The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday threw out Amendment 54, the campaign contributions limit passed by voters in 2008.
The amendment was challenged by public employee and civic groups, including teachers’ unions, because they believe it unconstitutionally limited their rights to contribution to political campaigns. The amendment banned holders of “sole source” contracts from contributing to any political campaigns. Teachers’ union contracts with school districts were considered sole source contracts.
In a 4-1 opinion, the court said, “After striking the unconstitutional portions of Amendment 54, the Supreme Court holds that the remaining provisions do not constitute a meaningful legislative enactment, and therefore the entire Amendment must be purged from the Colorado Constitution.”
A majority of the court found the amendment vague and overbroad, and said it would have had disproportionate effects on different classes of people.
A Denver District Court last summer issued a preliminary injunction against the amendment, and the case was appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The main spokesman for the amendment last year was conservative CU Regent Tom Lucero, who’s now running for Congress in the 4th District. He argued it was necessary to stop “pay-to-play” abuses between contractors and government bodies. Its other backers were somewhat shadowy, although people connected to the Independence Institute were involved. The institute has long criticized public employee union involvement in campaigns.
Amendment 54 was part of a tangle of proposed union and labor amendments last fall, some of which were pulled from the ballot and several others of which failed. Because of ballot clutter, there were ad campaigns that supported or opposed groups of amendments, likely intensifying the usual voter confusion about ballot measures.
Among teacher groups challenging the amendment in court are the District 14 Classroom Teachers Association and the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees, plus Kerrie Dallman, president of the Jefferson County Education Association.