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Judge sets Amd. 66 showdown for today

By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

DENVER – Supporters and opponents of an income tax increase for schools are headed for a showdown in a Denver courtroom today that could determine whether voters get to decide the matter in the November election.

A group of Amendment 66 opponents filed suit Oct. 3, claiming that petition gatherers did not follow state law when they collected signatures to put the income tax increase on the ballot.

The plaintiffs asked Denver District Judge R. Michael Mullin for a temporary restraining order to block the election.

But earlier this week, the plaintiffs withdrew their motion and instead asked for a delay in today’s hearing until Oct. 29 or Nov. 1 – just days before the election.

The plaintiffs wanted a delay to interview witnesses for the case.

Mullin took action to speed up the case. He refused to delay the hearing, but he did allow them to withdraw the request for a restraining order.

The hearing is necessary to determine the merits of the plaintiffs’ case, Mullin said in a brief written order.

Separately Thursday, the opposition campaign, Coloradans for Real Education Reform, held a news conference to introduce opponents of the measure.

“The coalition rising to defeat Amendment 66 is large, diverse and snowballing,” said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, which is funding the opposition campaign.

However, the campaign’s website lists just nine groups – and 43 Republican legislators – as endorsers of the campaign. The groups include the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The state’s biggest business groups remain neutral on the initiative.

It was the second news conference this week that attempted to claim the backing of the business community for one side or the other.

The pro-66 campaign held a business-focused news conference Tuesday.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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