The 2008 Colorado Ballot

From: Ken Gordon

Title: Ballot Measures for Dummies

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

I know you're not actually dummies. That's why I'm sending this to you. This e-mail contains a brief discussion of the statewide ballot measures. I try to give enough information so that you can decide how to vote for yourself, although I will tell you where I stand so you can take my recommendation if you'd like. My recommendation is at the beginning of each section, right after the Amendment or Referenda number. Where possible, my recommendation is a link to a website with more information about each measure.

Don't skip the ballot measures and just vote for candidates. These ballot measures affect the schools your children attend, the roads you drive on, the air you breathe, the water you drink, your civil rights, and the welfare of Colorado's disabled citizens. When ordinary citizens don't participate, they create a vacuum that is filled by special interests who try to make a profit at your expense or advance an ideological interest that does not reflect your values.

On the inside cover of your Blue Book, there is a page that you can use to note your votes.  You can take this with you to the polls. I urge all of you to vote early, or by mail. The ballot is long, and the turnout is expected to be huge. By voting early, or by mail, you take some of the pressure off of Election Day, and you may save yourself from having to wait in a long line.

Initiatives and referenda are two of the tools of direct democracy put into the Colorado Constitution during the Progressive Era at the turn of the last century. The people of Colorado felt, with reason, that their legislature at that time was controlled by the railroads and eastern trusts, and they wanted a way to create laws on their own. They did not want to have to rely on what they felt was a corrupt legislature.  

This ballot contains fourteen initiatives, numbered 46 through 59, and four referenda, L through O. Referenda are referred by the legislature. That is how you can remember, referenda are referred. Initiatives arrive on the ballot without any legislative action, by petition. You have seen people collecting signatures at supermarkets. That is for initiatives.

Amendment 46: No This is a proposed Constitutional Amendment which will prevent Colorado government from using affirmative action programs. Its intent is to prevent universities or other government programs from considering race or gender when granting admission, a contract, or other benefit. Conservatives generally support this amendment, and those on the left side of the spectrum will generally vote "No." Since affirmative action programs in Colorado are narrowly tailored to correct the effects of past discrimination I will be voting no.

Amendment 47: No  This is a proposed Constitutional Amendment that will prevent unions from bargaining for something called a "union shop." This proposal is called "Right to Work," and if it passes, it will make it very difficult to organize a union because every employee will get the benefit of the unions' collective barganing whether or not they support the union. There is no incentive to pay union dues. "Right to Work" has been proposed numerous times in the legislature and has never passed. Employees tend to earn less money and have fewer benefits in "Right to Work" states. The unions call it the "Right to Work for Less."

On October 2nd labor and the mainstream business community announced an agreement that labor would withdraw Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57, and most of the business community has agreed to oppose 47, 49 and 54. I feel that labor and the mainstream business community acted as adults, ending a game of "chicken" that would have been bad for Colorado, so I am supportive of the agreement. The Governor and the mainstream business community asked the proponents of 47 to withdraw it when labor withdrew the amendments that the business community opposed. They refused. I believe they were excessively ideological and rigid, not caring sufficiently about the welfare of Colorado. Most of the business community does not feel that the balance between labor and business in Colorado is problematic, and they did not feel that 47 was necessary.

Amendment 48: No  This is the proposed "Personhood" Constitutional Amendment. It says that as soon as an egg is fertilized by a sperm it becomes a "Person." The intent of the proponents is to create a test case in Colorado to challenge the US Supreme Court case "Roe v. Wade," which allows a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy. The proponents want this to be considered murder. I think the proponents have gone too far for their own good because under the provisions of this amendment, there could be no allowance for a pregnancy caused by rape or incest. Additionally, many kinds of birth control prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall, so this birth control would also cause the death of a "person." What is a woman who has an ectopic pregnancy supposed to do, and what is the doctor supposed to do with excess fertilized eggs after an in vitro procedure has been successful? The Amendment is extreme and will not make for a sympathetic case to take to the Supreme Court. If you take the position that a woman should never have the right to terminate her pregnancy, no matter what the reason, you should vote for this.

Amendment 49: No  This Amendment is part of the package that the business and labor community agreed to oppose on October 2nd. The Amendment would prohibit public employee paycheck deductions for any purpose other than those listed in law. The purpose is to prevent union members from choosing to have their union dues automatically taken as deductions. This measure has consistently failed in the legislature.  

Amendment 50: No recommendation This measure allows gaming communities to vote to raise their hours, stakes, and to add additional games. Increased tax revenue will go to community colleges. I'm torn. Community colleges certainly need the money, but I generally don't like to fund state services through gambling. I'm leaving you on your own on this one.

Amendment 51: Yes  Colorado does a very poor job of funding services for people with disabilities (46th among the states). This statutory amendment raises state sales tax from 2.9% to 3.1% in order to provide these services. That is two cents on a ten dollar purchase. In terms of reducing human suffering, this is the best value you can get for your money, and it makes sense as an investment as well. Additional services provided at an early age to people with conditions like cerebral palsy, autism and Down's syndrome will significantly reduce the number of tax dollars that will be needed for long term care. These services can vastly improve the lives of our disabled population. Anyone with a heart should vote "yes" on this measure. The Rocky Mountain News editorialized in favor of this measure.

Amendment 52: No  This amendment will take some of the current stream of severance taxes (taxes paid for the privilege of severing-or extracting-minerals, oil, and gas from the earth and selling them for private gain) and divert them to highway construction. Some of the losers, if this passes, are water projects, wildlife conservation, and low income energy assistance.  We do need more money for highway construction, but this does not provide enough and takes away from other worthwhile projects.  

Amendment 53: This measure has been withdrawn.  It will appear on your ballot, but the votes will not be counted.

Amendment 54: No  This measure will prevent labor unions and other contractors from making campaign contributions to political candidates under certain circumstances. I actually feel that money in politics does have a distorting effect and is one of the reasons that our governmental institutions tend to arrive at results that too often favor wealthy special interests. This Amendment, though, seems to take a disproportionate shot at labor unions and has very little effect on businesses. If we are going to try to reduce the influence of money, it should be done across the board and not be an attempt by one group to reduce the contributions of another while maintaining their own.

Amendment 55, 56 and 57: These measures have been withdrawn.  They will appear on your ballot, but the votes will not be counted.

Amendment 58: Yes  Currently Colorado has one of the lowest tax rates on the production of minerals and oil and gas of any of the eight large producing western states. Wyoming, for instance, has a tax rate twice that of Colorado and uses the money from this tax to send all of its graduating high school seniors with good grades to college. If Amendment 58 passes, it will raise about $300,000,000 for need-based college scholarships, development of renewable energy resources, wildlife habitat, transportation, and clean water projects. You need to know that the oil industry is spending millions of dollars on misleading advertising opposing this measure. The Amendment does not raise any tax that any ordinary Colorado citizen has to pay. The only contributors to the "No" campaign are oil and gas companies, and they are writing million-dollar checks. It is only fair that Colorado's citizens receive some of the benefit of this natural resource. Before too long it will be gone. It is appropriate for us to put some of the current proceeds into human capital by educating our young people, and to also support the next generation of energy. Governor Ritter is one of the proponents of this measure, and he has been taking quite a few shots for his position. We should support him and this measure because it is in all of our interests... unless you own a big oil and gas company (the small ones are exempted.).

Amendment 59: Yes  This ballot measure is referred to as SAFE (Savings Account for Education).  If SAFE passes it will put the money from future TABOR rebates into the State Education Fund. Colorado does a poor job funding education, and SAFE will help with this funding in future years.  TABOR rebates only occur when the economy is in boom times, and the state collects more taxes than it spends, so there are no rebates expected in the next few years. However, in my view, the passage of SAFE is very important to Colorado's future. TABOR preserves the right of voters to vote on tax increases. If you believe that skimping on education is not a good strategy as we try to compete in a global market, then you will vote "Yes" on Amendment 59, SAFE.

Referendum L: Yes  This measure reduces the age requirement for serving in the state legislature from 25 to 21. Many states do this, and the only people of this age who will end up serving are people who can convince a majority, first of their party that they deserve the nomination, and then of the general electorate that they are the best candidate. It might inspire young people to pay more attention to politics.  

Referenda M and N: Yes  These measures remove obsolete portions of the State Constitution. They are not controversial.

Referendum O: Yes  This measure will decrease the number of signatures needed to put a statutory initiative on the ballot and increase the number of signatures needed to put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot. It also increases the number of votes necessary to change a statutory initiative by subsequent legislative action. The idea is to channel more of the initiatives into statutes rather than the Constitution. Since a Constitution is supposed to be a document that expresses big, general principles rather than detail, I think this is a step in the right direction.

As always do not hesitate to write back with comments or questions.  Please forward this email to your list and feel free to republish it in whole or in part in any format.  If you know people who you think would like to receive these emails, send us their email addresses and we will add them to our list.

The above is a full reprint of an email blast Ken Gordon sent out.