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Voters enter Augustana Lutheran Church to cast their ballots Nov. 8, 2022, in Denver. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)
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A federal judge Wednesday left in place a 2021 law intended to make it harder to persuade Colorado voters to cut their taxes, ruling against a conservative dark-money group suing to block the measure as it seeks to ask voters to cut sales and property taxes.

House Bill 1321, passed by Democrats and signed by Gov. Jared Polis, requires any citizen-initiated ballot measure cutting taxes to include a warning about three programs and services that would be most affected by the cuts. (For state tax reductions, that’s likely to always be K-12 education, higher education, and health care policy and financing, namely Medicaid.)

Advance Colorado, a political nonprofit, argues that the law violates their right to free speech by forcing them to mislead voters with “poison-pill language” since not all tax reductions will reduce funding because of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  

The nonprofit, which The Colorado Sun refers to as a dark-money group because it doesn’t have to reveal its donors, asked for a preliminary injunction to temporarily block enforcement of the law while its lawsuit, filed against Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Polis, plays out.

Chief U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer, after a day-long hearing, refused the request, saying Advance Colorado and its associated plaintiffs failed to prove that a preliminary injunction is necessary.

“I find that the plaintiffs have failed to show that the speech at issue here is in fact compelled speech of them as opposed to simply being government speech,” Brimmer said.

Michael Fields, president of Advance Colorado, and state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton, were among the witnesses who testified Wednesday for the plaintiffs. Scott Wasserman, president of Bell Policy Center, and Henry Sobanet, former director of the governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, testified on behalf of the state.

The arguments focused on two 2024 ballot initiatives being pursued by Advance Colorado that would be affected by House Bill 1321: one that would reduce the state’s sales tax rate and the other that would cap the annual increase in property taxes.  


Advance Colorado claims that the law forced the Title Board, which determines how initiatives are worded on the ballot, to add untrue language for two measures. The state argued that the law simply made the impacts of the initiatives more transparent.

Ultimately, Brimmer didn’t rule on whether the language mandated by House Bill 1321 would be untrue for the Advance Colorado initiatives. That will likely be argued in further court proceedings in the case.

In a statement to The Colorado Sun, Fields said Advance Colorado plans to appeal the decision.

In addition to Advance Colorado, the plaintiffs in the case are former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis, El Paso County Commissioner Carrie Geitner and Englewood City Councilman Steven Ward.

Troy Eid, a former U.S. attorney in Colorado under President George W. Bush, is representing the plaintiffs. Eid’s wife is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which could potentially hear appeals in the case.

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her reporting and photography. Elliott graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in editorial journalism and minors in both business and Spanish. She is also an avid rock climber, snowboarder and hiker. Twitter: @ElliottWenzler