Ballot measure opponents question signatures


The ballot measures

Here’s a rundown of what the ballot measures would do:

Proposition 101

It would lower vehicle registration fees in the first four years, ultimately to only $2 a year for new vehicles and $1 for older ones. It would reverse the state’s vehicle registration fee hike approved by the Legislature this year, which set rates based on the weight of a vehicle and can range anywhere from $22 a year to $71. That law went into effect July 1 and also imposes a controversial fine that can be as high as $100 for late registrations. The measure also would lower Colorado’s 4.63 percent income tax rate to 3.5 percent.

Amendment 60

It would limit how property taxes could be raised and reverse recent laws that increased such taxes. That includes Gov. Bill Ritter’s controversial property tax mill levy freeze, which prevents most of the state’s school districts from lowering mill levies and allows the state to dedicate fewer tax dollars for public schools.

Amendment 61

A third related measure that is expected to be certified by the Secretary of State’s Office today, which is to be called Amendment 61, would bar state and local governments from entering into any kind of debt without voter approval. It includes a wider definition of what constitutes debt beyond recent opinions from the Colorado Supreme Court, including such things as lease-purchase agreements and certificates of participation, which the Legislature has increasingly been using to fund various construction projects.

Opponents of two measures that have been approved for the 2010 ballot are looking to see if the people backing them violated signature-gathering requirements.

Critics of the two citizens’ initiatives — one would lower property taxes; the other would roll back vehicle registration fees and income taxes — are questioning whether supporters used paid petition circulators to gather thousands of signatures without registering first with the Secretary of State’s Office.

If such a challenge succeeded, the more than 280,000 signatures the two efforts collected could be in question.

“It appears that the proponents of these measures have not filed any kind of reports or done anything to that effect,” said Tyler Chafee, whose Protect Colorado’s Communities is one of the major opposition groups to the measures. “We are looking very closely at the petitions ... and the practices of the people trying to push these measures. We have some sense that they may not have followed the law.”

Supporters of the two ballot questions, Proposition 101 and Amendment 60, said they did not pay circulators to gather signatures, and they signed letters to the Secretary of State’s Office attesting to that.

Proposition 101 is the first to be called a proposition under a new law approved by the Legislature this year. Among other things, that law requires proposed statutory changes to be called propositions, reserving amendments for initiatives that alter the Colorado Constitution.

That law mandates that paid petition companies register with the state before gathering signatures for specific initiatives, and they must require paid circulators to undergo training on how to gather names, said Rich Coolidge, spokesman for Secretary of State Bernie Buescher.

Backers of the measures neither received nor requested any training, Coolidge said.

Supporters said the 142,680 signatures they collected for the proposition and the 139,960 petition signers they got for the amendment were nearly double the 76,047 needed to get each on the ballot, and they spent the entire time allowed, six months, getting them.

“I have never used a paid person in my life, and I’ve done three constitutional amendments,” said Freda Poundstone, a former lobbyist who filed the initial paperwork to get the proposition onto the ballot. “I have passed three constitutional amendments. I’m the only person in the state that has, and I have never used anybody except people who stand for the same principles that I do.”

But Rich Jones, director of policy and research for the Bell Policy Center, a Denver think tank that opposes the measures, said preliminary research into how the petitions were gathered indicate two signature-gathering companies may have been hired.

“What we understood was they did use two paid firms,” he said. “They started out with mostly volunteers, and added the paid firms. We also understand that (the paid circulators) were carrying two of the petitions under their paid provisions, and a third they were carrying as volunteers.”

The group has until Jan. 4 to file a challenge in court.


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