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Eye on the Golden Dome – Property tax, Colorado GOP tries to close Republican primary, Gun legislation status

Colorado lawmakers’ inaction on rising property tax bills stokes another ballot measure race. Gov. Jared Polis and Democrats, who control the Capitol, say they are commit- ted to coming up with a long-term fix this year. But with the 2023 legislative session more than halfway over and no public proposal, fiscal policy nonprofits are filling the vacuum. 

The Colorado legislature’s inaction so far this year on a long-term fix to address rising property tax bills has prompted two fiscal policy nonprofits—one conservative and the other liberal—to propose competing ballot measures that would dramatically reshape the state’s financial picture. 

The policy battle is a repeat of what happened at the Colorado Capitol last year, when the same groups, neither of which have to disclose their donors, initiated property tax ballot measures when the General Assembly was slow to act. They backed down only when lawmakers passed a bill giving property owners two years of temporary tax relief. Property tax revenue funds schools and local governments, meaning that any discussion about how they should change carries extremely high stakes. The stakes have only increased since Colorado voters in 2020 repealed the Gallagher Amendment, which prevented residential property tax bills from getting too big but, when combined with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, strangled local government budgets.

Rising property values across Colorado after the COVID-19 pandemic began have caused property tax bills to jump, too. Coloradans will get new property assessments from their counties starting May 1. 

Colorado’s property taxes are among the nation’s lowest. But a big increase in property tax bills will affect people with fixed incomes, such as retirees, who bought their homes when they were worth much less and weren’t expecting such a large financial burden. 

The Colorado GOP is taking its first step toward closing the Republican primary

In a letter sent to the Federal Election Commission last week, the Colorado Republican State Central Committee and its new chairman Dave Williams asked for “an advisory opinion” on whether the party can “establish a legal fund to challenge the constitutionality” of Colorado’s open primary election law. 

“The Colorado Republican Committee wishes to explore a lawsuit against the State of Colorado, which would challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 108,” stated the letter. The legal fund would defray the costs of legal action. 

In 2016, Colorado voters approved Proposition 108, which allowed unaffiliated voters, now the state’s largest bloc, to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary. The law does have a provision allowing a party to opt out of the open primary system and instead pick its candidates through a caucus process, but 75 percent of the members of the state central committee must support the move. 

An effort two years ago to close the party’s 2022 primary failed to win enough support from the central committee. 

In 2022, individual Republicans tried to challenge the constitutionality of the law, but the case was dismissed because the court said they did not have standing; only the party would. 

According to the letter, the committee chairman, Williams, would establish the fund and appoint a governing board with “final authority” overspending the money. “The fund plans to accept unlimited amounts from individuals, political committees, corporations, and labor organizations,” the letter states, and would only be used for the lawsuit. 

The move is not surprising. Williams talked about closing the GOP primary as he campaigned for the state party chair job. 

“We must work to close the primaries so that only Republicans choose our Republican nominees,” he said. “We cannot afford to let Democrats become unaffiliated so that they then can meddle in our primaries as they did with (Rep.) Lauren Boebert. We must defend and protect our caucus assembly.” Williams was referring to a grassroots campaign where some Democrats dropped their party affiliation to vote in the CO-3 Republican primary. It proved unsuccessful, as Boebert easily won the primary. 

Package of gun bills nears Governor’s desk. Final hurdles remain 

Gun bills were tied up Colorado’s General Assembly for four days as Republicans attempted numerous amendments and filibusters in an effort to keep them from passing. 

On Tuesday, the Senate wrapped up its final vote on House Bill 1219, which seeks to establish a three-day waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and delivery. 

It’s the final of four-gun bills that tied up the House for four days and the Senate for the last two days while Republicans attempted numerous amendments and filibusters in an effort to keep the bills from passing. 

The bill would give those contemplating suicide or homicide a three-day cooling-off period, according to sponsors. Opponents claim it will prevent people, such as victims of domestic violence, from obtaining fire- arms to defend themselves. 

The measure will have to go back to the House for concurrence on the one amendment added to the measure during Monday’s debate. That amendment, proposed by Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, allows for some- one about to be deployed for active duty to sell a firearm to a family member. 

All four bills were amended in their final stays in each chamber, meaning they will all go back to the original chamber for concurrence on amendments. 

The legislation is changing rapidly. For an updated status, see the Colorado General Assembly website at https://leg.colorado. gov/bills and search for a specific bill. 

– Ellen Glover 

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