Ag Coalition files motion for PAUSE rehearing
A motion for rehearing on Initiative 2020-2021 #16, or PAUSE, has been filed by objectors representing the state’s major agriculture groups. The objectors argue their motion for rehearing ought to be granted because the title language contains two subjects: removal of the livestock exemption from the animal cruelty statutes and an expansion, for political purposes, of statutes addressing “sexual act with an animal;” the titles set by the Title Board are misleading and incomplete as they do not fairly communicate the true intent and meaning of the measure; and the Title Board impermissibly included political catchphrases in the titles.
The objectors, Janie VanWinkle, Carlyle Currier, Chris Kraft, Terri Diane Lamers, William Hammerich, and Joyce Kelly have asked the Title Board, through counsel, to grant the motion and dismiss the proposal for lack of jurisdiction or, as an alternative, amend the title and ballot title and submission clause. Collectively, the objectors represent Coloradans for Animal Care, a coalition comprised of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Livestock Association, and Colorado Pork Producers Association.
The title designated for Initiative 16 reads:
A change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning expanding prohibitions against cruelty to animals, and, in connection therewith, expanding the definition of “livestock” to include fish; expanding the definition of “sexual act with an animal” to include intrusion or penetration into an animal’s anus or genitals with an object or part of a person’s body and allowing an exception only for care to improve the animal’s health and eliminating the existing exception for animal husbandry practices; defining the “natural lifespan” for certain species of livestock and providing that slaughtering those animals is not animal cruelty if done according to acceptable animal husbandry practices after the animal has lived 1/4 of the natural 2 lifespan; removing several exceptions to the animal cruelty statutes, including exceptions for animal husbandry; and providing that, in case of a conflict, the cruelty to animals statutes supersede statutes concerning animal care.
HIGHLY CHARGED LANGUAGE
According to Colorado statutes, ballot initiatives must contain only a single subject, the title set, objectors argue, violates the underlying requirement that a subject pass on its own merits and without comingling support for another subject. According to the motion, the inclusion of the phrase “sexual act with an animal” in the title is a highly charged reference, used to attract supporters who would not otherwise be sympathetic to the measure. Further, objectors said, it is unrelated to the central livestock question of how farmed animals are to be treated before they enter the food chain.
Objectors argue the title contains a third subject which is the requirement that specified animals live one quarter of their new, statutorily designated lifespans prior to slaughter. Objectors argue a mandate for a guaranteed term of years for certain animals is not integrally or necessarily related to either of the prior two subjects.
One of the charges of the Title Board is to “consider the public confusion that might be caused by misleading titles” and ensure that a title “correctly and fairly express[es] the true intent and meaning” of the proposed law. Objectors contend the titles fail to do just that in addition to misleading voters as to the changes the proposal would bring to the criminal statutes, and additionally offer a revised definition of a “sexual act with an animal” that would criminalize even minimal contact with a pet’s anus or genitals when grooming or bathing a pet, for example.
As for the statutorily defined natural lifespan of animals, though the definition is critical to the measure as it defines a new legal standard, it isn’t defined in the title. According to the motion, a voter could not understand the measures lifespan requirement for lawful slaughtering of livestock without the lifespan definition as it isn’t defined in the title.
Another incomplete element of the title, objectors said, is the title’s incomplete identification of the exemptions to the animal cruelty statutes the measure seeks to eliminate. Additionally, the objectors said the phrase “cruelty to animals” is a political catch phrase, the wording of which will “improperly distract voters or appeal to their emotions.” The phrase “sexual act with an animal,” according to the motion, is a socially and politically loaded phrase which impermissibly “tips the substantive debate surrounding the issue” potentially on the ballot. The proponents’ website tells voters that this provision isn’t about changing standards for animal care but it, instead, designed to ensure that farmed animals are not “sexually assaulted.”
Former state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, contributed to the initial hearing before the Title Board. He said he’s interested whether the proponents, neither of whom he thinks actually wrote the proposed initiative, attend the rehearing with an attorney.
“I’m estimating a minimum $5 million campaign to educate voters on how bad an idea this is,” he said. “It can be done. We beat the non-GMO one, but we need a better campaign than the wolf introduction.”
WHAT ABOUT SPAYING AND NEUTERING
Brophy said the language also bans the spaying and neutering of pets and the castration of farm animals,” he said. “It sets up a court case that would challenge that. You would have to show that it’s medically necessary for the health of the animal.”
The proponents’ website, however, claims spaying and neutering would not be criminalized. For Brophy, proponents can say it isn’t their intent to do so, but the language speaks for itself.
As for the state’s meat processors of all sizes, Brophy said the plants would likely be shuttered without a market for 5-year-old beef. With some of the world’s largest processors in the state, the economic losses would be substantial. This economic hit was acknowledged by Gov. Polis through a spokesperson on March 19, saying “Governor Polis agrees with farmers and ranchers that the PAUSE ballot initiative would hurt Colorado and destroy jobs, and he opposes it.”
Brophy was pivotal to improving the Constitutional amendment process, which now requires signatures of 2% of the electors in each of the state’s 25 Senate districts, as opposed to the ballot initiative process which, in this case, will require just over 126,000 signatures. In the legislative process, alternately, two readings are required of each potential piece of legislation, stakeholders can comment, amendments can be made to clarify language, and intent can be clarified. In the ballot initiative process, Brophy said, it is what it is.
“I’m not a fan of the ballot initiative process period,” he said. “Other than Tabor, I can’t think of anything good that has come through the ballot initiative process at all. Your liberty is at risk to this process and that always makes me nervous.”
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