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Colorado House Bill 1326 (2009)

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Colorado House Bill 1326 was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter on Friday, May 29, 2009. The law was sponsored in the Colorado State Legislature by politicians Terrance Carroll, Brandon Shaffer, Josh Penry, Mike May, and Lois Court.[1] HB 1326 places several severe restrictions on the initiative process.

HB 1326 includes these provisions:[2]

  • It restricts campaigns from paying circulators on a pay-per-signature basis to only twenty percent of a circulator's total salary.
  • People who successfully challenge the validity of signatures in court could sue the campaign to recover attorney's fee.
  • Ballot measures that change state laws (initiated state statutes) will henceforward be referred to as "propositions".
  • Requires that petition drive management companies who hire paid circulators go through a licensing process.
  • Petition sheet must carry a label to warn people that their signature will help place the question on the ballot.
  • Circulators who collect more than 100 signatures are required to go through a government-sponsored training procedure before they are allowed to collect additional signatures legally.
  • People who sign a petition and later change their mind will be able to have their signature withdrawn.[3]

Additionally, HB 1326 changed the deadline for submitting signatures.[4]

HB 1326 says with respect to signature deadlines (text appearing in previous versions of the statute is stricken-out and NEW TEXT IS IN ALL CAPS):


1-40-108. Petition - time of filing. (1) No petition for any ballot issue shall be of any effect unless filed with the secretary of state within six months from the date that the titles and submission clause have been fixed and determined pursuant to the provisions of sections 1-40-106 and 1-40-107 and unless filed with the secretary of state within the time required by the state constitution NO LATER THAN THREE MONTHS AND THREE WEEKS before the election at which it is to be voted upon. A petition for a ballot issue for the election to be held in November of odd-numbered years shall be filed with the secretary of state within the same time NO LATER THAN THREE MONTHS AND THREE WEEKS before such odd-year election. as is required by the state constitution for issues to be voted on at the general election. All filings under this section must be made by 3 p.m. on the day of filing.[5]

Federal lawsuit

Jon Caldara, head of the Independence Institute, filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2010 challenging the constitutionality of HB 1326. The leader of the free-market think tank based in Colorado claimed that House Bill 1326 would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the basis of restricting freedom of speech. Also, Caldara argued that by restricting pay-per-signature would make it more expensive to conduct initiative campaigns. Arguments were heard in the District of Colorado federal court on May 13, 2010 on the matter.[6]

Criticism

Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll wrote in May 2010:

"Colorado lawmakers last year were supposedly so concerned about the integrity of the petition process that they passed a 24-page bill clamping down on the way signatures are gathered. But they weren't concerned enough to apply the new law to themselves.
If mere citizens wish to petition a measure onto the ballot, they can no longer pay circulators by the signature. They must pay mostly by the hour, with no more than 20 percent of earnings related to the number of signatures collected. And they must document the pay and hours of the circulators, among other new requirements, to a degree that practically requires a bookkeeper.
If political candidates wish to petition their way onto the ballot, on the other hand, they're free to pay circulators however they like."[7]

Impact

Mason Tvert of SAFER, a pro-marijuana-rights organization, says that the impact of HB 1326 is that the cost of qualifying a measure for the ballot has increased. Tvert said:

"The cost of qualifying a measure for the ballot has increased dramatically as a result. I have been quoted about $3.50 per signature for this year, as compared to $1.50 last year."[7]

See also

References

  1. Durango Herald, "Law looks to end campaign fraud", May 16, 2009
  2. "Copy of HB 1326"
  3. Speaker Carroll aims to end ballot fraud, March 24, 2009
  4. Face the State, "Ballot initiative promoters can lose even when they win", May 27, 2010
  5. Text of HB 1326
  6. The Denver Post "Think-tank chief challenges Colorado's petition-gathering rules", May 14, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 Denver Post, "Heaping burdens on petitions", May 19, 2010