The Colorado Supreme Court turned away challenges to two ballot initiative titles on Thursday, advancing proposals for oil and gas rule making and farm animal confinement to the signature gathering stage.
Timothy Steven Howard objected to the title of Initiative 301, which would require the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to estimate the effects of proposed regulations on the oil and gas industry. Those elements include changes to employment in the sector and beyond, tax revenue and royalty payments, and costs of compliance. Howard alleged that the title would mislead voters by leaving out several details of the measure, such as a determination of whether proposed rules require “the acquisition or use of any product, technology or equipment, [and whether] such product, technology or equipment is commercially available.”
The three-member Title Board is responsible for setting a title for voters to read that is brief, yet encompasses all central features of an initiative. Assistant Attorney General Anne M. Mangiardi, defending the actions of the board, wrote in a brief to the court that “The additions sought by Petitioner would transform the title from a summary of the proposed initiative into a voluminous recitation of each element of the measure.”
She added that several of the elements Howard claimed were omitted were, in fact, inserted into the title during a rehearing of the initiative.
Brett Rutledge and Joyce R. Kelly challenged the title of Initiative 314, which would prohibit the confinement of farm animals where there is insufficient space to lie down, stand up, fully extend limbs or turn around freely. There would be new penalties for noncompliance. The objectors took issue with the title’s characterization of penalties as “a fine for violations of the measure,” arguing that voters should be aware of the “array of enforcement and penalty provisions against agricultural producers.”
Per the measure, a violation is a misdemeanor and the fine amounts to $1,000 per animal per day. The state may take a farm owner to court to recover the penalty, and any person may pursue civil action pursuant to the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
“[V]oters would not know that the measure contains an unlikely combination of invasive, far-reaching enforcement tools that go far beyond a mere fine through agency enforcement of certain housing standards for farm animals,” the objectors wrote in their brief.
First Assistant Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill responded for the Title Board that the phrase describing the measure’s penalties “accurately summarizes its substance.”
Of the hundreds of initiatives proposed during the 2019-2020 election cycle, only two remain unresolved before the court — both reallocating tobacco tax revenue for preschool programming.