February 24, 2010

Colorado Supreme Court Overturns Amendment 54--As I Predicted

By Julian Dunraven, J.D., M.P.A.

Honorable Friends,

In its recent opinion , Dallman v. Ritter, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned Amendment 54 saying that it was "unconstitutionally vague, disproportional, overbroad, or otherwise infirm. Indeed, we find the Amendment’s deficiencies so pervasive that we must nullify the Amendment in its entirety."

As you may recall, Amendment 54 of the Colorado Constitution would have prevented those with no bid government contracts and their families from making campaign contributions for the duration of the contract and for two years thereafter. Supporters claimed it was intended to prevent the appearance of corruption in no bid government contracts. It was passed by voters in 2008.

If you have been a long time reader of the People’s Press Collective or Slapstick Politics, you may also recall that I advised against voting for this amendment, correctly predicting that its restrictions went too far and trampled first amendment rights. I am pleased to see that the Court agreed with me.

Never let it be said, however, the Conservatives are monolithic in their thinking. Many of my colleagues here at the PPC and other prominent conservatives supported this amendment. Though I was unable to join in their enthusiasm for the complete amendment, their stated goal of improving transparency in government is laudable. Indeed, the amendment contained one provision requiring that the state maintain a database of no bid contracts which the public can access and inspect at will. This alone would have addressed issues of transparency adequately, without any of the constitutional problems the rest of the amendment causes. It is also the section of the Amendment the Court found least objectionable. With minimal redrafting, it could be reenacted on its own. Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute has called for the legislature to do just that. Given that this was the only Amendment the voters actually passed in 2008, the legislature would be wise to heed his advice.

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