- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said yesterday that he will call a special session of the legislature unless the state Supreme Court reverses its ruling against a ballot measure that would deny most state services to illegal aliens.

“In my opinion, the court’s ruling was inconsistent; it was inappropriate and, yes, I believe it was arrogant,” Mr. Owens said at a press conference yesterday.

The Republican governor’s stinging rebuke came the day after the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the proposed initiative, saying it violated the state’s single-subject rule for ballot measures. Backers of the measure were outraged, pointing out that the court approved the same title and language two years ago, and vowed to file an appeal to the court within the week for a rehearing.

Attorney General John Suthers said he would also file an appeal for a reversal on behalf of the state Title Board, which approved the initiative’s title and language.

“It’s time for Colorado to stop welcoming immigration lawbreakers and time for our courts to stop bending the constitution,” said John Andrews, co-chairman of Defend Colorado Now, the group behind the ballot measure.

The proposed constitutional amendment, modeled after the successful 2004 Arizona initiative, had already become a battle of the titans between some of the state’s heavyweights. Leading the charge in favor was former Gov. Richard Lamm, a Democrat, while former Denver Mayor Federico Pena, also a Democrat, fronted the opposition.

Mr. Pena called the court’s decision “a victory for the people of Colorado” while criticizing the measure as “mean-spirited.”

Defend Colorado Now has gathered 34,000 of the 68,000 signatures required by Aug. 7 to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for the November ballot. With all the filing deadlines passed, it’s too late for the group to modify the language and start over.

If the court appeal fails, the only way for the measure to secure a slot on the ballot would be to win a two-thirds vote from both houses of the legislature. That’s no sure thing, given that Democrats control both chambers.

Mr. Owens said he would give the court a few weeks to act on the appeals before convening the special session. At the same time, he said he would consider opting for legislation, which would require a simple majority.

The Colorado legislature approved several bills this year on immigration, including a measure to toughen penalties for human smuggling.

“We’ve already seen evidence this session that this issue transcends political parties,” said Mr. Andrews, the former Senate majority leader.

Mr. Owens’ forceful stand came as something of a surprise to illegal entry foes, who have criticized him in the past for his moderate stance on the issue.

“I’m extremely impressed that Governor Owens took such a strong position on defending the initiative. It’s the best possible outcome for us,” said Fred Elbel, co-chairman of Defend Colorado Now. “People tend to think he waffles on this issue but, boy, he didn’t waffle today.”

In a 4-2 decision, the court ruled that the measure violated the single-subject rule because it both decreased taxpayer spending on illegal aliens and also denied them government services.

Republican lawmakers, led by House Minority Leader Mike May, called on the governor to call a special session yesterday to rectify the ruling.

“This is Bill Owens at his best,” said Mr. Andrews. “He really drew a line in the sand.”

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