May 23, 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.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Home Rule Municipality May Regulate Its Own City Charter Without Legislative Intervention

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in McCarville v. City of Colorado Springs on Thursday, December 5, 2013.

Home Rule Charter Amendment Process.

Roger McCarville filed with the City of Colorado Springs (City) a letter demanding to petition the City’s electors to amend its charter. He attached a draft of his charter amendment that addressed several municipal issues. McCarville also announced his refusal to participate in the procedures applicable to citizen initiatives outlined by the City’s ordinances, contending they did not apply to amending the charter. Nonetheless, the City clerk followed the City ordinance and scheduled his draft initiative for a public meeting with the City’s Initiative Review Committee.

Instead of participating, McCarville filed an action in the district court requesting the court to declare that the City’s ordinances related to citizen-initiated charter amendments conflict with the Colorado Constitution and related statutes. The City moved for summary judgment on the ground that its process for initiated charter amendments is consistent with the applicable constitutional and statutory provisions. The motion was granted.

On appeal, McCarville argued that the Colorado Constitution permits only the General Assembly to legislate on charter amendments and that the City’s ordinances conflict with CRS § 31-2-210. The City responded that it may enact ordinances addressing the charter amendment process because: (1) this is a matter of local concern; or (2) this is a matter of mixed state and local concern, and its ordinances do not conflict with the statute.

The Court construed Colo. Const. art. XX, § 6 and art. V, § 1(9) to authorize a home rule municipality to enact legislation related to charter amendments. Thus, even if this matter were of statewide concern, the City may regulate charter amendments as long as the City’s legislation does not conflict with the state’s. If there is no conflict between the state statute and City ordinances, then they both may coexist within the City, regardless of whether the legislation concerns a matter of local, state, or mixed concern. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.