Colorado Ballot 2008

There is a long list of statewide ballot initiatives facing Colorado voters in 2008. Here are my thoughts and insights on each of the measures. Here’s who I am if you want to know where I’m coming from.

Two of my primary sources for information on the ballot measures are the official Colorado blue book produced by the state legislative staff and Ballotpedia. Another reference that will lead you to the web pages of supporters’ and opponents’ campaigns – wherever available – is the Independence Institute’s Issues 08 page.

Here are links to ballot guides from others whose opinions and insights I respect, though we don’t completely agree (I will keep updating this list as I see more guides posted):

Interestingly, the issues that show the greatest consensus from the above group and myself are as follows: Amendment 46 (YES), Amendment 47 (YES), Amendment 49 (YES), Amendment 51 (NO), Amendment 54 (YES), Amendment 58 (NO), Amendment 59 (NO), Referendum M (YES), and Referendum N (YES). These are the “no-brainers.”

One more note: The four initiatives denoted with an asterisk (*) have been the subject of rumors of backroom deals in which proponents may remove them from the ballot (the final deadline to remove measures from the ballot is Friday, October 2). The labor leaders behind Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 are using them to extort money to oppose Amendments 47, 49, and 54. The group opposing Amendments 47, 49, and 54 has proven to be deceptive repeated times. (Just in case you need more reasons to oppose 53, 55, 56, and 57, and to support 47, 49, and 54.) Updated: As of late September 30, it looks like this deal very well may fall through.

As of October 2, union leaders have successfully extorted $3 million from business leaders to fight Amendments 47, 49, and 54, in exchange for removing their four economy-crushing measures from the ballot. Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 have been crossed out below. These measures still will appear on the mail-in ballots, but votes will not be tallied for or against them. So you don’t need to waste your time on them.

Without further ado, here are my recommendations and accompanying explanations for each of the proposals on Colorado’s 2008 ballot:

  • Amendment 46, Colorado Civil Rights Initiative: YES. This constitutional amendment should effectively put an end to state-sponsored discrimination. For example, public university scholarships should give preference based on economic hardship and need, not on skin color. The Left-wing opposition has resorted to scare tactics and (unsuccessful) litigation in a desperate attempt to stop this deservedly popular measure.
  • Amendment 47, Right-to-Work: YES. No person should be compelled to subsidize a private organization in order to keep his job. This constitutional amendment would outlaw the practice, making Colorado the 23rd right-to-work state. Fallacious arguments against Right-to-Work are refuted here and here.
  • Amendment 48, Personhood: YES. This constitutional amendment sets a higher standard for pre-born life, and could be a monumental victory. Scare tactics from abortion rights absolutists are mostly bogus. Even so, as a strongly pro-life person, this issue was a close call for me. Some pro-life conservatives whom I respect greatly (including former Congressman Bob Schaffer) have taken a contrary position. While this very likely will fail at the ballot, and there are better & more effective approaches to advancing the pro-life agenda, I am glad to give it an affirmative vote.
  • Amendment 49, Ethical Standards: YES. This constitutional amendment would stop governments from collecting and bundling money (currently, tens of millions of dollars per year) to special interest groups through payroll deductions. It’s a needed, commonsense measure that would create a level playing field for political interests and focus governments on performing essential taxpayer services. Excellent op-eds in favor of Amendment 49 by former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown in the Denver Post and by former Gov. Bill Owens in the Rocky Mountain News.
  • Amendment 50, Limited Gaming: NO. This constitutional amendment would allow casinos to extend operating hours and raise bet limits from $5 to $100, designating proceeds to fund community colleges. The legislature should be the one to address this issue in a more reasonable fashion, rather than making such a drastic change at the behest of a narrow casino-owning interest and tying the revenue down in the state constitution.
  • Amendment 51, Sales Tax for Developmentally Disabled: NO. This citizen-initiated statute would raise the state sales tax by two-tenths of one percent to fund programs for the developmentally disabled. While it sounds admirable, the legislature should have the responsibility of setting funding priorities, and the economy and consumers should not be unduly burdened.
  • Amendment 52, Severance Tax and Transportation: NO. This constitutional amendment would redirect revenue collected from Colorado’s severance taxes on energy producers into public highway construction and maintenance, with priority on the I-70 mountain corridor. While this is a good idea, the legislature should resolve the matter and not put the issue in the constitution.
  • * Amendment 53, Criminal Liability of Executives: NO. This destructive constitutional amendment would overcriminalize business executives, prove a boon to trial lawyers, and drive business talent from Colorado.
  • Amendment 54, Government Contracting Reform: YES. This constitutional amendment would end the corrupt practice of issuing lucrative no-bid government contracts in exchange for political contributions to candidates and issues that work against taxpayer interests. Also known as the “Clean Government Initiative,” it would also make the sole-source contracting process more transparent and accountable to average citizens.
  • * Amendment 55, Just Cause: NO. This destructive constitutional amendment would create a high burden for dismissing employees in private companies, allowing only acceptable reasons that would enrich trial lawyers and make the cost of business unbearably high.
  • * Amendment 56, Health Insurance: NO. This destructive constitutional amendment would require businesses with 20 or more employees to provide health insurance to all employees. Many businesses would be crushed by the cost of hiring a 20th employee and would have every incentive to convert full-time employees into contract employees. Businesses would flee Colorado, helping to bust the economy.
  • * Amendment 57, Safe Workplace: NO. This destructive statute would allow employees on workplace compensation to sue for additional damages. Another boon for trial lawyers that would raise the cost of doing business, harming business owners and consumers alike.
  • Amendment 58, Severance Tax: NO. Governor Bill Ritter’s statutory proposal to increase the severance tax on energy producers to the tune of $321 million, effectively an energy tax on consumers. It would be hard enough to make the case for this measure in good economic times, but it’s a horrible idea under present circumstances. Only vote yes if you want to pay more at the pump and on your home heating costs.
  • Amendment 59, Savings Account for Education: NO. This proposed constitutional amendment would end the hope of taxpayers receiving any future TABOR refunds, and allow government to grow beyond remaining limits. It would set aside money into a savings fund that would be required to be spent on K-12 education. Democrat State Treasurer Cary Kennedy – one of the major proponents – admitted this initiative is designed to “drive a stake in the heart” of TABOR.
  • Referendum L, Candidate Requirements: YES. This legislatively-referred constitutional amendment would lower the age of eligibility for state legislative candidates from 25 to 21. It would put Colorado in line with more states. The overwhelming number of 21- or 22-year-olds are not ready to serve (though many couldn’t be much less qualified than some of the current lot), but rare talent should not be denied for those who are also eligible to vote and purchase alcohol.
  • Referendum M, Obsolete Constitutional Provisions: YES. There is no problem with eliminating certain constitutional provisions about land value increases.
  • Referendum N, Obsolete Constitutional Provisions: YES. When this is your only argument against – “Referendum N repeals provisions of the constitution that have historical significance and reflect an interesting period in Colorado’s history. Removing them may diminish the historical character of the constitution and make research of repealed constitutional provisions and state laws more difficult.” – let’s just say it’s a no-brainer.
  • Referendum O, Initiative Process: NO. This legislatively-referred constitutional amendment would make it harder for citizens to change the constitution. It would limit our check on government, making it even more a province of the wealthy alone. It also would give voters in one very liberal or very conservative Congressional district the power to veto a proposal from even reaching the ballot for voters to decide.