Archive for the 'Petition Rights' Category

My Big News

Posted by on Sep 08 2014 | Petition Rights, Purely Personal, Transparency

Big News:

My 15-year-old Toyota Camry just broke 200,000 miles! You’d think all the mileage, rust, and cracks in the windshield would be a turn-off to the women I try to date. Well, I can say the ladies love my car as much as they did when I first bought it. Sadly.

Oh, and other important stuff that’s going on:

The single most important task of an elected school board is negotiating the collective bargaining agreements with employee unions. Not only do the agreements cover about 85% of a district’s budget, they also determine how our children will be taught, how our teachers will be treated, and how taxpayers’ money will be spent. Unfortunately, school boards across the state hold this key process in closed-door back rooms, even though sunshine is crucial for democracy to work.

Our Proposition 104 on this fall’s ballot changes that. It does just one tiny, little thing. It says that school board work must be done in public, like other government work under the state’s open meetings law.

Who in the world could be against opening the doors to the smoky back room? Well, you know, those who are in that room – unions and school districts.

The teachers union challenged our ballot initiative as it was going through the process (all the way to the Supreme Court) and lost. But not to worry, they haven’t given up. They fear sunshine that much. Their likely next step is to take legal action to try to pull Prop 104 off the ballot. Their lawyer, skilled at costly nuisance lawsuits, will soon challenge the validity of the signatures we got to get Prop 104 on the ballot.

In the end they’ll lose that challenge, and they know it. But it will cost us large amounts of legal fees, time and energy. It’s a brilliant tactic, you’ve got to admit.

We are readying for the legal fight, but I need your help. Could you invest in our work to get sunshine on school boards and fight off the legal attacks by giving us $100 today?

You should also check out the campaign’s website www.SunshineK12.com and their Facebook page. The opposition group is called Local Schools, Local Choice. When they get a website, check them out too.

Free Speech:

We also go on the legal offense here at Independence. Partnering with our friends at the Center for Competitive Politics, we have just filed two lawsuits asserting that state and federal campaign finance disclosure laws are unconstitutional under the First Amendment. To learn more, go here.

We are asking the courts for permission to run two ads – one asking Democratic Colorado U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to support a federal sentencing reform bill, and one asking citizens to urge Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to initiate an audit of the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange. Yes, we live in an age where we need to go to court to enjoy our First Amendment rights.

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Putting sunshine where the sun don’t shine

Posted by on Aug 07 2014 | education, Petition Rights, Politics, Transparency

Last Friday, the Independence Institute took another step towards forcing more transparency in government–school districts in particular.

We delivered over 127,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office to place a citizens’ initiative on this fall’s ballot. If passed, it would require that, when school districts negotiate a teachers union contract, it be open to the public. Pretty radical, huh?!

Here’s the exact wording you’ll see on your ballot in November: “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”

Imagine that. Government doing the work of the people, well, in front of the people, and not in smoke-filled back rooms. Isn’t it insane that we have to go through all the trouble and expense of a citizens’ initiative to pry open the locked doors of government?

In the last several years, Republicans in the state legislature introduced bills three times to have Colorado join the 11 other states with such a policy. And three times it was shot down by the special interests who want to continue meeting in the dark: teachers unions and school districts.

Well, since the legislature won’t get the job done, we will! It’s what we do around here.

Financially speaking, the most important function of a school board is negotiating their teachers’ contracts. It can be 80% of the district’s budget. Imagine the state legislature negotiating how to spend 80% of the state budget in a back-room meeting? No one would stand for it. And we won’t stand for it in our school districts, either.

We all have a stake in these talks, and we all should be able to keep an eye on the negotiating table. Teachers can finally observe how both sides represent pay and working conditions. They can finally see if their union and the district really have their interests at heart. Parents could see how policies affecting their children’s teachers and classroom policies are discussed and decided. It’s their children, after all.

Back in June, the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote an editorial endorsing our ballot initiative. You can read their endorsement here.

We’ll find out within 30 days if we’ve made the ballot. You can bet those who love back-room deal-making will hope we fall short of the 87,000 valid signatures needed. We won’t.

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Major Victory in Court for the First Amendment!

Posted by on Apr 02 2013 | First Amendment, Petition Rights, PPC

Colorado has the initiative process; that is, we lowly citizens can act as the legislature and change law. Elected officials of all stripes hate the initiative, and you can understand why. The initiative is the check and balance on their power. Would politicians ever vote to limit their own terms? Of course not. Fortunately, through the initiative, we the people did. Would they ever vote to limit how much they spend, or ask voters for a tax or debt increase? We the people did through the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Would politicians ever vote to make all their meetings open to the public? Well, we the people did…you get the idea.

So in 2009, the legislature passed a bill, HB-1326, that made it so onerous, expensive, and potentially personally bankrupting that no thinking person would ever put something on the ballot again. (And as you’ll see, I am no thinking person.) So we decided to fight to keep our right to petition. It has been a long and expensive fight, but with a judge’s order on Friday, we have now completely won!

Let me give you an idea just how bad this law was. It made the proponents of an initiative personally liable for the actions of petition gatherers. I’ve been a political activist for over two decades and, like most Americans, never thought that being part of the democratic process would land me in court and possibly bankrupt me. Well, that’s just what happened.

I was the sponsor of our Health Care Choice initiative in 2010, along with our health care star Linda Gorman. When the opponents wanted to derail the effort, they used the new law and claimed that a paid petition gatherer misrepresented my initiative to get a citizen to sign my petition. So into court I was dragged. If the opponents won I would be liable for their legal costs. We of course won, but still, my legal costs were about $100,000. This nuisance complaint did what it was created to do – cost time and money. If, however, we’d lost, I’d have had to pay hundreds of thousands to the opponents. I would have been wiped out and in bankruptcy.

After what happened to me, it became clear that no one would ever chance their own fiscal ruin by putting an initiative forward again. With our input, the Secretary of State has made rule changes to provide at least some protection to future sponsors.

If that wasn’t enough, HB-1326 outlawed paying petition gatherers by the signature. Instead, they were to be paid by the hour or on salary, which would make the process so expensive that only very rich people and political interests could get things on the ballot. We were able to get a judge to temporarily enjoin that just in time for us to get the signatures needed for the Health Care Choice initiative in 2010.

On Friday, the judge made that temporary injunction permanent! This is a major victory for the right to petition.

And if THAT wasn’t enough, HB-1326 required that petition gatherers be residents of Colorado, even though the most effective, professional gatherers travel around the country and may be out-of-state. Again, the law was made to make it unaffordable to get something on the ballot. On Friday, the judge permanently enjoined that part of the law, too. We’ve won on everything.

The lawyer we used was none other than David Lane, who skillfully navigated this suit. Thanks David.

To make a long story short, the Independence Institute is willing to take on the nitty-gritty battles, like this one, to protect our freedoms. And this is yet another victory in our path towards true liberty.

Advancing liberty ain’t always pretty, ain’t never cheap, and is always longer and harder than imagined. But if you and I don’t do it, who will?

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Victory for the Citizen Initiative Process

Posted by on Apr 02 2013 | Petition Rights, PPC, State constitutional law

Yesterday, a judge ruled in favor of us in a lawsuit we filed against a 2009 law limiting paid petition gathering. The law was a blow against citizens who wanted to use paid petition gathering to get an initiative on the ballot. And as our lawyer David Lane put it, “I think the intent of the bill was to disincentivize signature gathers.” I commented that this ruling against the law means that you don’t need deep, union-sized pockets to get on the ballot.

Just wanted to give you guys a heads up on this victory. I’ll be writing more on this very shortly. Stayed tuned!

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TABOR Still Doesn’t Violate the Constitution

Posted by on Jul 27 2011 | Constitutional Amendments, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Petition Rights, PPC, TABOR, U.S. Constitution

The Legislative Council’s executive committee, consisting of 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans, took a vote the other day on whether to oppose the TABOR lawsuit. You might recall that our Taxpayers Bill of Rights is going to court soon to determine whether it violates the Constitution’s guarantee of a “republican form of government.” As with anything TABOR related, the vote came down 3-3 along party lines. You might be thinking, “so what?” This vote was purely symbolic. It doesn’t mean anything. And you would be right, this vote doesn’t change anything. It is also true that this lawsuit against TABOR is purely symbolic. As I’ve stated before, this lawsuit isn’t about TABOR. It’s about our right to petition our government. What this lawsuit argues is that citizens do not have a right to petition their government and vote on constitutional amendments. Thus, it endangers all of our citizen enacted amendments to our state constitution – not just TABOR. Our resident constitutional scholar Rob Natelson disagrees. He argued in this Colorado Springs Gazette op-ed that the evidence is solidly on the side of petition rights and of TABOR. The Founders would have had no beef with citizens voting on constitutional amendments. In fact, they were quite fond of it in their day. So while this latest effort to undermine TABOR might result is some more public trashing of its good name, it won’t result in anything substantial.

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The Statesman on Our Petition Rights Event

Posted by on Jun 20 2011 | Petition Rights, PPC

The Colorado Statesman is a great publication. We have long been fans of theirs and this is why we were excited when they came to our assaults on our initiative and referendum process event last month at the University Club. They wrote a great article that summed up the event nicely. They reported on the wonderful remarks from the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund and the highly diverse panel in favor of a citizen’s right to petition their government. As I pointed out the other day, no state assaults petition rights like we do in Colorado.

Again, for this that could not make it to the event, you can hear all the audio files here.

And don’t forget to read the Colorado Statesman each week!

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No State Assaults Their Petitions Like We Do

Posted by on Jun 13 2011 | Idiot Box (TV Show), Petition Rights, PPC

It’s not everyday that you find your name in lights on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Although I guess it’s a little different when you’re an international superstar like myself. This weekend’s WSJ featured an article by ultimate insider and all around great guy John Fund about the assaults on the citizen initiative process. Sound familiar? It should. We held an event just a few weeks ago that featured John Fund and a great panel on this exact subject. In case you missed the event, you can listen to the whole thing here. In the article, John talks about how state courts and legislatures in some states with a robust initiative process have gone on the offensive and taken measures against citizens petitioning their governments. Measures like those taken by Colorado in the last few years.

Last month, the California state Senate passed a bill requiring those collecting signatures to wear large badges indicating whether they are volunteers or paid workers, whether they are registered to vote, and if so, where. A second bill has passed the Senate that would ban paying workers per signature, forcing them to be paid by the hour instead.

Again I ask: sound familiar? It should, we’ve endured some of the same treatment here. In fact, we had to sue in order to get an injunction against the whole anti-pay-per-signature thing. John then sums it all up in the following sentence,

But in no state has the assault on the initiative process been more relentless and sustained than in Colorado.

Damn right. He goes on to mention that both Linda Gorman and I were very close to facing bankruptcy because of state laws that allow private parties to financially go after petition sponsors. Being the reckless, “let Colorado citizens vote on stuff” kinda guy, I was a target. Thankfully our names were removed from the case and we no longer face financial ruin… for wanting citizens to vote on ballot measures!

If you’re like me and you can’t get quite enough of John Fund, check him out on this past week’s Devils Advocate show. We don’t talk about the initiative process but we do talk about the upcoming presidential election in 2012. John gracefully opens up his box of inside info and shares who he believes will run, won’t run, has no chance, has some chance, and might just beat Obama next year.

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Assaults on I & R Panel Event AUDIO

Posted by on Jun 01 2011 | Events, Petition Rights, PPC

On Thursday, May 26th, the Independence Institute held a panel event at the University Club to discuss the attacks on our citizens’ initiative and referendum rights here in Colorado. There were remarks made by several special guests plus remarks from panelists. Special guests included John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, political strategist Joe Trippi, and founder and president of the Citizens in Charge Foundation Paul Jacob. Panelists were attorney Shayne Madsen, State Senator Kevin Lundberg, Elena Nunez of Common Cause, The Humane Society’s Dane Waters, and Thad Tecza of CU-Boulder. All presentations, including the introduction, panel remarks, and Q & A have been recorded.

For those of you unable to make it, we’ve compiled the presentations by each speaker in individual podcasts here. Feel free to download these podcasts and share them with others who might be interested.

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Natelson Drives Large, Rusty Stake Into Heart of TABOR Lawsuit

Posted by on May 31 2011 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, iVoices.org, Petition Rights, PPC, TABOR, Taxes

Let’s put another stake in Herb Fenster’s TABOR lawsuit shall we? As if there weren’t enough stakes in the heart of this silly lawsuit, we’ve got perhaps the largest, most rusty stake yet courtesy of Senior Fellow Rob Natelson. As you might remember, Vincent Carroll cited Rob many times in his Denver Post editorial on the TABOR lawsuit, but we did not get a chance to hear directly from Rob himself until his post on his blog here and then this Colorado Springs Gazette guest column, TABOR Does Not Violate the U.S. Constitution. There is no greater authority on the founding era understanding of terms, phrases, legal jargon, and our Constitution than Rob Natelson. His op-ed rips the lawsuit to pieces and leaves the reader knowing that the founders had no beef with TABOR (nor our initiative and referendum process). Additionally, Rob sat down with one of my minions to do an iVoices.org podcast on this subject. You can listen to that podcast over on iVoices.org.

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The Constitutionality of… Our State Constitution

Posted by on May 23 2011 | Petition Rights, PPC, TABOR

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of TABOR. Yeah, we laughed out loud too. Since this lawsuit has no chance of going anywhere, it makes me think this charade is all just a PR stunt. What better way for anti-limited government forces to get together and hurl stones at TABOR than to use the media’s giant public platform? Because once you get right down to it, this isn’t about TABOR at all. This is about trying to kill the citizens initiative process – yet again.

Our initiative process has had more attempts on its life than all the mafia dons in the Godfather series combined. Yet this new stunt attempts to undercut not just future attempts at petitioning our government, like the recent SCR-001 and HB 1072 does, it attempts to rescind all previously passed constitutional amendments as well! Because what this lawsuit is trying to prove is that having a petition process where citizens can gather signatures to put initiatives on the ballot is “direct democracy” and not “representative democracy.” In other words, our state constitution is unconstitutional.

I’m not sure the lawsuit’s proponents really understand the far reaching effect that this lawsuit could have. No TABOR. No term limits. No automatic increases in K-12 funding. No campaign finance reform. No ethics in government. No merit selection of judges. No sunshine law in government.

And those are just some of our state constitutional amendments. What about our local, municipal government amendments? Better still, if successful, this suit would invalidate all initiatives in all states. Um. Good luck guys.

Look for II to assist the State in defending TABOR and the initiative.

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