Title Board meeting on April 7, 2021

The Title Board considered five proposed ballot initiatives on April 7, 2021.

Over the objections of people who considered the proposal vague, far reaching and in violation of the constitutional ban on multi-subject initiatives, the Title Board on Wednesday affirmed its decision to grant a ballot title to a proposed measure that would expand animal cruelty protections for livestock.

Initiative #16, which proponents have nicknamed Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE), received a lengthy and contentious rehearing after two groups — representing 24 persons in total — challenged the three-member board's decision in March to set a title to appear before voters, should the initiative gather the necessary signatures to make the statewide ballot. Both sides, however, challenged each other's political motivations over the initiative.

“I thought that the Title Board was supposed to have the responsibility of objectively representing the proposition in the writing of this title. If the objectors keep chiming in about exactly how they want to craft the title so that it looks worse for the support of Prop. 16, then we're just going to be here forever as I'm going to keep making objections," said Alexander Sage, a designated representative for the initiative alongside Brent Johannes.

On the other hand, attorney Mark G. Grueskin, representing a collection of six objectors, accused the PAUSE supporters of using "politically-charged code to get this past a majority of voters.”

The PAUSE initiative would put parameters on the slaughter of livestock so as not to constitute animal cruelty, remove animal husbandry exceptions for animal cruelty and, controversially, redefine "sexual act with an animal" to include penetration, however slight, into an animal's anus or genitals with an object or body part. Objectors claimed the public might not realize they could be prohibiting common breeding, artificial insemination or veterinary practices by voting for the measure.

“There is nothing sexual when you’re providing good healthcare to animals," argued Marian Tone, who alleged the proponents offered a "false narrative."

"This isn’t just about cattlemen and ranchers. It affects a majority of the public, and this just doesn’t come out in the draft text to the nonlegal person," added David Peters.

A coalition has formed to oppose the PAUSE initiative on the grounds that the policy change would ban livestock processing, kill jobs and increase the price of food. A nonpartisan fiscal analysis of the measure acknowledged the proposal would impose costs on meat producers and consumers by extending the time ranchers must care for animals prior to their slaughter to one-quarter of their natural life.

The three-member Title Board's duty is limited to determining whether a given proposal contains a single subject. If so, the board sets a title that is brief yet encompasses all central features. Although objectors argued there could be as many as four subjects in Initiative #16 — including expanding the definition of animals, criminalizing healthcare practices and placing new restrictions on ranchers — board members stood by their prior position that everything related to animal cruelty.

"I don't want the opponents to feel like we're being cavalier about this situation here," said David Powell, representing Attorney General Phil Weiser. "I don't think there's a strong feeling on my part that this is violating the single subject rule."

Board members did agree to revise the previously-awarded title for clarity. One of the objectors, Heather Riley, observed after some time that board members appeared to struggle with the language, which, in her opinion, indicated the measure must be "thrown out." Another member of the public stated that someone who is unfamiliar with the care of animals might need more detail in the title about the PAUSE initiative's effects. 

“I think there’s a line between alerting the public as to what the measure does and to fully educate them on what the measure does. And we don’t do the latter," responded board Chair Theresa Conley, representing Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

The board voted unanimously to adopt a clarified title for the initiative and keep it moving forward. Afterward, the Coloradans for Animal Care opposition campaign, which includes the Colorado Farm Bureau and various agricultural industry associations, announced it would appeal the Title Board's decision to the state Supreme Court.

Other business

Board members granted titles to four other ballot measures. Initiative #19, from designated representatives Michael Fields and Suzanne Taheri, would amend the constitution and state law to require the legislature to appropriate all money the state receives. Currently, custodial funds that are not derived from tax revenue may be spent at the direction of the executive branch.

Initiatives #23-24 from John Ebel and Donald L. "Chip" Creager III would amend the constitution and state law to institute new protocols for much of the state's direct democracy process and institute fines for people who interfere with the work of petition circulators. The board determined the measures would need to reach a 55% threshold among voters to pass because they add language to the constitution. The proponents agreed to only circulate one version of the initiative for ballot placement.

Initiative #25, with designated representatives C. Tim Taylor and Stephen Fusco, would raise marijuana taxes and divert revenue from state land revenues to pay for an out-of-school learning opportunities program.

This story has been updated with additional Title Board decisions from the meeting.

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