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Caldara: Citizens’ initiative a weapon conservatives should be wielding

While pushing her bill to end the death penalty through the legislature, state Rep. Jeni Arndt refused to let the issue go to a public vote, you know, where you and I would have a direct say on it.

Why? Because, as she said, “We (legislators) are the people.”

Funny. I was taught that we the people were the people. But I went to an underfunded Catholic school, so I probably got it wrong.

This kind of legislative arrogance makes us Coloradans love our right to the citizens’ initiative. The Colorado Constitution is very clear — we, the non-elected citizens of Colorado, can also act as the legislature, equally empowered to change the law, change the state constitution, even.

In retort to Arndt, you got it wrong. We people are the legislature, not the other way around

The citizens’ initiative is the safety valve against runaway government. Without it we wouldn’t have our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to rein in their taxing and spending. We wouldn’t have term limits to shorten their reign over us, and sunshine laws to see what they are really doing.

Anyone who believes in liberty and limited government should be a fan of the initiative now more than ever. Given the progressive control of our state government, the citizens’ initiative is really the only weapon we have to bring some sanity back to our state.

But conservatives don’t take advantage of this weapon. Again this year it’s progressives exploiting the system, this time to the most abusive extent I have ever seen.

Usually there are some 70 or so initiatives filed a year with only a couple actually making it to the ballot. Each one must go through a detailed analysis by Legislative Council, the support staff for the legislature. Then a public review.

Then proposed initiatives go to the Title Board, again made of all state staff, to evaluate each initiative to see if it only covers a “single subject.” If it passes that hurdle, the board goes through the very long process of writing a ballot title for it, which appears on your actual ballot. After that the proponents have to get around 120,000 valid signatures on petitions, which costs gobs and gobs of money.

Point is, each initiative takes up a lot of money and time, especially state employee time. So, imagine how much staff enjoyed wading through not 70, but at least 282 initiatives, and counting, filed this year.

The overwhelming majority of initiatives to change the law filed this year come from the left even though their leftist pals in control of the legislature could have just changed the law for free.

In the never-ending effort to rip consent away from taxpayers by destroying TABOR, Carol Hedges of the tax-loving Colorado Fiscal Institute has filed some 48 (yes, 48) different initiatives to weaken or repeal TABOR altogether. Any one of which would require her to spend gobs and gobs of money to hire petitioners to get some 120,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot.

Why go to all that trouble? Her TABOR-hating, consent-loathing team is in control of every lever of power in the state government. Any one of her brilliant pro-tax ideas should be able to fly through our Democrat-controlled legislature and be signed by our Democrat governor or get referred it to the ballot.

Could it be that her ideas, all 48 of them, are too leftist for even our progressive legislature? (Answer – yep.)

What about the 35 different initiatives filed by the folks who want to expunge the records of criminals? Filing that many initiatives for the purpose of cherry-picking the one that polls best is the crime needing to be expunged.

Perhaps the most curious circumvention of his own party’s legislature is the 18 different tobacco-tax increase initiatives supported by Gov. Polis to fund his “free” pre-k dreams.

He’s the governor! Instead of going to his party-in-power legislature and putting a tax increase on the ballot through them (again, for free), he is backing, and presumably bankrolling, 18 competing versions of his tax increase before the title board.

So, the governor is tying up his own state workers to fiddle with 18 initiatives, because he can’t get his own tax hike through his own ultra-progressive legislature.

I believe that’s called a void in leadership.

Jon Caldara is president if the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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