Windsor’s Home Rule Charter incorporates State law when it comes to the right of citizen-initiated legislation by petition. The Colorado Constitution states that the manner of exercising these powers “shall be prescribed by general laws.” The general laws specifically applicable to municipal initiative are found in C.R.S. § 31-11-101, et. seq.
The sequence for citizen-initiated measures calls for the Town Clerk to first review the form of the proposed Petition before it is circulated for signatures. Upon Town Clerk approval, the proponents may circulate the Petition for signatures. Once the proponents gather what they consider a sufficient number of valid signatures, the Petition is turned in to the Town Clerk for a review of Petition signature sufficiency.
The Town Clerk is given 30 days to determine the sufficiency of Petition signatures. If the Town Clerk concludes the number of valid signatures is insufficient, the Town Clerk must reject the Petition. If the Town Clerk finds the number of valid signatures is sufficient, the Town Clerk must refer the Petition to the Town Board within 20 days of her determination. The Town Board may (but is not required to) adopt the legislation as presented in the Petition upon presentation by the Town Clerk. If not adopted by the Town Board, the Petition’s content is referred to voters at an election to be held not less than 60 nor more than 150 days after the Town Clerk’s final determination of Petition signature sufficiency.
Another clock starts when the proponents turn in their signed Petitions to the Town Clerk: one or more protests may be filed within 40 days. The grounds for protest may include, but are not limited to, the failure of any portion of the Petition to meet the requirements of Title 31, Article 11. The right to file a protest is reserved to any registered elector who resides in the Town. A protest may include disagreements over the Town Clerk’s determination of Petition signature sufficiency, which is why the protest filing deadline closes 10 days after the 30-day clock for the Town Clerk’s signature sufficiency determination.
A hearing on the protest(s) must take place within 60 days after the Petition is turned in to the Town Clerk. The Town Clerk presides over the hearing, unless the Town Board has appointed someone else to serve in this capacity. A written decision by the hearing officer must be presented to the Petition proponents and the protester(s) within five days after the hearing is concluded. The hearing officer’s determination of Petition sufficiency may be reviewed in either Weld County District Court or Larimer County District Court upon application of the Town, the Petition proponent or the protester(s).
Judicial review of the hearing officer’s determination is based on the record made during the protest hearing. The courts will not retry the facts independently, and will rely on the hearing transcript and documents admitted during the protest hearing. The courts will apply State law to the facts as presented during the protest hearing, and will either affirm the hearing officer’s determination, overturn it, or refer it back to the hearing officer for further development of the facts.