The Colorado Supreme Court In Denver

The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in downtown Denver, home of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Five additional challenges to proposed ballot initiatives went to the Colorado Supreme Court this week, as opponents seek to block measures pertaining to paid leave, tax policy and the petitioning process from the November statewide ballot.

Kelly Brough, the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, filed four of the challenges. She wrote in a court petition that she believed Initiative 245, which would create a right to ballot initiative at virtually every level of state and local government, had a misleading ballot title because it omitted descriptions of several key features from the complex measure.

Specifically, she argued that the title should inform voters of a reduction in signatures required to put an initiative on the ballot, of newly-assigned jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to hear initiative protests and of prohibitions on legislation from the General Assembly on topics that voters previously rejected through referendum.

The three-member Title Board sets the ballot titles for voters if they determine that an initiative constitutes a single subject. The title must include the central components of the proposal, but also be brief.

Brough and Aurora resident Tyler Sandberg also protested the title for Initiative 271, which would create a progressive income tax raising approximately $2 billion annually. The two objectors felt that there were seven subjects in the measure, including the rate changes themselves and the creation of oversight bodies. They contended that “income tax policy” was too broad a subject to be constitutionally permissible.

The two other measures to which Brough objected, Initiatives 247 and 248, would create a paid family and medical leave program of between 12 and 16 weeks funded through payroll premiums split between employees and employers. Brough believed that the measure incorrectly labeled the authority overseeing the program as an “enterprise” — or government-owned business — and that it instituted a tax increase that should trigger template language required under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

Lynea Hansen, a spokesperson for Colorado Families First, a committee registered in January to back the measures, said in a statement that “If COVID-19 has taught us anything it is how to wash your hands properly and how important it is to be able to take time off to care for yourself or a seriously ill family member.” She added that the group plans to push back on the court challenge.

Kenneth Nova of Boulder also filed a challenge to Initiative 250, which would create an out-of-school learning opportunities agency with parent-directed spending accounts for qualifying activities. Funding would come from a new state income tax deduction, and losses to the general fund would be offset by limiting the net operating loss deduction for corporations. Nova argued that limiting a tax deduction equates to raising taxes and should require TABOR template language in the ballot title.

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