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Proposed statute in Colorado aims to regulate initiative sponsors

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February 21, 2011

By Leslie Graves

DENVER, Colorado: 58 of the 65 members of the Colorado House of Representatives voted on February 9, 2011 to approve Colorado House Bill 1072. The bill was introduced in the 68th session of the Colorado General Assembly by state representatives Frank McNulty, Amy Stephens and Liston on January 19, 2011. It was approved in the Colorado House of Representatives on February 9, 2011 and will now be taken up by the Colorado State Senate.

HB 1072 proposes several changes to laws governing the initiative process in Colorado.[1] The main changes are:

  • The two designated sponsors of a proposed initiative would be required to attend the meeting where election officials clear the measure to appear on the ballot.[1]
  • Initiative sponsors would be required to specify when they collected signatures and how much money they spent on gathering signatures.[1]

The Denver Post published an editorial on February 2, 2011 expressing reservations about HB 1072.[2]

They wrote:

"Our larger point is that most of the lawmakers who added this punitive provision to the law in 2009 probably had little understanding of its implications. And yet now they are being asked to revamp petition rules again, with House Bill 1072, another complex proposition.
Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, a co-sponsor of HB 1072, told us the bill adds no additional burdens to the petition process and is aimed primarily at transparency. If you've got a good idea and want to put it on the ballot, he says, you ought to be willing to say who's financing it and show up at scheduled hearings. In principle, we agree.
Yet lawmakers need to be careful how they address the problem. One expert in petition law we consulted, attorney Shayne Madsen, said the bill would provide initiative opponents with additional opportunity to sue, while increasing the already high costs and bureaucratic hurdles for putting a measure on the ballot."

The editorial finds one aspect of HB 1072 particularly troublesome:

"In one alarming development, the bill says that if opponents file a complaint alleging a reporting violation, the burden of proof in the dispute will fall not on them but on initiative proponents. That turns the process regarding burden of proof on its head."[2]

The editorialists concluded:

"At the very least, lawmakers should ask tough questions about this bill as it proceeds. The 2009 law could have benefited from a more thorough vetting — two of its provisions have been put on hold by a federal court — and it would be inexcusable for lawmakers to rush to judgment again."[2]

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