Justice KIRSHBAUM delivered the Opinion of the Court.
Petitioners Thomas M. Sutherland and Kenneth P. Katt (the objectors), pursuant to section 1-40-107(2), 1B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.), have filed a petition to review the action of the initiative title setting board (the Board) in setting the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary for an amendment to article VII of the Colorado Constitution, designated "Proposed Initiative on Petitions" (hereafter "the Initiative"), proposed by respondents Douglas Campbell and Dennis Polhill (the proponents).
The objectors argue that the Initiative impermissibly encompasses multiple, unrelated subjects. In addition, they contend that the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary fail to correctly and fairly express the true intent and meaning of the Initiative and would therefore confuse and mislead the public. We approve the action of the Board.
On July 21, 1995, the proponents submitted the Initiative to the Colorado Secretary of State. On August 2, 1995, the Board set a title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary for the Initiative. On August 9, 1995, the objectors filed a motion for rehearing pursuant to section 1-40-107(1), 1B C.R.S. (1994 Supp.), alleging that the Initiative did not conform to the single-subject requirement of article V, section 1(5.5) of the Colorado Constitution; that the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary did not correctly and fairly reflect the true intent and meaning of the Initiative; and that the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary were misleading and likely to cause confusion. On August 16, 1995, after a hearing on the motion, the Board denied the motion for rehearing.
Article V, section 1 of the Colorado Constitution reserves to the registered electors of the State of Colorado the right to initiate constitutional amendments. Article V, section 1(5.5) of the Colorado Constitution, a referred amendment approved by the electorate in the 1994 general election, contains the following pertinent provisions concerning the content of proposed measures:
Colo. Const. art. V, § 1(5.5); see Senate Concurrent Resolution 93-4, 1993 Colo.Sess.Laws 2152. In 1994, the General Assembly enacted section 1-40-106.5, 1B C.R.S. (1994 Supp.) to implement the single-subject requirement. See Ch. 22, sec. 1, § 1-40-106.5, 1994 Colo.Sess.Laws 73. That statute contains the following pertinent provisions:
§ 1-40-106.5, 1B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.). The single-subject requirement is designed to protect voters against fraud and surprise and to eliminate the practice of combining several unrelated subjects in a single measure for the purpose of enlisting support from advocates of each subject and thus securing the enactment of measures which might not otherwise be approved by voters on the basis of the merits of those discrete measures. In re Proposed Initiative "Public Rights in Waters II", 898 P.2d 1076, 1078 (Colo.1995); In re Proposed Initiative on Sch. Pilot Program, 874 P.2d 1066, 1069 (Colo.1994).
In order to aid electors in seeking to exercise the right to initiate constitutional amendments, the Board has the duty to designate and fix a title, a ballot title and submission clause, and a summary for initiated petitions before they are signed by electors. In re Proposed Initiative on Sch. Pilot Program, 874 P.2d at 1069. The purpose of the title
The title and the ballot title and submission clause of a proposed constitutional amendment must fairly express the true intent and meaning of that amendment. § 1-40-106(3)(b), 1B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.). The title must consist of a brief statement accurately reflecting the meaning of the proposed initiative. In re Proposed Initiative on Sch. Pilot Program, 874 P.2d at 1069. The Board is not required to describe every feature of a proposal in the title and ballot title and submission clause. In re Proposed Initiated Constitutional Amendment Concerning Limited Gaming in the City of Antonito, 873 P.2d 733, 739 (Colo.1994). However, the Board must "consider the public confusion that might be caused by misleading titles and shall, whenever practicable, avoid titles for which the general understanding of the effect of a `yes' or `no' vote will be unclear." Id.; In re Proposed Initiative on Sch. Pilot Program, 874 P.2d at 1069. The language employed by the Board will be rejected where such language is misleading, inaccurate, or fails to reflect the central features of the proposed initiative. In re Petition on Campaign and Political Fin., 877 P.2d 311, 313 (Colo.1994). The Board must also prepare an impartial summary of the proposed amendment, one not likely to create prejudice either for or against the proposal. § 1-40-106(3)(a), 1B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.).
A proponent of an initiated measure or any registered elector who believes a title, ballot title and submission clause, or summary fixed by the Board does not fairly express the true intent of the proposal may file a motion with the Board for a rehearing on the matter and, if such motion is denied, may request review of the Board's action by this court. § 1-40-107(2), 1B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.); In re Proposed Initiative on Sch. Pilot Program, 874 P.2d at 1070. The scope of our review of action taken by the Board is limited to ensuring that "the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary fairly reflect the proposed initiative so that petition signers and voters will not be misled into support for or against a proposition by reason of the words employed by the Board." In re Proposed Initiative on Sch. Pilot Program, 874 P.2d at 1070 (citations omitted). In conducting such review we will engage in all legitimate presumptions in favor of the propriety of the Board's actions. In re Proposed Initiative "Auto. Ins. Coverage", 877 P.2d 853, 856 (Colo.1994). We do not address the merits of a proposed initiative, nor do we interpret its language or predict its application if adopted by the electorate. In re Petition on Campaign and Political Fin., 877 P.2d 311, 313 (Colo.1994).
The objectors contend that the Initiative does not contain a single subject and therefore violates article V, section 1(5.5) of the Colorado Constitution. We disagree.
A proposed measure impermissibly includes more than one subject if its text relates to more than one subject and if the measure has at least two distinct and separate purposes which are not dependent upon or connected with each other. In re Proposed Initiative "Public Rights in Waters II", 898 P.2d 1076, 1078-79 (Colo.1995); see People v. Sours, 31 Colo. 369, 405, 74 P. 167, 178 (1903) (interpreting single-subject requirement for bills). Minor provisions necessary to effectuate the purpose of the measure are properly included within its text. See Board of Comm'rs of El Paso County v. Board of Comm'rs of Teller County, 32 Colo. 310, 312, 76 P. 368, 368 (1904).
We conclude that the text of the Initiative encompasses a single, if quite general, subject. The Initiative addresses numerous issues regarding the subject of "petitions," including
Although the Initiative is comprehensive, all of its numerous provisions relate to the single purpose of reforming petition rights and procedures. See In re House Bill No. 1353, 738 P.2d 371, 372-73 (Colo.1987) (fortyfour page bill violated single-subject requirement where bill covered such disparate topics as reduction of state contributions to employees' retirement funds and charging department of corrections inmates' accounts for medical visits).
The objectors contend that even if the Initiative contains only one subject, the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary do not correctly and fairly reflect the true intent and meaning of the proposal. We again disagree.
The Board's duty in creating a title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary is to summarize the central features of the proposal. In re Petition on Sch. Fin., 875 P.2d 207, 210 (Colo.1994). Not every feature of a proposed measure must appear in the title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary. See In re Proposed Initiated Constitutional Amendment Concerning the
As we have noted, the title and ballot title and submission clause need not describe every feature of a proposal. In Re Proposed Initiated Constitutional Amendment Concerning Limited Gaming in the City of Antonito, 873 P.2d 733, 739 (Colo.1994). Here, the title and ballot title and submission clause indicate that the Initiative addresses issues relevant to both the initiative process and the referendum process and highlight numerous important features of the Initiative. See Board of Comm'rs of El Paso County v. Board of Comm'rs of Teller County, 32 Colo. 310, 312, 76 P. 368, 368 (1904) (mere exclusion of minor provisions from title of bill does not indicate that included provisions are the only provisions to be legislated upon). Furthermore, the broad subject, "petitions," does not conceal any feature of the Initiative. If each of the numerous changes were listed in the title and ballot title and submission clause, the goal of brevity in titles would be defeated. § 1-40-106(3)(b), 1B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.); see In re Initiative Concerning "Taxation III", 832 P.2d 937, 942 (Colo.1992) (where measure was "complicated" and contained numerous inclusions and exclusions, full explanation of each in title and ballot title and submission clause was not required and would only confuse voters).
The objectors contend that the title and ballot title and submission clause impermissibly fail to describe important features of the Initiative and are therefore misleading. By way of example, they argue that while the title and ballot title and submission clause disclose that the ballot title for an initiative shall be limited to 100 words, those documents do not reflect the fact that the Initiative prescribes specific language for referendum titles.
A summary must contain a true and impartial statement of the intent of the proposed measure and must not contain language that would be likely to create prejudice either for or against the measure. § 1-40-106(3)(a), 1B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.); In re Second Initiated Constitutional Amendment Respecting the Rights of the Pub. to Uninterrupted Serv. by Pub. Employees of 1980, 200 Colo. 141, 144, 613 P.2d 867, 869 (1980). In this case, the summary is written in non-legalistic language, basically follows the text of the Initiative, and includes a concise description of most of the provisions contained in the Initiative. Very few details appearing in the text of the Initiative are absent from the summary. The objectors argue that the summary is deficient because it does not refer to the Initiative's provision that if voters
For the foregoing reasons, we approve the Board's action.
Article VII, section 2
Proposed Initiative on "PETITIONS"
The title as designated and fixed by the Board is as follows:
AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION CONCERNING PETITIONS, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, CHANGING INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM RIGHTS AND PROCEDURES; EXTENDING PETITION POWERS TO REGISTERED VOTERS OF ALL LOCAL GOVERNMENTS; LIMITING INITIATIVE BALLOT TITLES TO 100 WORDS; LIMITING THE ANNUAL NUMBER OF NEWLY ENACTED LAWS THAT GOVERNMENTS MAY EXCLUDE FROM POSSIBLE REFERENDUM PETITIONS; ESTABLISHING STANDARDS FOR REVIEW OF FILED PETITIONS; REQUIRING VOTER APPROVAL FOR FUTURE PETITION LAWS AND RULES AND FOR CHANGES TO CERTAIN FUTURE VOTER-APPROVED PETITIONS; AND AUTHORIZING LAWSUITS TO ENFORCE THE AMENDMENT.
The ballot title and submission clause as designated and fixed by the Board is as follows:
SHALL THERE BE AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION CONCERNING PETITIONS, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, CHANGING INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM RIGHTS AND PROCEDURES; EXTENDING
The summary prepared by the Board is as follows:
This measure extends the petition powers to the registered voters of all local governments and prohibits infringing the right to petition peaceably on public property. The measure specifies the maximum number of required signatures for petitions. Initiative ballot titles are limited to 100 words, must beset within 7 days, and shall no longer include a summary or fiscal note. A ballot title may also be set by a state district court. Ballot title and single-subject challenges to initiatives must be filed with the supreme court within 5 days of title setting, and a decision must be rendered within 21 days of the appeal. State and local governments are required to print and deliver requested petition forms, but may charge up to $1.00 per 100-entry petition form. Except for petition form charges, no petition process fee, card, badge, bond, licensing, or training is required for petition agents or circulators.
The measure limits state and local governments to 9 newly enacted laws each year that can be excepted from possible referendum petitions, and requires a ¾ths vote of all members of the local board or of each house of the general assembly for such exception. State measures that are subject to possible referendum by petition may take effect no sooner than 91 days after adjournment of the general assembly, and local measures no sooner than 91 days after final publication. Referendum petitions are excluded from title-setting procedures or any single-subject challenge, and the wording of referendum petition ballot titles is specified.
The measure requires that petitions be initially filed within 9 months of petition form delivery, and specifies that valid petitions that are filed less than 3 months before an election shall be voted on at the next election. Any person signing a petition that is later notarized or verified is presumed to be a registered elector whose entry is valid until disproven beyond a reasonable doubt. Technical defects and minor variations are broadly construed to aid petitions. A person signing a petition is no longer required to list his or her county of residence. Protest hearings are public, are limited to reasons itemized in the protest, are conducted using judicial rules of evidence and procedure, and shall end within 14 days of protest filing. The results of any random sampling or machine reading of petition entries are inadmissible. The measure imposes a schedule to resolve protests and appeals and to allow petitioners to file corrections and new petition entries. When initially filed, petitions will receive a ballot number and ballot placement that remain during all such procedures and appeals.
The measure requires that all local petitions must be Article X, Section 20(3) ballot issues, and all state petitions must be voted on at any state ballot issue election. The comments filed by state petition proponents are limited to 500 words for ballot information booklets, and the summary of opponents' comments may not exceed the length of the proponents' comments. Booklet analysis of such petitions is limited to written comments filed by 45 days before the election and other information required by Article X, Section 20(3)(b), which information applies to all petitions.
The measure specifies that a petition shall be approved by a simple majority of those voting on the issue. The measure requires, with exceptions, voter approval to amend a voter-approved initiative and voter approval for certain future state or local petition laws, rules, or regulations.
The measure authorizes lawsuits to enforce the amendment, and allows attorney fees and
The requirement that a "district" pay all costs associated with legal actions brought by successful plaintiffs enforcing petitions could result in a negative fiscal impact on governmental entities depending on the number of actions filed and the number of decisions in favor of plaintiffs. For example, the Office of State Planning and Budgeting estimates that two title board cases and two signature verification cases successfully litigated by plaintiffs would cost the state $38,000.
The elimination of a fiscal note and a summary on initiatives would result in savings of $15,000 to the state.
The measure would result in additional cost to the state and local districts for printing and delivering the requested petition forms, although the cost may be offset by allowing the district to charge up to $1 for every 100-entry petition form.
If the current random sample verification of petition signatures is eliminated in response to the measure, it could result in an estimated additional cost of $10,000 to the state for each petition.
The measure provides easier access to the ballot through both the initiative and referendum process, which could result in additional ballot proposals at an estimated cost of $25,000 for each measure.