The Constitution gives citizens the direct means to rein in federal power and cure federal dysfunction through a “Convention for proposing Amendments.” This Issue Backgrounder explains the reasons why the Founders created the process and how it works. The Backgrounder also corrects common misunderstandings and explains how citizens may participate.
A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has dire implications that extend far beyond the boundaries of Colorado. The theory of the lawsuit can be used to void well-founded safeguards in the constitutions of almost all other states.
In Independence Issue Paper 12-2012, Professor Rob Natelson, II’s Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, debunked the lawsuit’s claim that TABOR violates the requirement that each state have a “republican form of government.” In this Issue Paper, Professor Natelson and Institute intern Zak Kessler demonstrate the practical implications of the lawsuit.
If the plaintiffs win, the result will be legal and practical chaos, not just in Colorado but across the country. This is because the theory of the lawsuit is that any fiscal restraints on a state legislature render that legislature less than “fully effective” and therefore “unrepublican.” Special interests can employ this theory to destroy well-founded and long-standing safeguards against legislative fiscal abuse. Furthermore, they can use the same theory to attack the voter initiative and referendum process, and other constitutional limits on the power of state politicians.
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera. Summary: Income is down. Unemployment is up. Net worth is down.
Do Citizen Votes on Taxes and Laws Violate the Constitution’s Requirement of a “Republican Form of Government?”
Opponents of popular participation in government have long argued that when a state constitution or legislature permits the people to vote on revenue measures and other laws, this puts the state out of compliance with the U.S. Constitution’s Guarantee Clause: the requirement at all states have a “Republican Form of Government.” Traditionally, their argument has been that the Constitution draws a sharp distinction between a republic and a democracy, and that citizen initiatives and referenda are too democratic to be republican. Recently, a group of plaintiffs sued in federal court, challenging Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) relying on a variation of this theory.
In this Issue Paper, Professor Rob Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence and the author of the most important scholarly article on the Guarantee Clause, sets the record straight. Marshaling evidence from Founding-Era sources and from the words of the Founders themselves, he shows that the phrase “Republican Form of Government” permits citizen lawmaking—and that, in fact, most of the governments on the Founders’ list of republics included far more citizen lawmaking than is permitted in Colorado or any other American state. He further shows that the principal purpose of the Guarantee Clause was not to restrict popular government, but to protect popular government by forestalling monarchy.
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera: Contrary to the Council, business owners are not responsible for keeping customers sober and well-behaved. Nor is government responsible. That’s each person’s responsibility.
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera on July 11, 2012. The city’s reasons for bag restrictions collapse like a soggy paper bag.
In the Boulder Daily Camera: Want safer theaters? Blogger Ari Armstrong suggests that theaters offer free tickets and popcorn to armed off-duty police officers, and publicize the policy.
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera.
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera.
In next November’s election, voters may be asked to destroy Colorado’s 160-year-old system of water rights. A pair of ballot proposals, for which signatures are currently being collected, would essentially confiscate the water rights of cities, water districts, farmers, and ranchers by making them subordinate to the whims of any Colorado citizen who complains to a court about their legal status.