Title Board rehearing on 2/19/20

Title Board members David Powell (left) and Theresa Conley listen to an argument during the board's meeting of Feb. 19, 2020.

The Colorado Initiative Title Setting Review Board on Wednesday will consider whether to set ballot titles for 10 proposed initiatives, and will weigh challenges to 16 measures previously given clearance.

In the current period for measures eligible for the November 2020 ballot, the Title Board has seen a flood of proposals from interest groups and individuals pushing through minor variations of the same initiative. Their strategy serves to guard against challenges and to have time to consider which single measure to ultimately pursue.

Wednesday’s scheduled proposals pertain to tobacco and nicotine taxes, state enterprises and repeal of recreational marijuana.

Increasing Taxes on Cigarette and Tobacco Products and Establishing a New Tax on Nicotine Products (Initiatives 224-229): These proposals are variations on nine other previously-approved measures, plus five more that were withdrawn or denied a title. The initiatives would institute a 42% tax on the manufacturer’s price of tobacco products and a tax increase of between six and 13 cents per cigarette. There would also be a new tax on nicotine products, including vape paraphernalia, equivalent to the tobacco tax. Localities may also impose their own such taxes. Revenue would go in large part to paying for preschool. The designated representatives are Anna Haynes and James Garcia, residence unknown.

Voter Approval Requirement for Creation of Certain Fee-Based Enterprises (Initiatives 273-275): These proposals would require statewide voter approval for the creation of new enterprises that are projected to meet certain revenue thresholds in the first three to five years, ranging from $50 million to $100 million. Enterprises are self-supporting, government-owned businesses that have bonding authority and are exempt from the requirements of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The designated representatives are Michael Fields of Parker and Lindsey Singer of Highlands Ranch.

Repeal Constitutional Provisions Concerning the Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana (Initiative 282): This proposal would repeal Amendment 64 and remove the language allowing recreational use of cannabis from the state constitution. Medical marijuana would still be permitted and all other cannabis activity would be governed by federal law and state statute. The designated representatives are Willard Behm and Mary Lou Moser, residence unknown.

The 16 measures to receive a challenge to their title include:

Petitions (Initiative 245): This wide-ranging proposal would create the right to ballot initiative at virtually every level of state and local government and expand the ability to launch referendums. Kelly Brough objects on the grounds that the initiative covers multiple subjects, that its ballot title does not inform voters of key features, and that “certain provisions are so vague, unclear and incomprehensible that the measure’s meaning cannot be ascertained.” This is the second attempt at the so-called “Petition Rights Amendment” after the Title Board conceded the arguments of objectors in a previous iteration. The designated representatives are Natalie Menten of Lakewood and Donald L. “Chip” Creager III of Denver.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (Initiatives 247-248): These proposals would create between 10 and 16 weeks of paid family leave. Kelly Brough alleges that the title should use standard Taxpayer Bill of Rights language because the premiums for the program are funded through payroll, and the new administrative agency should not qualify as a TABOR-exempt enterprise. She also points to multiple subjects within the measure, including the creation of family leave itself, the new prohibition on employer retaliation, and the ability of the state to fine violators. The designated representatives are Timothy Tyler and Wendy Howell of Denver.

State Out-of-School Learning Opportunities Program (Initiative 250): This proposal creates a state out-of-school learning opportunities agency and uses an income tax deduction to fund parent-directed accounts for such opportunities. Kenneth Nova objects, saying that the use of the net operating loss deduction for corporations to backfill money to the general fund that is lost to the income tax deduction constitutes a second subject. Multiple versions of this concept have also made it through the Title Board and are before the state Supreme Court or had a title denied. The designated representatives are Chad Cookinham of Denver and Camille Howells of Wheat Ridge.

Policy Changes Pertaining to State Income Taxes (Initiatives 251-256, 267-272): These proposals would create a graduated state income tax that would raise approximately $2.4 billion annually. Kelly Brough and Rebecca R. Sopkin each object to the title setting on single-subject grounds. Each initiative “impermissibly aims to appeal to separate and distinct voting blocs for passage,” wrote Brough, including those who want lower taxes for lower-income residents, higher taxes for wealthier residents, and increased public schools funding, among other purported interests. The designated representatives are Carol Hedges and Steve Briggs of Denver.

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