This legislative session there will be yet another attempt to make it harder for citizens to change the Colorado State Constitution by raising the signature requirements to get something on the ballot. Why bother? The petition process in Colorado is already DEAD.
I mean it. Dead. Only a fool with a financial death-wish would try to get ANY initiative on a statewide ballot.
You see, the petition process frightens many in government because it gives us little people the ability to have a meaningful say in restricting government. When the legislature fails to address our needs, we can bypass them and bring an issue directly to our fellow Coloradans. Over the years we’ve been able to do this on a number of occasions. Take for example the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) or Term Limits. Without the petition process, we would not have TABOR in place now saving us from an even larger budget deficit. And legislators certainly would never have limited their own terms in office.
To be sure, the enemies of the petition process have come from both the left and the right. In 2009, the legislature passed the 24-page HB 1326, which placed several restrictions and regulations on the petition process that did not exist before – restrictions that would hamper ordinary citizens from petitioning their government by greatly raising the cost of petitioning. Of course this does not effect the rich, union backed forces nearly as much as the little guy (us).
Additionally, the law for the first time opened up the individual proponents of petitions to be liable for a much more loosely defined “fraud” or wrongdoing by nearly anyone working or volunteering on behalf of the amendment. And here is where the story really begins. With the proponent of a petition forced to personally pay the legal costs if someone else commits “fraud” – even when their amendment does not pass – who in their right mind would take on that risk? Answer: me.
Right now I am the target of a legal complaint and may be personally liable for so-called “fraud” committed by other people during the signature gathering process for Amendment 63, our Right to Health Care Choice initiative. As this MUST READ Citizens in Charge article outlines, I could be forced into personal bankruptcy because of this legal complaint. All because I wanted my fellow Coloradans to have a say in how our government was run.
Despite the initiative process still officially on the books, it has effectively been nullified by this 2009 legislation. I join Vince Carroll at the Denver Post in calling for cleaning up these rules.
My current situation now serves as a warning to those who might be considering running an initiative in the future. Now read this Citizens in Charge article.