How other states tackled property rights as Colorado voters prepare to weigh in on Amendment 74

Posted at 5:55 PM, Oct 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-17 20:38:17-04

DENVER -- We recently went 360 to share the many perspectives surrounding Amendment 74, and uncovered who really is behind the campaign.

The proposed amendment would add 11 words to Colorado's constitution: "Reduced in fair market value by government law or regulation."

If passed, it would give property owners the right to sue the government, if a government decision reduces their property values, even by as little as 10 percent.

"Amendment 74 is all about protecting property rights," said Chad Vorthmann, Executive Vice President of the Colorado Farm Bureau, the group behind the amendment. "We wanted to level that playing field and give them equal rights that government has."

Critics argue the Amendment is way too broad and go so far as to call it TABOR 2.0.

"Just about any local government decision could well be implicated with a lawsuit under this language, said Sam Mamet with the Colorado Municipal League, who is against the amendment.  

Mamet said it could bankrupt some Colorado towns and would be a disaster for taxpayers.

"It may be the single worst measure I've ever seen on the ballot," he said.

How have other state's tackled property rights?

A handful of states have considered ballot measures that are similar to Colorado's Amendment 74 and looked at addressing property rights protections.

Opponents point to Washington and Oregon as examples.

Voters in Washington rejected their property rights measure after a study showed it would cost taxpayers nearly $8 billion to pay compensations claims.

Oregon passed Measure 37 in 2004. It gave landowners the right to seek compensation or a waiver if a land use regulation reduced their property's value.

What happened next, opponents argue, is a case study for why Colorado's amendment is a bad idea.

"Several billion dollars' worth of claims filed against both the state of Oregon as well as local governments in Oregon," explained Mamet.

Denver7 found this study from the State of Oregon, which shows after their measure passed, the total number of claims filed against the state exceeded more than $17 billion. That lead to voters repealing the majority of Measure 37 in 2007.

The Colorado Farm Bureau, the group behind the measure, sees the issue very differently.

"The Oregon measure is an example of why the Colorado approach is better policy. Amendment 74 works with Colorado's existing Constitutional protections and legal framework. It requires courts to revisit their standard which allows government to take more than 90 percent of that value of private property without having to compensate the owner," Vorthmann said in a statement sent to Denver7.

In other words, Oregon's measure only allowed the government 180 days to respond to claims or shell out the cash and they stressed it had no clear standard for the burden of proof.

The Farm Bureau said under Amendment 74, the burden of proof and burden of action remains with the property owner.