NewsCapitol Watch


Amendment 78: Opponents file lawsuit against Secretary of State, organizers to remove from November ballot

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Posted at 6:48 PM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 22:30:14-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — With about six weeks until November's election, a lawsuit has been filed against the Secretary of State's Office and the group behind Amendment 78.

The ballot measure is asking voters if state money that doesn't come from state taxes such as federal relief dollars and legal settlements can be allocated by the legislature instead of the state treasurer. It would require public hearings to be held for people to comment on how the funds should be spent before being allocated.

"Whether it's a flood, tornado, or wildfire, it's important that the government is able to act quickly and Amendment 78 would fundamentally slow that down. Require it to go through the legislature where it might fall victim to partisan bickering and I'm really concerned with the impact it could have on so many folks," said Tamara Pogue, Summit County Commissioner.

Pogue along with other opponents filed the lawsuit Thursday to get the initiative removed from the November ballot or any votes cast not to count. She says it hurts communities who could use those relief funds quickly, but it also doesn't belong on the upcoming ballot because odd-year elections are reserved for questions dealing with the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights or TABOR.

"In Colorado, there are only a couple reasons why a ballot initiative would be on the ballot in an odd number year versus an even number year. The thinking behind that is that even number elections have more voters participating in the process. Where we're making changes via this ballot process, we want to make sure the public has much of the opportunity to participate as possible," said Pogue. "One of the reasons you can have a ballot initiative on an odd number year is if it is TABOR related. The framers of 78 have tried to make the claim that it is TABOR related, but I don't think that claim has any merit. That's the reasoning behind this lawsuit."

Organizers behind the question say it does because the money would be exempt from revenue and spending limitations.

"They are mistaken, a lot of the funds that I'm concerned about are very separate and already exempt from TABOR," said Pogue.

"Most of the time general fund money is inside of Tabor so what we're doing is taking this, putting it into a new fund and allowing the interest to go into the general fund," said Michael Fields, Colorado Rising Action.

Fields says the measure is meant to bring more accountability and transparency in how funds from federal relief and legal settlements are spent.

"People in the executive branch, attorney general, and governor and secretary of state have these funds that they can spend how they want without going through the normal process where legislators weigh in from all over the state and there is a public hearing. Normally what you think when you're spending state money," said Fields.

He believes the lawsuit has no merit.

"It should get thrown out pretty quickly. It's just too late in the process. You have military and overseas ballots that have already gone out. People have already gotten their bluebook," said Fields.

"It just takes time to do all of the legal research necessary to decide if this should move forward, and here we are and it's November 24," said Pogue.

News 5 reached out to the Secretary of State's Office about the lawsuit.

“The Secretary of State’s office is currently reviewing the lawsuit. The case raises important constitutional issues, and we look forward to having a court resolve the questions presented by the plaintiffs.”
Colorado Secretary of State’s Office