the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), two prominent advocacy groups committed to limited government assert. A recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling is one among many that “weakened taxpayer’s rights,” they argue.

Voters approved TABOR on Nov. 3, 1992, which then became part of the state constitution after the governor issued a proclamation on Jan. 14, 1993.

TABOR requires voter approval of most tax and debt increases. It also requires each government to reserve a percentage of non-debt-service spending (an amount that has fluctuated) for emergency reserves. It states that TABOR “shall reasonably restrain most of the growth of government. All provisions are self-executing and severable and supersede conflicting state constitutional, state statutory, charter, or other state or local provisions.” Continue reading

May 04

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

Lawmakers and conservatives in states across the country are growingly concerned that the push for donor disclosure will harm privacy rights. (Photo:JGI/Jamie Grill Blend Images/Newscom)

Conservatives in states across the country say that pushes to pass laws requiring nonprofits to report their donors’ private information threaten First Amendment rights.

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of constituents with concerns over their rights to privacy, and possible harassment by organizations or individuals, or even their employers, if their donation histories are made public,” Oklahoma state Rep. Mark Lepak, a Republican, told The Daily Signal in an email.

At least a dozen states have considered such donor disclosure legislation this year, but none has been successful, according to the State Policy Network, a nonprofit organization that supports independent think tanks around the nation.

“Since Jan. 1, 16 states have considered laws that would require causes and groups like The Heritage Foundation to report the names and addresses of their supporters to state government,” Tracie Sharp, president and CEO of the State Policy Network, said in an email to The Daily Signal.

Continue reading

May 03

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

POLITICSNEWS

The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

Lawmakers and conservatives in states across the country are growingly concerned that the push for donor disclosure will harm privacy rights. (Photo:JGI/Jamie Grill Blend Images/Newscom)

Conservatives in states across the country say that pushes to pass laws requiring nonprofits to report their donors’ private information threaten First Amendment rights.

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of constituents with concerns over their rights to privacy, and possible harassment by organizations or individuals, or even their employers, if their donation histories are made public,” Oklahoma state Rep. Mark Lepak, a Republican, told The Daily Signal in an email.

At least a dozen states have considered such donor disclosure legislation this year, but none has been successful, according to the State Policy Network, a nonprofit organization that supports independent think tanks around the nation.

“Since Jan. 1, 16 states have considered laws that would require causes and groups like The Heritage Foundation to report the names and addresses of their supporters to state government,” Tracie Sharp, president and CEO of the State Policy Network, said in an email to The Daily Signal.

Heritage, a leading conservative think tank, is the parent organization of The Daily Signal, its multimedia news operation.

None of these donor disclosure initiatives has passed so far, Starlee Coleman, senior policy adviser at the State Policy Network, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

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May 01

When a Tax Increase Isn’t a New Tax

When a Tax Increase Isn’t a New Tax

High court rules incidental, minimal tax revenue increase doesn’t violate TABOR

Pernell v. People
What might have been a precedent-setting decision in Colorado criminal case law instead became a ruling on harmless error, as the Colorado Supreme Court determined.

According to the Colorado Supreme Court, legislation that causes an incidental and de minimis increase in tax revenue does not amount to a “new tax” or “tax policy change” under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and consequently doesn’t require voter approval.

The decision issued April 23 in TABOR Foundation v. Regional Transportation District settles a 2013 lawsuit against RTD, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and Colorado Department of Revenue that claimed House Bill 13-1272 violated TABOR because it resulted in a revenue increase without voter consent. The legislature passed the bill to realign sales taxes levied by RTD and SCFD with the state sales tax. Although the districts and state share a taxable base tangible personal property — the taxes levied had diverged over the years due to various differing exemptions.

House Bill 1272 removed exemptions from the districts’ taxes on sales of cigarettes, direct-mail advertising materials, candy, soft drinks, and nonessential food containers. Its passage resulted in a projected tax revenue increase of 0.6 percent for the districts, which amounted to less than 1 percent of SCFD’s budget and one thousandth of RTD’s budget. The TABOR Foundation sued the districts, claiming the removal of exemptions constituted a “new tax” or “tax policy change” because they resulted in the districts taxing things they had not before.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, and upheld the districts’ analysis of House Bill 1272’s purpose to simplify tax collections and ease administrative confusions associated with the exemption divergences. The court concluded the revenue increase was incidental and de minimis, so it did not violate TABOR.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the April 30, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.

May 01

Colorado’s Supreme Court has once again weakened taxpayers’ rights

Colorado’s Supreme Court has once again weakened taxpayers’ rights

© Getty

The Colorado Supreme Court has issued another in a long string of rulings weakening the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights — the part of the Colorado constitution called “TABOR.”

The voters adopted TABOR in 1992 to protect Colorado’s fiscal and economic health. TABOR guarantees the rights of citizens to vote on certain hikes in government spending, taxes, and debt. Unfortunately, each anti-TABOR court decision has become precedent for further anti-TABOR decisions. The Colorado courts are bootstrapping themselves toward ultimate destruction of Coloradans’ right to keep their state fiscally safe.

In TABOR Foundation v. Regional Transportation District, citizens argued that a law standardizing sales tax exemptions should have been presented to the voters. The citizens pointed out that the measure was not revenue-neutral. Rather, it was what TABOR calls a “tax revenue gain.”

 

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Apr 26

TABOR, Colorado education funding and the teacher protests (for Dummies)

TABOR, Colorado education funding and the teacher protests (for Dummies)

If there’s one thing teachers hate, it’s Cliffnotes, but here’s a “Cliffnotes”-style explainer of the education funding shortfalls Colorado teachers are protesting.

KUSA – By now, you’ve probably read that thousands of teachers plan to rally at the Colorado State Capitol on Thursday and Friday.

This has led the state’s largest school districts to cancel class. To put this into perspective, if you got all the kids who will have the day off in the same place, it would be Colorado’s second largest city.

A stock photo of Colorado Springs, for context.
RondaKimbrow, RondaKimbrow

It’s a big deal.

RELATED | Why thousands of Colorado teachers are protesting on Thursday and Friday

Education funding in Colorado is confusing, as in the kind of thing that still doesn’t make sense even after spending half of your work day trying to brush up on it (talking from experience here).

But, like “War and Peace,” your state’s education budget is important … but also super confounding and kinda tedious (apologies to all the Tolstoy fans out there). So, here’s our attempt at a Cliffnotes version to get you up to speed before our coverage of the teacher protests (which is ironic because if there’s one thing teachers hate, it’s using Cliffnotes instead of reading the actual book).

RELATED | These districts are canceling class on April 27 due to teacher walkouts

What are the teachers protesting?

Colorado’s teachers are protesting a few things. First off, they’re speaking out against the state’s lack of education funding (some studies put Colorado in the bottom tier nationwide), low teacher pay (while you’ll see some reports that teacher pay in Colorado is ranked 46th in the country, it’s actually 31st at $52,736 a year, according to the latest National Education Association report) and proposed changes to their pension plan.

During the protests, there’s one thing hear about a lot: TABOR, and specifically, how it impacts the education budget.

So … what’s up with TABOR?

A stock photo of a teacher explaining TABOR.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, This content is subject to copyright.

No, it’s not someone’s name (necessarily). Instead, it’s an acronym for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. This was passed in 1992, and basically, you can trace everything that’s a little unique about Colorado’s budget back to this.

Continue reading