Does Doug Bruce’s Tax Evasion Conviction Hurt TABOR?

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An interesting question posed by the Colorado Springs Independent’s Chet Hardin:

Since last week’s conviction on three felony counts, Douglas Bruce has gone radio silent.

In an e-mail, the typically vocal conservative advocate had only this to say of his tax evasion trial: “I am innocent. I will appeal. I will prevail.”

According to the office of Attorney General John Suthers, Bruce is facing up to 12 years in prison and $700,000 in fines when he is sentenced in February. And no matter what the sentence, the conviction will surely impact the way Bruce is viewed at large.

But will it do the same to his signature accomplishment, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights?

State Senate Majority Leader John Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat and one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging TABOR’s constitutionality, sees the two as linked: “Douglas Bruce has never been about good government. He’s always been about paying the least amount of tax possible. And he resorted to unconstitutional means by passing TABOR, and now he’s resorted to criminal means.

“He is so anti-government,” Morse adds, “he doesn’t want to pay a dime in tax, and he doesn’t want anybody [else] to do it, either.”

A poll follows.

Does the conviction of TABOR author Doug Bruce on tax evasion charges increase the likelihood of repeal?

View Results

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BREAKING: TABOR Author Doug Bruce Convicted of Tax Evasion

UPDATE #2: The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby:

Bruce deposited $2 million in an account for the group, which earned interest in the amount of $38,000 in 2005, $55,000 in 2006, and $85,000 in 2007, which Bruce failed to report to state and federal taxing authorities as income. During those time periods, Bruce used these funds as his own.

Bruce also was indicted for filing a false tax return on income he earned during the 2005 tax year and failing to file a tax return concerning income he earned during the 2006 and 2007 tax years, and on attempts to influence a public servant, a class-four felony and the most serious charge Bruce faced.


UPDATE: FOX 31′s Eli Stokols:

Prosecutors say Bruce evaded his tax responsibilities by funneling his income through a non-profit that he created in 2001 called Active Citizens Together, and failing to report that income to the Department of Revenue.

He faces up to 6 years in prison and $500,000 in fines when he is sentenced on Feb. 13, 2012.

He must also surrender his US passport within 36 hours after prosecutors argued he is a flight risk… [Pols emphasis]


Details coming, but that’s some sweet irony in the headline.

State To Appeal Lobato vs. Colorado Loss

A fully expected development, given the enormous fiscal implications of the decision against the state regarding its constitutional obligation to provide a “thorough and uniform” public education system in the Lobato vs. Colorado suit. From a press release this morning:

Gov. John Hickenlooper released this statement today about the Lobato v. Colorado court case:

“It is clear after closely reviewing the judge’s decision in Lobato v. Colorado and consulting with Attorney General John Suthers that a final resolution of the constitutional and legal issues involved in the case require an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

“The judge’s decision provided little practical guidance on how the state should fund a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education. Moreover, while the judge focused on the inadequacy of state funding, she did not reconcile this issue with other very relevant provisions of the Constitution, including the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23.

“There are more appropriate venues for a vigorous and informed public debate about the state’s spending priorities. We look forward to a swift decision in this case so the people of Colorado and their elected representatives can participate in the school funding conversation.”

Homestead Exemption “Amnesia”–It’s Back

Yesterday’s big news in Colorado was the significantly improved revenue projections delivered to the Joint Budget Committee by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief economist Henry Sobanet. As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Patrick Malone reports today:

An unexpectedly strong revenue forecast on Tuesday compelled Gov. John Hickenlooper to withdraw his proposal to cut $89 million from K-12 education total.

Now anticipated windfalls of $231 million for the current fiscal year and $115 million next year freed up the funds, the Office of State Planning and Budgeting told the Joint Budget Committee. Previous projections showed the state faced a budget shortfall of more than $500 million…

Hickenlooper’s revised budget proposal does not seek to change the $98.6 million that the governor recommended withholding from the Senior Homestead Exemption. House Republicans have been staunch that restoring the tax break for senior citizens who are longtime homeowners should be a key priority.

“While I am disappointed that Governor Hickenlooper continues to propose a property tax increase on Colorado’s seniors most in need, Colorado’s slow economic recovery gives us reason for optimism,” said House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument.

With revenues back on the upswing, Gov. Hickenlooper’s first priority is restoring funding to public education–which has seen some $700 million in cuts in the last few years. The improving revenue picture is welcome news, but it needs to be kept in perspective to the massive cuts we’ve seen in recent years. And we’re not even talking about the looming challenges presented by the Lobato vs. Colorado case, where a judge has ruled that Colorado’s education funding system is both inadequate and not rationally related to the requirements imposed on the system.

It’s fully expected for Republicans to make as large a stink as they possibly can over the homestead property tax exemption for senior citizens, even though it was the same economist Henry Sobanet, working for Republican former Gov. Bill Owens, who originally proposed cutting that program back in 2003. We’ve been much amused by representatives like Sen. Nancy Spence railing against Democrats for cutting the homestead exemption, just like she did during 2003′s much less severe recession.

With all of this in mind, we’d like to show you a fascinating transcript forwarded to us last weekend. The transcript is from a public conversation between the media and elected officials that occurred during a “pre-legislative session” Q&A. Specifically of interest is a back and forth between Tim Hoover of the Denver paper to House Speaker Frank McNulty on the wrangling over the homestead exemption. Hoover has some pointed questions about who really benefits from a fully-realized homestead exemption, and McNulty’s answers are ambiguous and evasive at best.

McNulty: Our perspective is a little bit different than that that’s been shared by our Democrat colleagues and by Governor Hickenlooper. We don’t believe now is the right time… That it’s never the right time to increase property taxes on those seniors who have been hardest hit by this recession…

We understand there will be a dialogue that takes place. We will be constructive participants in that dialogue. But understand that our view- the place from which we start is much different than where some of my Democrat colleagues are starting. We are starting from the position that is a bad idea to raise property taxes on those seniors in Colorado who have been hardest hit by this recession.

Hoover: when you talk about hardest hit in this recession one of the complaints about the senior homestead exemption is that there’s no means test for it so people with ski chalets get it and conversely, people who don’t own homes but are elderly and quite poor, either they are renting or they have sold their homes within 10 years or whatever to downsize or be responsible, they don’t get it and they need it the most. [Pols emphasis] Would you guys, I mean Republicans, be open to statutorily enacting some kind of means test to try to dole  out and whittle down the size of that 100 million?

McNulty: we have been all along, we have been proponents of Asset testing for benefits like this, but of course it has to happen across the board. We can’t pick one program like this and say we are going to asset test it and not make that same effort for other similar programs.

Hoover: like what?

McNulty: other entitlement programs where if you meet certain criteria you are eligible for that government program. And so Asset testing is a reasonable and responsible discussion to have, and certainly I’m willing to be a constructive participant in that discussion…

Reportedly, Hoover then asked McNulty what entitlement programs are not subject to an asset test–since Medicaid, for example, is. But unfortunately, McNulty’s only real talking point about seniors had already been used twice. And be assured, the politically active Republican donors who care about the homestead exemption do not want any means or asset testing.

Look, folks, we understand on a certain level why Republicans put up a perennial fight over the homestead exemption, even though they originated the current practice of sacrificing it to balance the budget. It’s a straightforward appeal to senior citizen voters who stand to benefit. But on the larger battlefield of fiscal responsibility, and exigent needs the state is slowly regaining the ability to meet, this is a political loser for them. Chieftain:

Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, was instrumental in budget negotiations earlier this year to reduce cuts to education by $67 million. He agrees with fellow Republicans that the Senior Homestead Exemption is important, but said it should take a back seat to funding schools. [Pols emphasis]

Speaker McNulty’s not going to like that.

BREAKING: Judge Rules In Favor Of Lobato Case Plaintiffs

UPDATE #3: Ed News Colorado:

“We think it’s a great day for the children of Colorado,” said a jubilant Kathleen Gebhardt, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, who was giving a presentation on the lawsuit at the Colorado Association of School Boards convention when she got the news. “We’re calling on the legislature to step up immediately and fix the problem.”

Mike Saccone, spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, said, “We are going to consult with the governor in the coming days on this decision. However, if you read the opinion, the judge clearly invited an appeal and, at this point, an appeal is likely. The attorney general is disappointed in the ruling but not surprised. It was clearly very tempting for the judge to wade into what is a public policy debate.”

The lawsuit did not include a dollar figure or ask Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport to order the state to pay up or provide a specific amount. Instead, it asked the court to decide whether the state school finance system fails to meet constitutional requirements and if the legislature should be ordered to come up with a new one…

Studies done for the plaintiffs estimate that “full funding” of Colorado schools could cost $2 to $4 billion more a year than the state spends now. Such increases would wreck the state budget and decimate other programs say Gov. John Hickenlooper, a defendant, and Suthers, who oversaw the state’s defense.


UPDATE #2: A meaty but by no means comprehensive excerpt from Judge Sheila Rappaport’s massive tome of a ruling follows–read the whole decision here, and get comfortable because it’s going to take awhile. Please liberally post excerpts of your own (it’s public domain after all) from any part of the decision you find noteworthy. And the bottom line on page 182:

The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. [Pols emphasis] These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”

Read it again. This really is that big.


UPDATE: FOX 31′s Eli Stokols:

In a landmark case over education funding, a judge has sided with a group of parents and school districts and ruled that the state of Colorado is underfunding its schools, possibly by billions of dollars…

The decision will likely be appealed by the state, which said before the trial began that a ruling for the plaintiffs would force Colorado to direct roughly $4 billion in additional funding toward schools, leaving little money in the general fund to adequately fund other needs like transportation, corrections and health care.

The state already spends close to half its general fund on education, although per pupil funding has been in steady decline over the last decade with Colorado now spending $2,000 less per student than the national average.


Details coming: a few minutes ago, Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the landmark Lobato vs. Colorado lawsuit filed by rural school districts–which charged that public education funding in the state of Colorado is not meeting the “thorough and uniform” test prescribed in the state constitution. Though subject to appeal, this is a major development that could well result in sweeping changes to Colorado fiscal policy.

We’ll update shortly with coverage and statements.

Page 158: The State introduced testimony from several members of the State Board of Education and other witnesses for its case-in-chief. However, the Court notes that much of the State’s testimony actually bolstered Plaintiffs’ arguments in this case, and certain other contrary testimony lacked factual support…

Page 176: The Court has found that in 1993 the General Assembly adopted HB 93-1313 that committed the State to develop and implement standards-based education as the anchor to the educational accountability system. HB 93-1313 was the foundation for the transformation of public education in Colorado. In 1994, the General Assembly adopted the Public School Finance Act of 1994 (the PSFA), the centerpiece of the school finance system. The PSFA established the basic funding mechanism for school district general fund (operating) revenues that has been in place since then. From this contemporaneous starting point, the two systems, which were not aligned to begin with, have radically diverged.

The following findings are essentially undisputed: When the PSFA was enacted, the General Assembly set the statewide base funding amount by working backwards from the total funding that it intended to appropriate and carrying forward preexisting school district expenditure levels. There was no effort to analyze the relationship to the actual costs to provide an education of any particular quality. The failure to do any cost analysis and to provide for funding based on such an analysis demonstrates the irrationality of the existing school finance system. Montoy v. State of Kansas, 102 P.3d 1160, 1164 (KS 2005).

In the past two years, the General Assembly, through the implementation of a negative factor, has actually decreased public school funding by what now totals nearly one billion dollars. The amount of the budget cuts and the method by which they were implemented are completely unrelated to the costs of providing the mandated standards-based education system. The budget cuts have aggravated the irrationality of the finance system by arbitrarily reducing funding with no educational rationale whatsoever…

Recent amendments to the standards-based education system have substantially increased the costs of public education. In 2008 the General Assembly adopted CAP4K, that mandated a complete revision of state content standards, programs of instruction, and assessments all aligned to accomplish universal student proficiency and postsecondary and workforce readiness. This was followed in 2009 by the Education Accountability Act that established accreditation standards for school districts based upon meeting the goals of CAP4K and imposed sanctions up to and including district closure for failure to meet those goals within fixed time frames. Most recently, the 2010 effective teachers amendments (SB 10-191) imposed new teacher and principal evaluation systems founded in student growth as measured by achievement on CSAP and other standardized tests…

The evidence also establishes that funding for categorical programs and for capital construction are completely unrelated to the actual costs of providing the services and facilities necessary to meet the mandate of the Education Clause. Capital construction funding in particular is now and has always been totally dependent on highly unequal local property tax wealth. For many school districts, particularly those in rural, poverty areas this method of funding capital needs has proved to be fundamentally inadequate, inequitable, and irrational. The recently adopted BEST program provides limited assistance, but is not sufficient to overcome generations of statutory underfunding. The deplorable conditions of numerous rural schools bears witness to this proposition.

The Court therefore concludes that the entire system of public school finance, including the PSFA, categorical programs, and capital construction funding, is not rationally related to the mandate of the Education Clause.

Page 177: The public school finance system falls short of providing sufficient funding to meet the mandate of the Education Clause and standards-based education.

Defendants contend that it is not possible to analyze the costs of meeting the mandates of the Education Clause. If that argument were accepted, the Education Clause and the directives of the Supreme Court would be meaningless. To the contrary, the standards-based education system provides a comprehensively detailed model of education standards, programs, assessments, and achievement goals. The costs of meeting those mandates can be rationally estimated.

Page 178: Due to lack of access to adequate financial resources, the Plaintiff School Districts and the school districts where Individual Plaintiffs reside (collectively, the “School Districts”) are unable to provide the educational programs, services, instructional materials, equipment, technology, and capital facilities necessary to assure all children an education that meets the mandates of the Education Clause and standards-based education.

The Court finds that due to the irrational funding system and significant underfunding, rural and urban poverty School Districts are unable to hire, compensate, and retain effective, highly qualified teachers and administrators; to provide the curriculum, technology, textbooks, and other instructional materials necessary to meet student performance expectations; and to construct, maintain, renovate school buildings and facilities. Many of these School Districts are relegated to obsolete textbooks and materials, lack of necessary computers and internet connectivity, and dilapidated and unsafe classroom and other facilities. These School Districts have been for many years and are today unable to respond effectively to the changing demands of standards-based education.

Page 182: The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”

Education Funding: Well, Folks?

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Patrick Malone reports:

Colorado has not met the legal minimum for funding schools since 2008, and a budget analyst said Wednesday that projections show the trend will continue through the 2015-16 budget cycle.

A staff economist told Joint Budget Committee members that if the cuts to education persist, Colorado could be on a road to falling short of the most basic constitutional requirement to provide a “thorough and uniform” public education system. Meanwhile, the state already is facing a lawsuit that claims it doesn’t meet that standard.

JBC staffer Carolyn Kampman recommended the General Assembly consider changing the laws that govern school finance in the state to rectify its structural deficiencies.

“I’m projecting by 2015-16 you won’t even have enough money to meet Amendment 23,” Kampman said…

She recommended the Legislature consider changes to the school finance formula, revamping Amendment 23 or seek increased revenue to comply with its most basic constitutional obligation.

According to Joint Budget Committee staff, the state would have to increase education funding by over $800 million in order to fully fund the system as prescribed by law. As you know, the proposed budget from John Hickenlooper proposes another $89 million in cuts, not increases. And what happens in 2015 when we violate, with no sleight-of-hand able to any longer conceal, the constitutional education funding mandates of Amendment 23? Is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) the only part of the Colorado Constitution that matters?

Hey, maybe we could temporarily raise sales and income taxes! (please click here)

Anyway, apparently we’re going to have to do something, folks. Got any ideas?

“Dr. Evil’s” Advocate?

From a Huffington Post report yesterday:

A lawsuit filed in late May of this year by 34 past and present lawmakers seeks to overturn the amendment. The suit challenges TABOR’s constitutionality on the grounds that rigid tax and spending limits obstruct the General Assembly’s obligation to govern. After TABOR’s passing, state representative Doug Bruce, the measure’s champion, said TABOR “was the most important event in Colorado since statehood.”

TABOR’s critics say the measure has deeply harmed education funding and public health programs in the state.

In the interim since 1992, Bruce has staunchly defended the measure. His political activities in the state have also included numerous other anti-tax initiatives, hiding from subpoenas, illegally practicing law, and failing to pay taxes (no surprise there)…

Nevertheless Doug Bruce is ad nauseum gleeful over Gov. John Hickenlooper’s request this week, as the named defendant in the case, for the lawsuit challenging Bruce’s 1992 Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) as an unconstitutional usurpation of legislative power to be dismissed. Hickenlooper has likewise, as we’ve discussed, weighed in against a suit from rural school districts challenging the constitutional adequacy of Colorado’s education funding mechanisms.

As governor, of course, Hickenlooper has an obligation to argue the state’s case, and defend the efficacy of state law. Beyond that, there are legitimate arguments for defending the process from being declared constitutionally broken–at the federal constitutional level with the TABOR lawsuit, or at the state level with Lobato vs. Colorado. They all boil down to one central premise: “the system can work.” We really do think that everyone who values both the democratic and republican (lower case) aspects of our system should be receptive to this idea.

But in both cases, can Hickenlooper prove it works; or has Bruce already proven otherwise?

Lobato vs. Colorado Testimony Continues

Heart-wrenching stuff from the Durango Herald’s Joe Hanel:

The plaintiffs, who include Montezuma-Cortez school district, want the courts to declare that Colorado is violating its own constitution by depriving students of a quality education – a verdict that could require billions of dollars more to be spent on schools…

Textbooks are outdated, and [Cortez Middle School teacher Justine] Bayles can’t assign science homework because there aren’t enough books to go around, she said.

Keefauver, a fourth-grade teacher at Kemper Elementary School, pays for field trips out of his own pocket. He also buys basic supplies such as paper and pencils.

“My kids deserve the same opportunities as any kids in the state of Colorado, any kids in the country,” Keefauver said. “It’s unfair that they have to do without some of the things I had as a student growing up, things that we even had five, six or seven years ago.”

The testimony from teachers in rural school districts who are party to this suit, building a case about the difficulty meeting the most basic educational needs, seeks to prove that minimum constitutional guarantees of a “thorough and uniform” public education system throughout the state of Colorado are being violated. Opponents, including Gov. John Hickenlooper who we’re inclined to believe does value quality public education, argue that the constitution doesn’t address funding levels and that this is a question for the legislature. Other, more conservative opponents assert that funding alone won’t help school districts meet the standard.

It’s for Judge Sheila Rappaport to decide, but we’ll say this: we know what teachers make, and we find the notion of them paying out of pocket for their students’ paper and pencils to be somewhere between reprehensible and criminal. And if that doesn’t underscore the point about “minimum standards” plaintiffs are trying to make, we honestly don’t know what could.

Lobato vs. Colorado: Justice or Chaos?

As the Durango Herald’s Joe Hanel reports:

A group of parents and 21 school districts – including Montezuma-Cortez – is suing the state in a case called Lobato v. Colorado, claiming inadequate funding for schools. Opening arguments took most of the morning Monday.

“This case begins with the constitution and ends with children,” said Kenzo Kawanabe, who made the plaintiffs’ opening argument.

The plaintiffs are basing their case on Colorado’s constitution, which requires a “thorough and uniform” system of education and local control of schools. They claim the state is violating both principles by not paying enough for schools, even as the Legislature passes more education-reform laws that school districts must follow…

The plaintiffs aren’t asking Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport to order the extra funding, but they do want her to tell the Legislature that its school-funding formula is unconstitutional and needs to be changed.

Schools districts already use nearly half the state’s general fund budget, so such a ruling would require either steep cuts to other departments or a tax increase.

The state is going to argue that more money will not make the schools better.

Plaintiffs argue that Colorado schools are structurally underfunded by billions–somewhere between $1.4 and $3.6 billion dollars per year. In an excellent Colorado Public Radio report yesterday fairly examining both sides of this debate, Bruce Caughey of the Colorado Association of School Executives argues that it would require a minimum of an additional $1.5 billion per year for Colorado’s public school funding to simply reach the national average.

State officials including Gov. John Hickenlooper have come out in opposition to the plaintiffs in Lobato vs. Colorado, arguing that the constitution did not provide guidance on funding levels, and that this is a job better left to the legislature and the voters–particularly, though Gov. Hickenlooper didn’t say it, since Colorado is bound by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to submit all tax increases to a vote.

However, one of the plaintiffs’ main arguments is the interlocking constitutional limitations and spending mandates in Colorado that have left the legislature unable to appropriate a constitutionally adequate level of funding for public schools. A combination of the Gallagher Amendment restricting property taxes and TABOR throttling the state’s ability to make up the difference, plaintiffs argue that the legislature–and every local school district in the state–has been placed in a constitutionally impermissible situation.

We’ve been talking about the Lobato case for years now as it has slowly wended its way toward trial. If they do prevail in court, and the many appeals such a victory would be sure to draw, it could dramatically shake up Colorado politics. The state could be forced to remedy the situation–maybe by neutering TABOR? Perhaps a comprehensive ballot measure or measures, with some nasty debt-ceiling style “triggers” threatening the reluctant? The possibilities!

Don’t get us wrong. We do understand and are sympathetic to the arguments made by defenders of the legislative process, and their warnings of chaos–and political fallout–from a court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in Lobato vs. Colorado. But we have to tell you, after years of watching Colorado hover at the bottom of rankings for state education funding without hope of remedy, and listening to the bleak stories of rural school districts like the one profiled in the CPR report above…a constitutional adequacy smackdown does have its allure, folks.

Partisan Divide (Surprise!) on TABOR Lawsuit

From The Durango Herald:

Senior legislators declined to get involved Monday in a lawsuit that claims the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights violated the U.S. Constitution.

Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, wanted the Legislature’s Executive Committee to oppose the lawsuit, but his idea deadlocked on a 3-3 tie, with Democrats opposing him.

Five Democratic lawmakers are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, Kerr v. Hickenlooper, which claims that TABOR violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that every state have a “republican form of government.” TABOR requires all tax increases to pass a popular vote, and the plaintiffs say that makes Colorado more like a direct democracy, rather than a republic, as the framers of the Constitution had envisioned.

McNulty is quoted in the story talking about protecting taxpayers, but he and other Colorado Republicans may find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion these days. Recent national polls have shown that the public is not opposed to tax increases and does not believe that budget problems can be solved only with cuts. Being a champion of TABOR doesn’t hold the same appeal today that it did 10 years ago.

In Related News, Doug Bruce Performs Open-Heart Surgery

As the Associated Press reports, Doug Bruce used his lunch break today (while facing charges of tax evasion) to file a legal challenge against a marijuana legalization ballot measure:

Douglas Bruce of Colorado Springs challenged the proposed constitutional amendment in a filing to the state Supreme Court. He argues the proposal to make pot legal for adults over 21 doesn’t properly say that it would raise taxes.

A proponent who brought the legalization proposal says he thought the amendment was clear that, if it’s approved, pot would face a 15 percent excise tax…

…Bruce filed the challenge on a lunch break from an arraignment on a more immediate legal matter. Bruce is facing felony tax evasion charges in Denver District Court. Authorities say he failed to pay taxes on a charity of his. Bruce maintains he is innocent of the charge.

So…Bruce filed his challenge while he fights charges of tax evasion in Denver. Bruce is apparently defending himself in that case, but last month he was served a subpoena for allegedly practicing law without a license.

To recap, the “genius” who created TABOR, who may or may not be an attorney, is complaining about a ballot measure that raises taxes while he defends himself from charges that he doesn’t pay taxes anyway. Why, exactly, is anyone taking him seriously?

Debt Ceiling Fight: Impeach Obama!

Cup your face gently in your hands as Think Progress reports:

Last month, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional because of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned.” If the Obama administration were to embrace this view, the country could avoid default in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised by the Aug. 2 deadline.

Republicans, who would lose an opportunity to inflict major budget cuts if the debt ceiling is declared unconstitutional, have been highly critical of the idea. Yesterday, Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel reported that Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) said it would be “an impeachable act” if President Obama declares the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.

ThinkProgress spoke with one of Scott’s colleagues, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), today about the matter. Olson told us that others in the GOP caucus are also discussing impeachment and that Scott is “not a lonely voice” on the issue…

Impeachment threats–that’s the way to bring the two sides together, isn’t it? Without hazarding an opinion on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s theory that the debt limit may be unconstitutional, we do note that Geithner’s not the President–perhaps the time to start making threats is after the President says or does something? Maybe try to refute Geithner’s opinion instead of going straight for the nuclear option? It just seems to us that this kind of rhetoric during negotiations might be bad for…negotiations. But it is red meat for those who want to impeach Obama over basically anything–they don’t want to negotiate.

With that said, much like the Colorado Supreme Court ruling a couple of years ago that clarified provisions of TABOR in favor of sensible policy, we have to say we don’t really mind when it’s found that a higher law says engineered government dysfunction isn’t legal–because government, despite what Grover Norquist says, is supposed to be able to function.

Served: Douglas Bruce

(Anyone else reminded of that terrible movie with “Kramer” called “Trial and Error“?   – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hot off the press … state attorney regulators close the deal, according to Law Week Colorado.

While in court Friday for trial in his TABOR lawsuit against the state, anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce was served with a Colorado Supreme Court order to show cause why he shouldn’t be enjoined from practicing law without a license.

Bruce was notoriously difficult to serve in an administrative case last year, in which it took the attorney general’s office two months and more than 30 attempts to serve him with a subpoena.

Full story here:…

Earlier story here:…

TABOR–It’s Great, Except When It’s Not

Two stories out of Grand Junction–first, KJCT-TV:

Mesa County’s Commissioners are publicly opposing a lawsuit that threatens the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, of TABOR…

The plaintiffs in Kerr vs The State of Colorado say governments must be able to raise money in order to function. They say TABOR keeps governments from properly serving citizens and denies them of a representative democracy, as required by the Colorado and U.S. Constitution.

But Mesa County’s Commissioners say the lawsuit’s claims are baseless…

Tell that to the city of Grand Junction, writes the Sentinel’s Amy Hamilton:

The city is sending millions of dollars of sales and use tax revenue that has been collected over limits set by TABOR – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights –  to pay off the parkway debt. But when the parkway debt is paid off, those excess tax dollars must be refunded to taxpayers. By 2018, those dollars could reach an estimated $8.7 million, city officials said.

In an attempt to continue using the money for future capital projects and avoid a refund situation, Grand Junction City Council members hope to present another TABOR override question during the April 2013 municipal election. City Council members agreed during a recent retreat that the ballot question would identify a specific project or projects that the money would fund.

“We have to be very careful about the ballot language,” Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein said during the early-June retreat. “It has to say with no tax increases while utilizing existing revenues.”

…If the city enters into a refund situation, the bulk of the dollars would go back to commercial businesses in Grand Junction, City Manager Laurie Kadrich said. But figuring out the best way to reimburse everyone could create a nightmarish scenario. City officials half-jokingly said it may be easiest to drop cash from an airplane over Mesa Mall during one of the year’s busiest shopping days. [Pols emphasis]

That sounds much more “functional,” doesn’t it?