June 26, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Single Subject Rule for Charter Amendments Does Not Violate Municipal Home Rule Act

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights v. City of Colorado Springs on Thursday, August 27, 2015.

City Charter—Proposed Ballot Initiative—Single-Subject Rule—Municipal Home Rule Act.

Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights (CSCCR) is an advocacy group opposed to the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in oil and gas production. In 2013, CSCCR attempted to amend the Charter of the City of Colorado Springs (City Charter) to prohibit fracking within city limits. CSCCR formed a petition committee, which drafted a proposed ballot initiative to amend the City Charter. The initiative was rejected by the Title Board. The basis for the rejection was the City’s single-subject rule, which states that the City’s Initiative Review Committee (IRC) and the Title Board “shall ensure that initiatives contain only single subjects to enable voters to understand the subject matter of the initiative.”

On appeal, CSCCR contended that the single-subject rule is effectively an amendment to the City Charter because it alters, or adds to, the charter’s amendment requirements. The Municipal Home Rule Act (MHRA) provides that citizens seeking to amend a city charter can initiate the amendment process by filing a petition containing “the text of the proposed amendment” with the city clerk. The MHRA does not define “proposed amendment” or provide substantive criteria for such an amendment. Therefore, the statute leaves room for a home rule municipality to establish the criteria of a proposed amendment to its charter. Here, the City exercised its legislative powers to enact criteria for proposed amendments to its charter—among them, the single-subject rule. Because the MHRA amendment procedures are undisturbed by the City’s single-subject rule, the rule does not conflict with or effectively amend the City Charter provision stating that the MHRA shall govern the submission of charter amendments. Therefore, the district court did not err by upholding the single-subject rule. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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