Posts Tagged Initiative Process

Be Careful What You Wish For

Back in 2009, the Colorado legislature decided they had had it with citizen oversight.  They passed HB09-1326, which, among other things:

  • People who successfully challenge the validity of signatures in court could sue sponsors of the measure to recover attorney’s fee.
  • Circulators who collect more than 100 signatures are required to go through a government-sponsored training procedure before they are allowed to collect additional signatures legally

Most damagingly, people can sue for attorneys’ fees even if they don’t invalidate enough signatures to get the measure disqualified, and they can hold sponsors of the initiative personally liable for these damages.  Jon Caldara, the victim of such a lawsuit, has argued that these rules, and the risk they entail, constitute such a high bar to participation in the process that they effectively kill it.

Comes “Great Education Colorado Action is the political arm of Great Education Colorado, a group that urges more spending on education,”  (gee, I wonder where their funding comes from?), and a ballot measure to “temporarily” raise state sales and income taxes to pay for education.  (For the moment, let’s skip over the merits of the measure, except to note that money is fungible, and anyone who thinks this money is going to make it to the classroom without taking a detour through teachers unions and pension funds will also probably be surprised by the headlines, immediately upon ratification, that claim that the schools are still short of cash.)

Their innovation here isn’t the proposal, that’s old hat.  Their innovation is in how they propose to gather signatures:

So supporters are trying a strategy that uses social network websites to ask people to sign the petitions. Supporters have set up a website that allows people to download petitions and then volunteer to gather signatures.

The kit includes instructions on how to gather 50 signatures to fill each petition and even how to properly staple the pages. It instructs volunteers to seek out a notary after gathering the signatures and then to return the signed petitions to supporters in Denver.Every petition must bear an individual number, and the website where they can be downloaded assigns each one a unique number.

Some see this as a highly creative way to gather signatures on the cheap.  I see it as a way to limit the teachers unions’ liability, while still exposing them to real risks.  The circulators are under even less control than usual, will be prone to making mistakes, and all the liability for the costs involved in hunting in this target-rich environment will fall to GEC.  Moreover, there’s no way of stopping individuals from collecting more than 100 signatures.  In fact, there will be considerable incentive for person A to gather, say, 150 signatures, and have persons B and C sign for 50 each, which is, of course, fraudulent.

Great Education Colorado may think it’s got a really cool idea here.  I hope someone’s willing to hold them to the same inane standards that the left has tried to foist on the rest of us.

Also, just to add to the schdenfreude, note that suddenly, to the Denver Post, which has spent years agitating against the initiative process, “The hurdle to get an initiative on the ballot isn’t small.”  Keep that in mind the next time they editorialize about how easy the initiative process is.  Apparently, small is in the eye of the petitioner.


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Contempt of Constituents

Looking at the events of the last couple of weeks, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that certain public officials in Colorado hold their constituents in contempt for the sin of not handing over their pocketbooks.

Legislative Democrats, with the cooperation of too many Republicans, have gone along with efforts to water down the state’s initiative process.  And now, for refusing to go along with these plans, the people having spoken, must be punished.

In 2008, they turned down Referendum O, which would have allowed opponents of ballot measures to focus their efforts on any one Congressional district.  And they turned down Amendment 59, which would have lined the teachers unions’ pension plans by gutting TABOR.

This session, the Democrats failed to pass out of the Senate SCR-001, which would have created a hybrid Constitutional amendment-recision process that was clearly too complex for its stated goals.

Now, they have resorted to suing their own constituents in federal court, claiming that the Colorado Constitution is unconstitutional.  The legal precedent here is clear.  The courts have long held that the US Constitutional requirement for a “republican form of government” is non-justiciable, meaning that it’s a matter for the legislature and the people to decide.  The most recent case, in 1912, upheld a state’s citizen initiative process against the very claim they seek to revive.

Remember, for “progressives,” it’s always Three Minutes to Wilson.

This effort is really a matter of politics, not of litigation, and that the plaintiffs are seeking a platform at taxpayers’ expense to make their case against TABOR.

(Let’s be clear: this is a Democrat initiative, and shame to the few officeholding Republicans who’ve given them cover to call it “bipartisan.”  The big names are representatives of the “former” variety, and of the total list of 12, only 6 hold elected office, at the school board or city council level, most of which are nominally non-partisan.)

We’ve also heard that back in 2009-2010, the Colorado Springs City Manager at the time, Penny Culbreth-Graft, had instructed the city’s PR office to intentionally undermine its image, in the national media if need be, to browbeat the citizenry into voting for higher taxes.  I’m sure the folks tasked with luring tourists, students, and businesses to the area were thrilled with this.

So think about this: in the last two weeks, we’ve seen public officials sue their citizens, and undermine the name of their own city.  Why on earth should these people be trusted with more of our money?

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