Profile: Initiative #40 – Colorado Community Rights Amendment

As we discussed last month, special interests are circulating petitions that aim to curtail business and energy development in Colorado. Let’s take a closer look at Initiative #40, which is also called the Community Rights Amendment.


Lafayette City Councilwoman Merrily Mazza is the author and primary supporter of the proposed constitutional amendment. The language of the ballot issue stems from a Lafayette City ordinance that aimed to elevate the power of local laws over state and constitutional laws.


The similar state measure will give local governments power over state, federal and constitutional laws to dispel businesses and their owners from their borders. Specifically, the community rights website says, “These violations can have to do with a variety of issues such as fracking, giant polluting pig and cattle farms, toxic sludge dumping, contamination of agriculture by GMO agriculture, toxic mining practices, wages that are not livable, union issues, GMO labeling, and other rights violations.” But the fact is, this amendment, if passed, could target many other small businesses as well.


During its hearing before legislative attorneys, some questions for the drafters gave most people pause. In particular, attorneys asked, “What results if the rights of natural persons, local communities, and nature conflict? Are the rights of businesses always trumped by the rights of persons, local communities, and nature?” The proponents didn’t have an answer and haven’t made any changes to address this. Attorney’s also asked if this would stop the spaying for mosquito mitigation, especially in light of the zika virus. While the proponents didn’t answer, it’s clear this would no longer be an option for Colorado communities under this proposal.


Other states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and New Mexico have also faced challenges with these sorts of measures. Many of these efforts have stalled with questions about their legality. As Boston College law professor Kent Greenfield told Reuters, “‘I appreciate their opposition to corporate power and their defense of the environment, but it is flatly unconstitutional.’ He said if communities could reject constitutional rights, nothing could stop them from re-segregating schools, for example.”


In Mora County, New Mexico, leaders there repealed its community rights amendment after losing a federal court case.


While this stealth campaign appears to be about greater local control, as we look further, it doesn’t make sense for Colorado. Remember to tell your friends and colleagues not to sign this dangerous ballot question.