Amendment 74: Fatally Flawed

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A special interest.

A special interest.

Amendment 74 is one of the most dangerous ballot measures we have seen in Colorado for a long time.  It has largely flown under the radar despite its far-reaching implications, at least compared to the attention paid to several other ballot measures this year.  That is a big mistake.

Amendment 74 would fundamentally change the nature of land use policy and the duties of our local governments.  By inserting eleven words into Article II, Section 15 of the Colorado Constitution – “or reduced in fair market value by government law or regulation” – the Amendment would radically upend a century of established property takings law.

Amendment 74 is purportedly sponsored by the Colorado Farm Bureau, which claims current takings laws aren’t fair to property owners.  But not one farmer or rancher, the supposed constituency of the Colorado Farm Bureau, has contributed to the campaign supporting Amendment 74.  Rather, oil and gas companies have made up 99.9% of the $7 million contributed so far.  If passed, it would mean a handful of large corporations managed to buy a piece of our state Constitution.

And, what a purchase it would be.  The oil and gas companies’ campaign contributions would pale in comparison to the litigation and judgments unleashed by the passage of Amendment 74.  Any and every land use decision would be subject to a lawsuit.  Any land owner unhappy with a zoning decision could sue.  Either local governments will stop land use planning altogether (imagine chemical plants in the middle of neighborhoods or gun shops next to schools), or taxpayers will be on the hook for billions of dollars in judgments.

Oregon voters passed a similar version of Amendment 74 by statewide initiative in 2006.  As a result, 7,000 claims totaling $19.5 billion were filed against the state and local governments.  The voters realized their mistake and repealed it just three years later.  If Colorado suffers the same fate, it would be even tougher to call a similar mulligan here.  That’s because the oil and gas industry-funded “Raise the Bar” Amendment 71 two years ago made signature gathering for constitutional amendments (or repeals of those amendments) prohibitively expensive for anyone other than the wealthiest groups or corporations.

When opposition to a ballot measure runs from John Suthers to John Hickenlooper, from Club 20 and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce to the Sierra Club, and from the Grand Junction Sentinel to the Boulder Daily Camera, you know it is fatally flawed.

I’ve dealt with my fair share of half-truths and hidden agendas during my six years at the state legislature, but Amendment 74 takes the cake in both of those categories.  It is a dangerous overreach that would gut environmental protections and eliminate rational land use planning.  Don’t let this amendment sneak into our Constitution.  Spread the word against Amendment 74 like your neighborhood depends on it.