Colorado Senate kills bill to repeal unconstitutional ‘Amazon Tax’ – one of ten “Dirty Dozen” tax increases held over from 2010
“No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” – Mark Twain (1866)
Although the 2011 legislative session is now (happily) concluded and part of the history of Colorado Politics, the effects of the bills passed this session and last will continue to be felt for some time…
Case in point: the majority of the “Dirty Dozen” tax increase bills passed during the 2010 legislative session (which exploited a Colorado Supreme Court ruling to take more of your money without asking, as is required under the Colorado Constitution) remain in effect. Although the new legislative majorities were able to repeal two of the “Dirty Dozen” tax increases this year – last month, the legislature made progress towards “Cleaning up the ‘Dirty Dozen’ tax increases” with repeal of last year’s Agriculture tax increase, HB10-1195, Suspend Ag Sales & Use Tax Exemption (Ferrandino/Heath), and downloaded software tax increase, (HB 10-1192, Sales and Use Tax of Standardized Software (Pommer/Heath) – the remaining (unconstitutional) tax increase laws passed in 2010 (such as the “Candy Tax” and – my dog’s least favorite – the “Doggy Bag Tax”) remain on the books.
The “Dirty Dozen” was the name given to a package of twelve legislative bills which sought to increase tax revenues by eliminating existing tax credits or exemptions – an end-run around the constitutional requirement (in Article X, Section 20 – colloquially known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR) for “voter approval in advance for… any new tax, tax rate increase, or… tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district.”
Even going into the last days of the 2011 legislative session, it appeared that what may have been the least popular of last year’s “Dirty Dozen” tax increases, the ‘Amazon Tax’ (HB 10-1193, Sales Tax Out of State Retailers (Pommer/Heath), was also likely to be another one to bite the dust. Since the so-called ‘Amazon Tax’ was not only in violation of the Colorado Constitution, but also infringed upon the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment protections against ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’, it had been challenged (in Federal Court – in order to avoid the judicial hellhole of Colorado jurisprudence) and prevented from enforcement by court injunction, anyway. Given that the tax isn’t being collected anyway, and continuing to defend the tax in court keeps racking up taxpayer dollars in legal expenses, repealing the bill would seem to be a no-brainer.
That proved to be true in the House, where a bill introduced to repeal and replace the tax (HB 11-1318, Notification of Use Taxes, Stephens/Schaffer) appeared to be on the fast track to passage; the ‘Amazon Tax’ repeal bill was swiftly and overwhelmingly approved (on a 58-6 bipartisan vote) in the House, but was prevented from coming to a vote (killing it via a procedural move without having to take a recorded position) by Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont).
Sometimes, it would appear, legislative action is not sufficient to succeed in undoing previous acts of the same legislature putting one’s life, liberty, or property at risk…
NONE of the “Dirty Dozen” tax bills would have seen the light of day if not for last year’s legislature’s exploitation of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling to bypass the Colorado Constitution’s requirement to receive “voter approval in advance for… any new tax, tax rate increase, or… tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district.”
Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts. We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.
Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.