- Associated Press - Thursday, March 2, 2017

DENVER (AP) - The Colorado Court of Appeals has sent back to district court a lawsuit challenging fees collected by the secretary of state’s office to fund elections.

The National Federation of Independent Business claims that the business-filing fees are taxes because they pay for non-business-related functions and must be voter-approved under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

A Denver district court dismissed a federation lawsuit in 2015. It ruled, in part, that the fees are constitutional because they were in effect before TABOR was adopted. TABOR requires voter approval of tax hikes.

The appeals court on Thursday asked Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office to determine whether there have been any fee hikes since 1992 that possibly could be subject to TABOR.

The state says it collects nearly $22.5 million in filing fees each year. Williams said Thursday that it will take time to search for any increases over the past 25 years and that there have been none since he took office in 2015.

“Our business renewal fees are some of the lowest, and often the lowest, in the country,” Williams said.

Licensing fees make up most of the secretary of state’s budget. The office gets no general fund money.

“We think the law is clear, and the secretary of state’s office violated it,” Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, said in a statement.

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