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Rocky Mountain Gun Owners v. Polis.

2021 COA 137. No. 20CA0997.  Colorado Constitution—Reading and Passage of Bills—Reading Clause—Nonjusticiable Political Question—Subject Matter Jurisdiction—Standing.

November 10, 2021

HB 19-1177 was introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives. While the House was considering the bill on second reading, Representatives Saine and Williams requested that the bill be read in full. The chair of the Committee of the Whole denied their request. The General Assembly passed the bill, and the Governor signed it into law.

Plaintiffs Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Representatives Neville (the House minority leader), Saine, and Williams filed suit alleging that the House violated Colo. Const. art. V, § 22 (Reading Clause) by failing to read the full text of HB 19-1177. The district court granted Governor Polis’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and further held that none of the plaintiffs have taxpayer or “individual” standing, but Representatives Saine and Williams have “legislative standing.”

On appeal, plaintiffs argued that the district court erred in finding that their Reading Clause challenge presented a nonjusticiable political question. Colo. Const. art. V, § 22 gives each General Assembly member the right to insist that a bill be read at length twice. Therefore, whether the House properly dispensed with the reading of HB 19-1177 does not present a nonjusticiable political question and the district court erred.

The Governor cross-appealed the ruling that Representatives Saine and Williams have standing. Plaintiffs contended that all four have taxpayer standing. The expenditure of taxpayer funds is too attenuated from the injury at issue to confer taxpayer standing on any of the plaintiffs. However, Representatives Saine and Williams had a legally protected interest in having the bill read in full at their request, and they suffered an injury when their requests were denied. Therefore, the district court didn’t err by concluding that Representatives Saine and Williams have standing.

The judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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