Updated: May 27, 2011 at 12:00 am
A mind-numbingly ignorant lawsuit keeps coming around, in which plaintiffs claim the Colorado Constitution’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights violates the U.S. Constitution. These extremists claim it eliminates a representative form of government — protected by Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution — moving the state in the direction of democracy.
The latest attempt to sue the voters of Colorado, who enacted TABOR, involves a lawsuit filed in federal court on May 23. Local plaintiffs include a likely cast of characters: Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs; former State Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, who was recently rejected by voters in races for the El Paso County Commission and the City Council; and Republican Marcy Morrison, a career politician. About 30 other current and former politicians have joined the suit, because they cannot stand having to seek the consent of the governed — which TABOR makes them do before growing the size and scope of government.
The intent of Morse and Merrifield seems obvious. There are few limits to the amount of government interference these men would like to impose on Colorado residents. They have shown us that no regulation, no tax and no fee is enough. In their worlds, state government is a wonderful asset of state politicians. The people are subjects of the state.
These men have little respect for the principle of governing at the consent of the governed.
El Paso County commissioners have wisely voted to interfere with this nuisance lawsuit, on Tuesday authorizing County Attorney Bill Louis to pursue joining Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in defending TABOR, or to seek court permission to file a brief, or to actively participate in the case.
One need not like TABOR to oppose this lawsuit. Opponents of TABOR have the option of using the initiative process to strike it down with another vote of the governed. The lawsuit, by contrast, seeks the force of a court ruling to counter the clear will of the governed.
In one sense, the plaintiffs are correct. We do not live in a democracy, nor should we hold democracy in high regard. Our country and our state are free constitutional republics — as guaranteed by Article IV, Section 4 — in which laws protect individuals from the will of the majority. Article IV, Section 4, basically means these things: A majority of voters may not silence unpopular speech; they may not take the gun rights from individuals or groups; they may not, by popular vote, remove a person’s property rights, or a suspect’s right to a fair trial or protection from unwarranted searches and seizures. We are not a democracy because individuals have a wide variety of rights — enumerated and protected by the U.S. Constitution — that a majority cannot take no matter what.
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But state government has no rights, and there isn’t a shred of credible evidence to suggest that our founders intended to impede petitions, referendums and majority decisions about state taxes. State governments were created by settlers to serve the public to whatever degree the public chose. Some were controlled entirely by town-hall meetings, and other forms of citizen lawmaking, as revealed in research by lawyer and former constitutional law professor Rob Natelson. Some small towns in the Northeast continue to function as town-meeting democracies.
Voters in Colorado may not silence the likes of Merrifield and Morse, but they most certainly may render as penniless the government those men worship. Voters have the authority to effectively close state government down, if they so choose.
The people spoke when they voted on TABOR in 1992, and again when they put TABOR on hold with Referendum C in 2005. In 2008, voters rejected major changes to TABOR by defeating Amendment 59. Voters in Colorado have the authority to raise their taxes, and they have the same authority to lower them. It’s a good thing, as we could otherwise be in the same financial fix as California and other states that cannot control spending.
The U.S. Supreme Court rightly struck down Colorado’s voter-approved Amendment 2, a measure by which a majority targeted the basic rights of individuals. TABOR does nothing to interfere with individual rights and, in fact, protects them.
No way do the federal courts have authority to make Coloradans mere subjects of state government and politicians.