Measure would alter who benefits from fines, penalties

A former Libertarian Party candidate for president got approval from the Colorado Initiative Title Setting Review Board on Thursday to begin collecting signatures for a proposed ballot measure that would completely revamp what state and local governments do with fines and penalties.

Steve Kerbel, a Littleton resident who unsuccessfully vied to be his party’s presidential nominee last year, is proposing a change in state law that would require all fines, forfeitures and penalties paid to any state or local government to go not to those entities, but instead to any victim associated with those payments.

If there is no victim, then the money would go to a charity of the fine payer’s choosing.

“A conflict of interest exists when any entity of government enforces a law and at the same time receives the financial benefit via activities of enforcement,” the proposed measure reads. “These enforcement activities have created a mistrust of our law enforcement entities that must be corrected in order to restore a more peaceful and trusting relationship between the citizens of the state of Colorado and our enforcement entities.”

A group of backers of the proposal, which calls itself Stop the Shakedowns, has until March 28 to collect at least 98,492 signatures of valid registered voters to get the measure onto the November 2018 ballot.

Because it would alter state law, rather than the Colorado Constitution, that petition-signing effort doesn’t require a minimum number of signatures from each of the state’s 35 senatorial districts.

A fiscal analysis of the measure prepared by the Colorado Legislative Council, the nonpartisan research arm of the Colorado General Assembly, shows that it would cost the state more than $323 million in lost revenues.

Collectively, local governments would lose about $133 million.

The state agency that would see the largest decrease in revenue — $56 million — would be the court system, which imposes the most fines and penalties. About a third of the Colorado Judicial Department’s budget stems from cash funds, which come from fines, penalties and fees.

The second-largest hit would be on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, which could also lose about 33 percent — $24 million — of its cash funds.

The measure also would end any law enforcement effort to collect money or property from civil asset forfeitures from convicted criminals.


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