Justice MULLARKEY delivered the Opinion of the Court.
The petitioners bring this original proceeding under section 1-40-107(2), 1B C.R.S. (1994 Supp.) to review action taken by the initiative title setting board ("the Board") which fixed a title, ballot title and submission clause, and summary (collectively, "Titles and Summary") for a proposed constitutional amendment designated "Public Rights in Water II" (the "Initiative"). We hold that the Initiative violates the single subject requirement applicable to initiatives under Article V, Section 1(5.5) of the Colorado Constitution, and, accordingly, we reverse the action of the Board.
The Initiative seeks to add four new paragraphs to Article XVI, Section 5 of the Colorado Constitution.
The petitioners argue that the Board's action should be set aside because: it encompasses more than one subject; the Board did not effectively explain the meaning of "strong public trust doctrine;" and the Board failed
The petitioners argue that the Board should not have set the Titles and Summary because the Initiative encompasses more than one subject. We agree.
The single subject requirement for initiatives is a new constitutional provision added by Article V, Section 1(5.5) of the Colorado Constitution, which states:
The General Assembly referred this constitutional amendment to the voters as Referendum A on the 1994 general election ballot.
The requirement that an initiative be limited to a single subject is intended to ensure that each proposal depends upon its own merits for passage. § 1-40-106.5(1)(e)(I), 1B C.R.S. (1994 Supp.); see also In re House Bill No. 1353, 738 P.2d 371, 372 (Colo.1987) (interpreting the single subject requirement for bills). In furtherance of this purpose, the single subject requirement forbids the joining of "incongruous subjects in the same measure." § 1-40-106.5(1)(e)(I).
In order to constitute more than one subject under our caselaw pertaining to bills, the text of the measure must relate to more than one subject and it must have at least two distinct and separate purposes which are not dependent upon or connected
The reasoning underlying the single subject requirement was first articulated in Catron:
18 Colo. at 557, 33 P. at 514. The same reasoning was used to support passage of the single subject requirement for initiatives. According to the Legislative Council's Analysis of 1994 Ballot Proposals, Research Publication No. 392 at 3, the single subject requirement now embodied in Article V, Section 1(5.5), would prevent proponents from engaging in "log rolling" or "Christmas tree" tactics.
Our most recent case invalidating a bill because it violated the single subject requirement was In re House Bill No. 1353, 738 P.2d at 371. There we considered whether a bill containing forty-six sections contained more than a single subject. Id. at 373. The bill included provisions such as reduction of state contributions to state employees' retirement funds, creation of a commission on information management in the department of administration, imposition of a charge against accounts of inmates of the department of corrections for each medical visit, imposition or increase of fees to be charged by various state agencies, as well as numerous other provisions. In invalidating the bill, we held that the subject matter of a bill must be "necessarily or properly connected" rather than "disconnected or incongruous" to satisfy the single subject requirement. Id. at 374. Further, we concluded that the common characteristic of monetary impact was too broad and too general to be classified as a single subject. Id. at 373.
The Board contends that the Initiative's two paragraphs addressing elections for water conservation and water conservancy districts are inherent and integral parts of the measure. The Board states:
We find this position unpersuasive.
No necessary connection exists between the two district election requirements paragraphs and the two public trust water rights paragraphs. The public trust water rights paragraphs of the Initiative impose obligations on the state of Colorado to recognize and protect public ownership of water. The water conservancy or conservation districts have little or no power over the administration of the public water rights or the development of a statewide public trust doctrine because such rights must be administered and defended by the state and not by the local district.
Our analysis gains further support from the text of the Initiative. The district election paragraphs state no connection to a "public trust" doctrine and do not indicate how the election changes would facilitate the development of a "public trust" doctrine. The proponents of the Initiative have provided no argument as to the relevance or relationship of the district election changes to the development of a public trust doctrine. The Board's argument that election procedures often are included in "omnibus" legislation likewise fails to show any connection between the two parts of the Initiative. Thus, the very terms of the initiative fail to connect the election paragraphs with the water rights paragraphs.
The common characteristic that the paragraphs all involve "water" is too general and too broad to constitute a single subject just as "monetary impact" was found not to be a single subject in In re House Bill No. 1353, 738 P.2d at 373. In the present case, we can find no unifying or common objective between the district election paragraphs and the public trust doctrine paragraphs. The Initiative, if enacted, would establish election and boundary rules for water conservancy and conservation districts while also requiring effective enforcement and development of a "strong public trust" doctrine. These two objectives are separate and discrete and, thus, must be accomplished through separate initiatives.
Because the Initiative seeks to accomplish more than one purpose, and the two purposes are not connected to each other, the Initiative violates the single subject provision of Article V, Section 1(5.5) of the Colorado Constitution. Thus, under this constitutional provision, the Board erred in setting the Titles and Summary for the Initiative. We remand this matter to the Board with directions to strike the Titles and Summary, and to return the Initiative to its proponents.
Colo. Const. art. V, § 21 (1980 Repl.Vol.).