Lawmakers indecisive on TABOR lawsuit

DENVER – Senior legislators declined to get involved Monday in a lawsuit that claims the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights violated the U.S. Constitution.

Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, wanted the Legislature’s Executive Committee to oppose the lawsuit, but his idea deadlocked on a 3-3 tie, with Democrats opposing him.

Five Democratic lawmakers are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, Kerr v. Hickenlooper, which claims that TABOR violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that every state have a “republican form of government.” TABOR requires all tax increases to pass a popular vote, and the plaintiffs say that makes Colorado more like a direct democracy, rather than a republic, as the framers of the Constitution had envisioned.

But TABOR has become a fundamental part of Colorado’s government, McNulty said.

“We have an obligation to stand with taxpayers,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, disagreed.

“We need to be careful about standing with people who would degrade our Constitution,” Morse said.

Morse is one of the plaintiffs.

As governor, John Hickenlooper is named as the defendant. The case was filed in May, and the state has until Aug. 15 to answer the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge William Martinez, a recent appointee of President Barack Obama, will hear the lawsuit.