PAUSE moves to Supreme Court: Title Board admits measure is unclear and ambiguous
Coloradans for Animal Care (CAC), comprised of the state’s major agriculture groups, went through the rehearing process of the title language of proposed initiative 16, the PAUSE initiative Wednesday. Objectors and proponents heard two hours of discussion by the Title Board as they made multiple changes to the title in an attempt to make the language clear for voters. In the end, Title Board members called the initiative “ambiguous and incomplete,” describing the difficulty in setting a title. Comments from public participants also pointed to the difficulty they had in interpreting what the measure would do, and wouldn’t do, based on the updated language of the title, this according to a release from CAC.
The motion for rehearing filed by CAC and a second filed by Heather Riley on behalf of the LaPlata Archuleta Cattlemen’s Association, LaPlata Archuleta Farm Bureau, and LaPlata County GOP.
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 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.
“(The rehearing process) was a long process and it was a process that was confusing,” said Terry Fankhauser, executive director of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “It was confusing for the Title Board, and certainly will be confusing for the voter.”
Represented by Mark Grueskin, the coalition led by Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Livestock Association, Colorado Woolgrowers Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, and Colorado Pork Producers, also includes thousands of individuals and numerous organizations Fankhauser said are joining the fight against the egregious initiative.
Grueskin presented the contents of the motion for rehearing, calling the measure one that addresses multiple subjects with little relationship to one another, thereby not meeting the Constitutional requirements of a single subject. In addition to no fewer than three subjects, Grueskin said the measure contains subjects hidden from the title, including the statutorily prescribed lifespans of livestock, that lacks reasonable connection to the other topics.
“I would point out that my suggestion that this is being done for political purposes is borne out by the proponents’ website where they talk about trying to propose a measure that will address whether an animal is abandoned, abused, neglected, mistreated, or sexually assaulted,” he said. Sexually assaulted. That is their politically charged code to get this past a majority of voters.”
Grueskin also argued that the prescribed lifespan ought to be clearly communicated in the title so voters understand the criminal penalty they may or may not support is one that mandates both the lifespan as a portion of certain numbers of years. The exclusion of this information from the title, he said, leaves out a critical part of a central change to criminal statutes and one that is significant to many voters.
The most extraordinary element of the measure, Grueskin said, is the inclusion of the portion which is designed by the proponents’ website and by their admission in front of legislative staff to be separately identified as a reason to vote for this measure.
“To the extent that this is something — and we cataloged in our motion how it has already been identified as a politically explosive term — to the extent that is true, we suggest there is absolutely no reason to be as explicit or even to use the more general reference of sexual act with an animal,” he said, “There is not a way you can argue that does not or will not inflame voters.”
Proponent Alexander Sage responded, encouraging the Title Board to “ignore the emotional please and the theoretical effects of this initiative on society and the economy,” calling it subjective and irrelevant.
Colorado Veterinary Medical Association CEO Diane Matt commented, telling the Title Board the CVMA is aligned with the arguments brought forward by the opponents of the measure. She said the initiative puts veterinary practitioners and veterinary care at risk.
Title Board member Julie Pelegrin said neither motion convinced her of a single subject violation. Defining the natural lifespan, she said, is part of expanding the criminal statutes against cruelty to animals. Member David Powell said he didn’t want opponents to feel as if the board was being cavalier regarding the single subject requirement but said he doesn’t feel strongly that the language violates the requirement, but both admitted there is room for clarification in the language.
The board went on to make changes to the title language with extensive debate and discussion, ultimately admitting that some of the difficulty in making the title language clear stems from the measure itself being unclear.
“I’m hesitant to change how we have this worded because what we have worded in the title reflects what is worded in the measure and I honestly don’t know how what is written in the measure might eventually be interpreted,” Pelegrin said.
Pelegrin said if she were a defense attorney representing an individual charged under the statutes (if they were to pass), she would raise the defense and argue that the measure is not clear. She also said the accepted husbandry practices actually being criminalized is also ambiguous.
Coloradans for Animal Care released a statement announcing their intent to ask the state Supreme Court to hear their objections to the single subject requirement.
“The title board was wrong in its decision today. Initiative 16 clearly has multiple subjects. The difficulty the title board had in setting the language of the title is clear evidence of that. There are at least three subjects in the initiative and the language of the title is still inaccurate and misleading, and we hope the Supreme Court will agree.”
The LaPlata County group confirmed they will place their support behind Coloradans for Animal Care moving forward in the interest of pooling resources and presenting a united front.
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