By MIchael Cox
I have not written about the assault on the livestock industry in the form of Initiative 16 for a couple of weeks. That is partly because we assumed everything was on hold until the Colorado Supreme Court rules on the alleged illegal title of the petition.
But the pushers of the measure, who must collect 125,000 signatures in the next 15 months, have taken to the streets prematurely to begin gathering signatures. Rural Allies Against Colorado Initiative 16, a large, statewide group opposing the measure, discovered that the petition is live. The group contacted Jeff Mustin, Petitions Lead, in the Elections Division of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, and this is the summary of what he said: “Proponents decided to begin circulation of the ‘Approved for Circulation’ petition, reporting their first signature collected on April 18, 2021, two days after the Title Board approved the petition for circulation.”
According to Mustin, even when a petition for appeal regarding the Title Board’s decision (from the proponents or opponents) is filed with the Colorado Supreme Court, if the Title Board approves the Initiative petition sections for circulation, which is in its jurisdiction to do so as it is acting with the assumption that its decision to set the title is valid, the proponents can indeed choose to begin circulation before the Colorado Supreme Court hears the appeal and gives its decision.
The circulators are taking a risk, however. Should the court find the Title in error, any signatures gathered will be voided. Further, they will be presenting an idea under false pretenses. The signature gathering team will be showing to and telling the public about a document the contents of which are clearly flawed. The court will not hear the first oral arguments brought by a coalition of six livestock producers’ organizations within the state until sometime later this month, according to the clerks of the court.
One would think that were the court to agree with the Coloradans for Animal Care and strike the title, that the signatures gathered before the ruling would be moot. Frankly, however, given the insanity rampant among the environs of the Capital, it would not surprise me if the opposite were to happen.
The Title of the petition, which what most potential signers will see and hear about from the petitioners, is 144 words long. It covers multiple subjects. The Coalition, led by Terry Fankhauser, Executive Director of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, forced the petition back to the state Title Board after pointing out the fact that the Title is not in adherence to the Colorado Constitution. The state laws require a simple title, covering one subject. Here is Article 5.5 from the state constitution:
No measure shall be proposed by petition containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title; but if any subject shall be embraced in any measure which shall not be expressed in the title, such measure shall be void only as to so much thereof as shall not be so expressed. If a measure contains more than one subject, such that a ballot title cannot be fixed that clearly expresses a single subject, no title shall be set and the measure shall not be submitted to the people for adoption or rejection at the polls.
Now here is the title of the initiative:Shall there be 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?
There are five separate titles inside the title, as offered by the petitioners. Given the obvious and blatant attempt to create the most devastating law possible, it would be reasonable that the title hurdle should have produced a faceplant for the petitioners. The Title Board, in the second hearing, even admitted that the title was troublesome, yet it approved it anyway. This malicious work is now on the streets of Colorado, even though it is under serious question.
I am no lawyer, but it seems to me that a lower court ought to be petitioned to issue an injunction prohibiting the circulation of Initiative #16 at least until the Colorado Supreme Court (CSC) hears the matter and issues a judgement. Incidentally, the calendar for gathering signatures is not affected by a “pause” in the process to work out legal matters. If the petitioners lose collection time, it is not added to the end of the gathering time period.
If you visit the web site “Colorado Pause,” you will not see the unvarnished truth about the initiative. The only way to do that is to click on the link to the “full text” of the petition. For the majority of viewers that link will never be activated. Rather the Frequently Asked Questions will suffice for passing on “details.” Here is an example:
Q: Does this change the definition of animal cruelty in CO?
A: This will not change the definition of what acts constitute abandonment, abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. It does:
Remove the cruelty to animals exemption for livestock
Add in an exemption to ensure slaughter is still legal once the animal enters adulthood
Remove a loophole in the definition of sexual act with an animal
Seems harmless. But unless you read the whole petition, you won’t find out that it means they have redefined animal cruelty when it comes to livestock. A sexual act with an animal? That would include aiding a cow giving birth or artificial insemination. The only thing clear in that offering is number 2. Of course, it means a steer, for example, must be at least five years old before it goes to market. That means the end to any quality beef from Colorado.
There is another disingenuous matter on the web site. There are no names. No individual is taking the responsibility for Initiative #16. The originators, Alexander Sage and Brent Johannes, have held no press meetings, have not made themselves available for interviews, and are not mentioned on the web site.