Owens vs. the Colorado Supreme Court
Just when I thought it would be safe to go back into the water, Gov. Owens decides to threaten the Colorado Supreme Court with calling a special session of the Legislature.What’s a mother to do?I teach this stuff, and I don’t understand it most of the time.We have a balance of power in our Federal government and our state government. We have three separate and distinct branches of government.The legislative, the executive and the judiciary.That is the way we have designed the process and the balance of power for over 211 years. It works very well.
The issue is a ballot proposal to take a question to the voters this fall concerning what state benefits should be provided to undocumented workers. Considering the perceived crisis in immigration, it is probably not a bad question.The constitution of the state of Colorado was amended in 1995 to prohibit more than one subject in any ballot question. It is actually found in three places in the state constitution but this is it in summary, “no measure proposing an amendment or amendments to this constitution shall be submitted to the registered electors of the state containing more than one subject.” Again, to avoid confusion. Each subject had to have its own ballot question. Another great law. How nice to know you are not voting for fifty things with one yes or no on your ballot.Under state statute there must be the inclusion of a description that a no vote is against the change and a yes vote is for the change. This is the “yes means yes and no means no” law. How nice.On the immigration benefit ballot question, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled it included more than one subject and was unconstitutional.That, in effect, killed the question for the next couple of years.The Republican minority and our Republican governor thought the Supreme Court was wrong and have threatened the court with a special session to pass a referendum to put the issue on the ballot anyway.
The operative word is threatened.Since when does the governor have the right to threaten the court with a special session? What would the governor do if the court threatened the governor? There would be hell to pay, I am sure. I had a few bills vetoed last year by the governor. I did not like it, but that is the right of the governor. He did not call a press conference to announce that he was threatening me that he would veto my bills. He just did it.But he does not have the right to threaten the courts. He does have the right to call a special session. If that is what he wants to do, then he should do it. No press conference. No ultimatum. No threats. Just call a special session and get on with it.The real issue is the constitution.A special session will not remove the one-subject rule. A special session will just take more time and money, and we will all arrive in the same place again when all is said and done.I am sure he knows that if there is more than one subject on the ballot question, then the Legislature will not pass his referendum either.
The Democrat majority is now considering a call for a special session. It will require the same numbers and the same single subject. It will take nine Republican members to agree with the Democrats before it could move forward. I am not sure what the topics might be but I am sure that it will include a Democrat view of solutions to the immigration problem.I am sure that when the women and men of the Legislature are called to Denver this summer, they are going to be very enthusiastic about passing the governor’s referendum on immigration. Yeah, right.Another thing to consider is that it takes a super majority to pass a referendum in the house. That is 44 votes vs. the usual 33 for a majority.It will be a cold day in July when that happens.State Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Lakeview Meadows represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties. He writes a Monday column. He can be reached at email@example.com, or visit his website at http://www.garylindstrom.com.
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