July 18, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Initiative #91 in Violation of Colorado Constitution

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2009–2010 #91: Howes v. Brown on June 28, 2010.

Multiple Subjects—Beverage Container Tax—Prohibition of General Assembly Authority Over Roundtables and Interbasin Compact Committee.

A registered elector of the State of Colorado filed this original proceeding pursuant to CRS § 1-40-107(2) to challenge the Title Board’s action in setting the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary for 2009–10 Initiative #91 (Initiative #91). Under the stated broad purpose of protecting and preserving the waters of the state, Initiative #91 proposes a constitutional amendment to Colo. Const. art. XVI, § 5 that would impose a tax on beverage containers and provide that 80 percent of this tax revenue be disbursed to Colorado’s nine basin roundtables and the interbasin compact committee for use as specified in the initiative.

In addition, § (10) of Initiative 91 would impose a prohibition on legislative actions by the General Assembly until the year 2015, banning it from altering the statutes currently governing the basin roundtables and the interbasin compact committee, or from creating or empowering any other agency with authority to supersede or be superior to the basin roundtables or interbasin compact committee.

The Supreme Court held that Initiative #91 contains at least two subjects in violation of Colo. Const. art V, § 1(5.5): (1) creating and administering a beverage container tax; and (2) prohibiting the Colorado General Assembly from exercising its legislative authority over the basin roundtables and interbasin compact committee until the year 2015, while embedding these entities within the water sections of the Colorado Constitution and vesting them with significant new authority. The Court therefore reversed the action of the Title Board and returned the matter to the Board with directions to strike the title and return the initiative to the proponents.

Summary and full case available here.

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