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Politics and Government

Colorado attorney general asks federal appellate court to reconsider revival of lawsuit challenging TABOR

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the legal action, dating back to 2011, with a ruling in July

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks at news conference celebrating the Rocky Mountain Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office's fifth anniversary on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is asking a powerful federal appellate court in Denver to reconsider a ruling that revived a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Weiser petitioned the entire 12-judge 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel to reconsider its decision that the case can move forward in federal court.

In July, three jurists on the court handed down a ruling reviving the legal challenge, which dates back to 2011 and argues that taxation power should lie with elected officials in order for the state to have a republican form of government. It was brought by local governments and then-state lawmakers. 

The decision over the summer said the case challenging TABOR could move forward in federal court, overturning an earlier decision by a lower federal judge that the matter needed to be handled in state court.

“Until this ruling, the courts have consistently ruled that federal courts are not the proper place for school boards, special districts and county commissions to resolve disagreements with their parent state over state policy,” Weiser, a Democrat, said in a written statement Wednesday. “Under controlling law, political subdivisions do not have standing to use federal courts to challenge state policies — regardless of the merits of their complaints about the policy — unless there is a specific federal law that gives them rights to do so.”

TABOR is Colorado’s law requiring voter approval for tax increases. It was approved by voters in 1992 and has been a third-rail in Colorado politics ever since.

MORE: What you need to know about TABOR, Gallagher, Amendment 23 and the hidden forces that constrain spending in Colorado

“The July opinion from the 10th Circuit conflicts with controlling law, past 10th Circuit decisions, and recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions,” Weiser added. “A rehearing of the full court is necessary to secure and maintain uniformity of the Court’s decisions.”

Weiser’s ask could now slow the long-debated case down once more.

Weiser opposes TABOR, but vowed during his 2018 campaign to defend it if elected as part of his pledge to uphold the rule of law. 

TABOR opponents are also working on a 2020 ballot measure to repeal it. Additionally, voters in November will be asked whether to approve Proposition CC, which would permanently eliminate state spending caps.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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