A glance at the statewide initiatives

• Referendum E: Extension of property tax exemption for vets

Translation: Extends the senior property tax break to disabled veterans

Pros: 1) More needs to be done to help veterans who have sacrificed their health for our nation. Many states offer a property tax reduction for disabled veteran homeowners, and six states do not require them to pay any property tax. 2) With the money saved, veterans can improve their quality of life since they have limited opportunities to work.

Cons: 1) A special interest tax break 2) Does not help disabled vets who do not own homes. 3) Financial needs of vets is a responsibility of the federal government.

• Ref. F: Removing recall timelines

Translation: Modifies recall-election laws

Pros: 1) Addresses changes in population, voting procedures and technology. The current deadlines were added to Colorado’s constitution in 1913.

Cons: 1) Gives too much power to legislators and the governor by allowing them to amend deadlines that regulate their own offices. 2) Unnecessary because no statewide elected official has ever been the subject of a recall election. 3) Citizens should be able to remove unsatisfactory officials as quickly as possible. Additional time may provide an elected official more time to organize opposition

• Referendum G: Elimination of obsolete constitutional provisions

Translation: Repeals obsolete constitutional provisions.

Pros: 1) Continues to update the Constitution by deleting outdated, nonessential language.

Cons: 1) Removing provisions may diminish Constitution’s historical character and make research difficult.

• Referendum H: Unauthorized alien labor tax deduction

Translation: Eliminates state business tax deductions for employers who can’t verify employees are U.S. citizens.

Pros: 1) Addresses illegal immigration by targeting employment. 2) Reduces financial advantage of paying lower wages to unauthorized aliens. 3) Opens more jobs to Colorado workers.

Cons: 1) Will have little or no impact on immigration because it only increases taxes if a business voluntarily discloses that it employs unauthorized aliens. 2) Creates little incentive to stop hiring unauthorized aliens because businesses can still get a federal tax break. 3) Illegal immigra

tion is a national issue and the responsibility of the federal government.

• Ref. I: Domestic partnership

Translation: Provides same-sex couples the opportunity to attain the legal protections and responsibilities granted to married couples by Colorado law. It specifies that a domestic partnership is not similar to a marriage.

Pros: 1) Committed same-sex couples deserve access to the legal protections, responsibilities and benefits afforded married couples. 2) Makes no change to the legal status of marriage. 3) Establishes legal standards of responsibility and a framework for resolving disputes for same-sex couples.

Cons: 1) Diminishes the significance of marriage by reducing it to a list of benefits and responsibilities. 2) The benefits given to married couples are intended to support child rearing by one man and one woman. 3) Extend benefits that are not extended to other unmarried couples.

• Ref. J: Public schools expenditure accountability act

Translation: Requires school to spend part of budgets on certain operations

Pros: 1) Establishes a standard for spending that can be changed by the state legislature as services change. 2) Preserves the flexibility of school boards to respond to the needs and desires of the community.

Cons: 1) Creates new data and budget reporting requirements without necessarily improving student achievement. 2) Fails to account for the differences among the 178 districts.

• Referendum K: Attorney General initiate immigration lawsuit

Translation: Directs state attorney general to sue the federal government to enforces federal immigration laws.

Pros: 1) Independent research estimates that last year Colorado spent $225 million on K-12 education, emergency medical care, incarceration and child welfare of illegal immigrants.

Cons: 1) Waste of tax dollars and the attorney general’s time. 2) Other states’ attempts to do likewise have failed.

• Amendment 38: Petitions

Translation: Makes it easier for citizens to propose initiatives at all levels of state and local government.

Pros: 1) Makes elected officials more responsive to constituents. 2) Gives citizens an expanded voice in government. 3) Streamlines and establishes petition procedures. 4) Supports existing right to reject new laws passed by elected officials.

Cons: 1) Weakens representative government. 2) May enact laws that cannot be changed without another vote. 2) Invites abuse of the petition process. 3) May result in voters having to decide on increasing number of complex issues. 4) Limits governments’ ability to respond to new circumstances, economics or emergencies.

• Amendment 39: School district expenditures for education

Translation: Similar to Ref. J, it puts requirements on school district spending

Pros: 1) Increases funding for classroom instruction without increasing taxes. 2) Establishes a standard for school district spending.

Cons: 1) Fails to account for differences among the state’s 178 school districts. 2) Districts not meeting the requirement may have to divert money from support functions and positions.

• Amdt. 40: Judge Term limits

Translation: Limits terms of Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges

Pros: 1) Creates more turnover, new perspectives and more opportunity for other judges. 2) Current options to remove a judge from office are inadequate. 3) Will make judges more accountable.

Cons: 1) Will force 12 judges from office in January 2009, some before serving the full term. 2) Judges are accountable through evaluations, elections and state oversight. 3) Removes judges regardless of their skills or experience.

• Amdt. 41: Ethics in government

Translation: Among other things, bans public employees from accepting meals, sporting tickets and other freebies worth $50 or more

Pros: 1) Strengthens public confidence by reducing conflicts of interest that arise when public officials accept gifts. 2) Requires lawmakers to wait two years before they can lobby. 3) Creates an ethics commission

Cons: 1) Current law prohibits elected officials from receiving money in connection with their public service, and gifts worth more than $50 must be disclosed. 2) State would have to pick up tab for elected officials to attend seminars, etc. 3) Ethics commission may not be able to objectively judge government officials.

• Amdt. 42: Minimum wage

Translation: Raises the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.85 per hour for most workers, and makes annual adjustments for inflation

Pros: 1) More full-time workers will earn an income above the poverty level. Currently, a full-time worker earning $5.15 per hour makes about $10,700 a year – poverty level is $9,800. 2) A minimum wage increase is overdue. 3) Could increase worker morale and productivity and reduce turnover and absenteeism.

Cons: 1) May require businesses to raise prices, hire fewer workers, and offer fewer benefits. 2) Adjusting the minimum wage each year for inflation could contribute to lead higher prices. 3) Workers will be paid higher wages regardless of qualifications or performance

• Amendment 43: Marriage

Translation: Defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman

Pros: 1) Marriage as an institution has historically consisted of one man and one woman and, as such, provides the optimal environment for creating, nurturing, and protecting children. 2) A constitutional amendment is necessary to avoid court rulings that expand marriage beyond one man and one woman.

Cons: 1) Language limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples does not belong in Colorado’s Bill of Rights. 2) May be unconstitutional. 3) There is already a statutory ban on any marriage that does not consist of one man and one woman.

• Amdt. 44: Marijuana Possession

Translation: Legalizes possession of 1 ounce of marijuana by adults over 21

Pros: 1) Strikes a balance between individual choice and public safety. 2) Using marijuana is often safer than consuming alcohol. 3) Could free overburdened criminal justice systems from expending resources on petty offenders.

Cons: 1) Marijuana use may lead to use of other illegal drugs. 2) The only safe alternative to alcohol or drug intoxication is sobriety. 3) Colorado should enforce, not repeal, drug laws. Drug enforcement costs are minimal compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction. •

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows