President of the Independence Institute Jon Caldara submitted roughly 130,500 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office Friday in an effort to land an initiative on the November ballot that would block federal health care reform legislation from taking effect in Colorado. Caldara, representing the Health Care Choice for Colorado issue committee, initially struggled to gain signatures for his “antiObamacare” initiative and waged a legal battle against a state law that last year narrowed the rules for signature gathering. Caldara won that battle and today turned in well over the roughly 76,000 signatures required of initiative proponents by the Secretary of State. The deadline to turn in signatures for 2010 initiatives is Monday.
“I am confident we will have our day in front of voters this November and we will indeed make Colorado a sanctuary state for quality health care,” Caldara said in a release.
The law Caldara fought and won barred proponents from paying petition workers for each signature they scored, a practice many said encouraged gatherers to commit fraud by, for example, filling in phony names. Caldara argued that the restriction meant only organizations that could shell out higher sums for salaried or paid-by-the-hour petition workers could make use of the so-called citizen initiative process. U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer agreed and issued an injunction against the 2009 law in June.
Brimmer’s ruling gave new life to Caldara’s hobbled signature drive. According to Independence Institute Director of Operations Mike Krause, volunteers gathered roughly 20,000 signatures in the spring and early summer but in the weeks after the injunction, petition workers gathered 110,000, each worker paid by the signature. Although the Secretary of State routinely throws out thousands of signatures as invalid, in submitting more than 50,000 extra, Caldara all but assured his initiative a ballot spot.
The new federal health legislation will begin to go into effect this week. It seeks to guarantee coverage for most of the nation’s uninsured and lower costs by requiring that all Americans buy at least minimal health care insurance. Caldara’s initiative aims to prevent the government from requiring Coloradans to buy insurance, which the government will do by levying tax penalties. The initiative also seeks to protect Coloradans’ right to pay out of pocket for health care services and products.
Should the initiative pass, it will likely be the subject of lawsuits, as it has been already.
In late June, Caldara won a suit challenging the initiative’s title as misleading. In a 5 to 2 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the challenge, holding that the title met the “single subject” requirement for ballot initiatives. Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey dissented, arguing that the phrase “right to health care choice” was a euphemistic political slogan that few could find objectionable on its face.
Florida Circuit Court Judge James Shelfer today threw out a similar though less artful ballot initiative proposed for that state. He called the wording “manifestly misleading.”
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office will announce in the coming weeks the results of its review of the signatures turned in by Caldara today.