Colorado's Amendment 74: Will it strengthen property rights and at what cost?

Posted at 4:47 PM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-26 12:52:16-04

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at See more 360 stories here.

DENVER -- We've all seen the commercials for both sides of Amendment 74 – if approved it would expand the rights of property owners to sue governments when they make decisions that impact property values.

In this story, Denver7 Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski takes a Politics 360 dive into this critical issue -- with details you're not getting from the commercials.

“It protects the property rights of all -- including yours,” Jill Cullis, a teacher and Amendment 74 supporter, says in a TV ad backing the ballot measure.

Here's what Denver 7’s research team found: On both sides of this issue are campaign ads filled with strong opinions -- and facts – with no major misleading details.

But there is more to this issue.

“Government should not get a free pass to destroy the value of a family farm. It's only fair,” says John Justman, a farmer who backs Amendment 74.

The group supporting 74 has rolled out a farmer, a rancher and a teacher asking for your vote, while the opposition to the measure uses a strong and convincing voice from a guy who sounds like everyone's wise, old uncle.

“We need to vote no on Amendment 74,” the narrator in the anti-Amendment 74 ad says. “Are we going to be fooled by the special interests..."

And that's a statement that really applies to both sides. Special interest money -- and a whole lot of it -- is fueling the engines that are driving these messages.

Here's what we've uncovered searching public records.

The latest reports show the Committee for Colorado's Shared Heritage has received $4.59 million in cash campaign contributions. This is the group working to convince you to vote yes on Amendment 74.

Where did that money come from? We found that virtually all of it -- 99.7 percent -- has come from an oil and gas industry group called Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence that is funded primarily by oil and gas companies operating in Colorado.

The amendment gives the right to sue to both private property owners and corporations.

On the other side – opponents of 74 – the group Save Our Neighborhoods has received nearly $3 million dollars in cash contributions -- money coming from environmental groups, the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado Association of Realtors and $100,000 from the foundation of the family that founded Walmart.

The decision for voters centers on supporting increased property rights or fearing those increased property rights will come with a significant cost to taxpayers.

 “As an unintended consequence of constitutional Amendment 74, cities and towns will be deluged with lawsuits,” the narrator of an anti-74 ad warns. “It passed in Oregon and special interests demanded $19.8 billion."

A viewer and a voter asked Denver7 to dig deeper. Here's a key point for you to consider. Back in 2004, Oregon voters did pass a similar amendment giving property owners the power to sue governments when their property value is "reduced in fair market value by government law or regulation.”

“When they realized how horrible it was, Oregon repealed it,” the anti-74 ad says.

And that is a fact. Three years after Oregon voters approved Measure 37, they decided they had apparently made a mistake. So, they voted again to revise the measure, believing the original amendment gave landowners too much power in suing local governments and was ultimately hindering local governments from passing otherwise beneficial regulations.

So, the ads you are seeing on this critical issue in Colorado are all powerful and informative, but they did not include the perspectives our research team has provided for you to consider before making your vote.

Let’s be clear: We are not taking a position – just simply trying to provide you with the power of more information.