“Nuclear Option” Amendment 74 Makes Ballot

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

The Denver Post’s Ben Botkin reports on the other ballot measure to qualify yesterday for a vote in November in addition to a payday loan interest rate cap–formerly known as Initiative 108, now Amendment 74, which would dramatically alter the relationship between just about any kind of land use interest and local government:

Initiative 108 would amend the state constitution and require property owners to receive “just compensation” when government laws or regulations cause their property’s fair market value to drop.

Organizers submitted 209,111 signatures, and the Secretary of State’s office projects that 137,029 are valid.

Colorado Public Radio’s Grace Hood goes into more detail:

The initiative, which is expected to appear as Amendment 74 at the ballot box, would allow Coloradans to make a financial claim on property that’s devalued because of government action. The proposal would protect water and mineral rights in addition to physical property.

At its heart, Amendment 74 would adjust how “takings claims” work under Colorado law. Right now someone can only get compensation from a direct government action when it deprives them of nearly all of their property. The change to the state constitution would broaden that range so that property owners could get compensated if property is “reduced in fair market value” by the government.

With this measure moving from the theoretical to set for a vote, word of its potentially sweeping effects is spreading–and the Colorado Municipal League is sounding the alarm:

This suggested change to the Colorado Constitution would expose both the state and all local governments to untold legal exposure with unclear language referring to government regulations or actions which would “reduce” the “fair market value” of private property and subject taxpayers to “just compensation” to a private property owner. All types of ordinances and policies at the municipal level would be affected, like code enforcement, land use and zoning, licensing, and redevelopment. Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell shares, “This measure places words in our state constitution that are not clear. Both the state and taxpayers in cities like my own will be subject to frivolous lawsuits. As both a Mayor and CML President, I am strongly opposed and will be voting no.”

The net effect of this measure will be an unprecedented restriction on the ability of local governments to regulate land uses within their boundaries. As we’ve said before the biggest beneficiaries of this change would be oil and gas extractive industries, but it wouldn’t stop there–and could be invoked to make the formerly routine regulation of all kinds of things you don’t want in your neighborhood prohibitively expensive. The measure’s vague language makes costly intra-governmental litigation a certainty, just to figure out what it will actually do.

We understand that with all of the controversy over split estate rights and other competing land use questions, there are vested interests like the Farm Bureau and the energy industry who are agitated and spoiling for a showdown. Wherever you land as a voter on any of the measures on the ballot this year, the message on Amendment 74–from the fractivists in Boulder to Gov. John “Frackenlooper” Hickenlooper himself–is that it wildly overshoots its mark.

15 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Voyageur says:

    Ballot issues this year: Kill them all and let the Lord sort them out!

  2. Duke Cox says:

    Support 97! No on all others. That work for ya, V.😝😘?

  3. JohnInDenver says:

    Does this one specify a zero date when property values were "right"?  Does the government have the right to respond, pointing out its actions actually have made the land MORE valuable?

    I'm with V on this one — I don't know how many crazies would emerge with interesting legal theories of how a government action is "taking" value.

    • Duke Cox says:

      These vague, crazy ass proposals are designed to elicit the response seen above…they will flood the ballot with punitive and regressive measures galore. Voters are often given to the same contrarian, knee-jerk reaction as that of my much loved friend, CaptainV. , rejecting them all, thereby protecting the Oily Boyz, among others.

      • mamajama55 says:

        yesyes Yes on 97 and the payday loan limiting amendment 126. I'm still looking at the school funding proposal 93.

        I’ve signed it, marched for it, my union endorses it.

        Rural school organizations are for it. For sure, we need the funding.  Psuedo claimed it was a Robin Hood tax bill. But I'm not seeing that on the fiscal impact statement  here

        • notaskinnycook says:

          I'm puzzled, M.J.  I thought Ferrandino dealt with the loan sharks when he was Speaker.

          • mamajama55 says:

            cook, Colorado has implemented some payday reforms, making Colorado payday loans have an effective average interest rate of 129%, not 200% up to 500% like other states.

            However, it's still too high. Lenders also found a way around the rules by automatically generating a new loan when the old one is paid off. Reform is still needed. I think that this also affects internet loans based in other states – they can't lend this way to Coloradans.

            • Voyageur says:

              I tend to view this type of issue as better suited to legislative action, with hearings and amendments, rather than simple-minded initiatives.

            • MichaelBowman says:

              As I recall from the last time we took legislative action, didn't the PayDay industry threaten to leave the state? You mean they lied to us?  

              I tend to agree with V that the legislature should be the place to make these fixes; but this issue, like renewable energy and Amendment 37 back in 2004, had been left to the (then Republican-dominated legislature) three years in the running where it was killed annually, in spite of a majority of Coloradans wanting a different kind of energy mix.  

              With this much money at stake and the kind of money that would flow through lobbyists, I can't imagine anything passing the legislature if we don't regain the upper chamber.  

        • Voyageur says:

          Not sure why you're "still looking" at 93, mj.  My problem with it is tha t it totally ignores the desperate state of higher education.  It is such a huge tax increase that, if passed, voters will be reluctant to go back to that well again to do anything for higher ed.


        • Pseudonymous says:

          I don't know what to say except that my math is based on exactly what the fiscal impact statement says, and that's that commercial (non-residential, roughly) property taxes to schools will drop by 17%.  Based on their numbers, that's about twice as much as they plan to raise with the corporate income tax.

      • Voyageur says:

        Duke, I think you're right in that 74 was, in part, drafted just to sow confusion on the ballot.  Don't forget the pair of lousy road tax measures, both of which divert general fund sources to highways that should be supported by a gas tax increase.  That diverts money that could go to education to subsidize still more driving and gasoline use.

        kill them all and let the Lord sort them out!

  4. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Electing a pro-conservation governor and pro-conservation legislature remains my personal priority. As for the initiatives, V has a point (“kill them all”), although I will look at the payday loan amendment for a possible YES vote.

    Elsewhere, definite NO on both 97 and its bastard sibling, 108/74. These issues are better worked out with a pro-conservation legislature since both initiatives are way too extreme, IMHO.

    In the "sneak attack department," it appears that the tax & spend school bureaucracy in JeffCo may have an initiative to yet again raise taxes. That will bear careful scrutiny.

  5. ParkHill says:

    Does Ammendment 74 work in reverse?

    I mean, shouldn't the property owner reimburse the government for any increase in their property's value caused by a government action?

    It seems obvious: If your zoning changes from farm to suburban sprawl…

    I think the legal argument might be called "unlawful givings", or is it just normal old corruption.

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