DENVER– In advance of the signing of Senate Bill 23-303 by Governor Jared Polis, Advance Colorado is announcing the addition of 12 counties as plaintiffs in their lawsuit against the State of Colorado regarding SB23-303 and Prop HH due to single-subject and “clear-title” violations.
“Politicians need to play by the same rules as everyone else. Thankfully, these local governments - from every part of the state - have stepped up to defend our State Constitution. This ballot measure clearly has multiple subjects - and the ballot language is misleading and unclear,” said Michael Fields, President of Advance Colorado Institute.
"Anyway you slice it, SB23-303 and Proposition HH do not prevent residential property owners in Douglas County from experiencing what will be the largest property tax increase in state history,” said Abe Laydon, Douglas County Commissioner Chair.
“Borrowing $20 from taxpayers and then giving back $10 is not the intent of TABOR. It is alarming that local governments were not consulted on the bill or Prop HH. We believe strongly in local solutions that are designed for local problems. However, under the guise of lowering property tax, this is an underhanded and confusing attempt to work around TABOR. In addition, the proposition itself violates the single subject rule established to protect voters in Colorado,” said the Mesa County Board of Commissioners.
“Rather than transparent and honest policy, this is an attempt to lure Coloradans in with a false promise of property tax relief, but is really an exploitation of struggling families. This bill is a sloppy bait and switch – a tiny tax decrease is the bait, but Coloradans will be worse off if they are tricked into giving up the TABOR refunds they are owed,” said Carrie Geitner, El Paso County Commissioner.
“As County Commissioners, we understand what a property tax solution looks like. SB23-303 isn't that solution. The state didn't collaborate with local governments, and it shows. A responsible state government shouldn't be taking more of the people's money through TABOR refunds while giving them almost nothing to show for it - roughly half a percent in property tax relief,” said the Phillips County Board of Commissioners.
“Fremont County is pleased to lend the weight of its name in support of the efforts of Advance Colorado. The complaint being filed regarding SB23-303 and the violation of the single subject rule is very important to the citizens of Fremont County and the state of Colorado. This legislation wrongly contains multiple subjects, each being ultimately against the best interests of our taxpayers. We look forward to the court's agreement and siding with the citizens of Colorado against the overreach of the legislature,” said the Fremont County Board of Commissioners.
“As a board, and as individual commissioners, we feel it necessary to join this lawsuit to protect our citizens. Governor Polis and his legislative majority erred badly. The ends do not justify the means, and when the ends are dishonest, it is doubly wrong. This SB23-303 is not what it claims to be and does more in one bill than our state constitution allows,” said Chris Richardson, Chairman of the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners.
“It is very disappointing when politicians attempt to circumvent the intent of the voters. SB23-303 and proposition HH is obviously a way for politicians to circumvent and destroy TABOR. We hope that the people will see that TABOR is intended to protect the people of Colorado and HB23-303 in conjunction with proposition HH is a way for politicians to destroy what was put in place with TABOR,” said Washington County Commissioner Kent Vance.
“The Governor has used TABOR for his campaign, and now he’s threatening to end TABOR through this multi-subject, illegal bill,” said the Kit Carson County Board of Commissioners.
"The Highlands Ranch Metro District Board of Directors is joining Advance Colorado and other local governments in a lawsuit against Proposition HH, also known as SB23-303. The proposed legislation violates the single subject requirement set forth in the Colorado constitution. This complicated proposition is full of multiple subjects and difficult-to-understand concepts. It’s just plain wrong. Over time, we have set mill levies according to TABOR requirements and we follow TABOR rules. As an elected board, it’s our priority to act in the best interest of Highlands Ranch taxpayers and perform the job they voted us to do – efficiently serve our community. Our board has not asked voters for a mill levy increase in the Highlands Ranch Metro District’s 42 years of service. We should pause this situation, work together, and take the time and thoughtfulness to provide reasonable long-term solutions for Coloradans,” said Renee Anderson, Chairperson of the Highlands Ranch Metro District.
“The governor and legislature have majorities to do almost anything in our state but instead make the choice to trample on the Constitution of Colorado. Our Charter is the protection we have against a tyrannical government and both sides should stand firm in its defense. It is amazing that out of one side of the politicians’ mouths they want local control and out of the other side, they emphasize that they know best how to govern locally. Commissioners already have the ability to mitigate these increased property taxes. The magic shell game where the Democrats take our TABOR refunds to pay for higher property taxes is a classic Washington political trick,” said Jerry Sonnenberg, Chairman of the Logan County Board of County Commissioners.
From the complaint: "1. Colorado citizens are facing a $3 billion to $4 billion property tax increase in 2024. In response to the higher assessments, the General Assembly waited until the last day of session to pass SB23-303. Embedded in SB23-303 is a Referred Measure, Proposition HH. The Bill and the Referred Measure each unconstitutionally 'logroll' by pairing a politically popular notion (slightly reducing property tax assessment rates) with an unpopular notion (retaining an increasing amount of TABOR refunds – $10 billion over 10 years – and permanently eliminating them shortly thereafter).
2. SB23-303 sponsor, Representative Chris DeGruy Kennedy explained that this 'piece of legislation must tackle several problems at the same time.' (https://www.kennedy4co.com/2023/05/19/rising-to-face-the-toughest-challenges/)
3. Indeed, the Bill’s title and Proposition HH's ballot language embedded in the Bill both fail to clearly express a single subject as required by Article V of the Colorado Constitution and intentionally mislead voters while failing to meet the standard of clearly describing the subject of the measure in a way the average voter could understand. The Bill and ballot titles each fail to include any numbers concerning the property tax assessment rates and do not inform voters that the property tax assessment reduction is a mere 0.06% next year.
4. Colorado law and precedent require that voters be fairly informed of significant changes to law – which the sponsor acknowledges exists here – and of relevant numbers when they are asked to vote on a measure. Moreover, Colorado law and precedent first requires that any bill, ballot initiative, or referred measure comply with the single subject requirement so that voters can make an informed choice. SB23-303 unconstitutionally includes at least four separate subjects.
5. Local governments and local government officials from all four corners of Colorado have joined this lawsuit to ask for declaratory judgment that SB23-303 and Prop HH – both separately and together – are unconstitutional and therefore void."
List of counties and special districts joining the lawsuit as plaintiffs include: Cheyenne County, Douglas County, El Paso County, Elbert County, Fremont County, Highlands Ranch Metropolitan District, Kit Carson County, Logan County, Mesa County, Phillips County, Prowers County, Rio Blanco County, Washington County.
Individual county commissioners and local elected officials joining include: Jerry Sonnenberg (Logan County), Abe Laydon (Douglas County), Lora Thomas (Douglas County), George Teal (Douglas County), Christopher Richardson (Elbert County), Grant Thayer (Elbert County), Dallas Schroeder (Elbert County), Kevin Grantham (Fremont County), Stan Vander Werf (El Paso County), Carrie Geitner (El Paso County), Cami Bremer (El Paso County), Longinos Gonzalez, Jr. (El Paso County), Chuck Broerman (Treasurer, El Paso County), and Mark Flutcher (Assessor, El Paso County).