Tuesday, January 8, 2008

DU Panel Recommends Constitutional Review Commissions Every Ten Years

The University of Denver's Colorado Constitution Panel issued its report Jan. 3.

The report, entitled "Foundation of a Great State: The Future of Colorado's Constitution," includes a number of recommendations.

These include:

Preserve and Strengthen the Right of Citizen Initiative

The panel recommended that the right of citizen initiative be retained and improved with modifications to the processes for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments and special protections for citizen-initiated statutes.

In an effort to encourage statutory rather than constitutional initiatives, the panel recommended that initiated statutes not be subject to any amendments by the legislature for 10 years without a two-thirds vote by both chambers of the General Assembly and that there be no increase in the required number of signatures to place a statutory initiative on the ballot or any change in the current law requiring that a simple majority of those voting approve the initiative.

The panel recommended that Colorado require proponents of initiated constitutional amendments to discuss their proposal with elected representatives but also retain the absolute right to have the public vote on the initiative. The panel calls this the "Colorado Legislative Engagement and Referral" (CLEAR) process.

The CLEAR process would require proponents of constitutional amendments to secure signatures from a majority of the state's congressional districts. The report did not specify an exact suggested formula or requirement.

The panel also suggested that a "fiscal impact statement" be required of every proposed constitutional amendment.

Call for a Constitutional Convention Unnecessary

The panel recommended against convening a constitutional convention at this time. However, it suggested instead that necessary revisions be addressed via regular constitutional review proceedings.

Establish a Constitutional Revision Commission

To achieve its recommendation that a process for periodic review of the constitution be established, the panel suggested the creation of a Constitutional Revision Commission that would automatically come into existence every 10 years. It would have the authority to place on the ballot its recommended changes to the constitution. The proposed commission would have 33 members.