Move would limit changes through ballot

DENVER — A measure to make it harder to alter the state’s Constitution won preliminary approval Friday in the Colorado Senate.

The measure would place on the 2012 ballot a referendum that would require future amendments to the Constitution to receive 60 percent of the vote to become law. Currently, measures need a simple majority.

It would require petitioners to obtain signatures from each of the state’s seven congressional districts, rather than from anywhere in the state.

“There are a number of reasons to support this measure, but I will only speak to one: the economic climate in our state,” said Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont. “Business interests say they want predictability in our laws. We’ve seen in recent elections initiatives that have gotten on the ballot that would have upset that predictability. So, to support jobs and the economy, this is something we need to do.”

Shaffer and other supporters also said many in the state are tired of combating ballot questions that only a minority of voters support, but opponents end up spending millions to defeat, such as the three draconian tax- and debt-limiting measures that voters overwhelmingly rejected last fall.

The measure, which passed the Senate on a 27-8 preliminary vote, has 59 of the 100 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the Legislature signed on as co-sponsors.

Other supporters said the Constitution has been changed about 150 times since Colorado became a state in 1876, and many of those new provisions conflict with other parts of the state’s founding document.

Opponents of the idea, however, said the state’s founders meant to make it relatively easy to alter the Constitution, and the Legislature has no business trying to restrict access to the people’s right to amend it.

“Predictability and stability are messed with in this (Capitol) building, frankly, more on a daily basis,” said Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. “Just ask the business community about what’s come out of (the Legislature) in the last couple of years. They’re more afraid of the 120 days that we’re here than for the 100 years that the Constitution’s been in place.”

The measure still requires a final vote in the Senate before it can head to the House. If the measure wins approval there, it would be placed on next year’s ballot.


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