Mike Rosen Column October 05, 2008

Colorado’s ballot-issue rundown

Coloradans are overloaded with 18 individual state ballot questions this year, more than at any time since 1912. Simplistic, misleading and inflammatory radio and TV ads — on all sides — generate more heat than light. While I’ve discussed many of these at length on my radio show, there’s only room here for a brief summary and my recommendations.

Referendum L: No — Lowers the age to serve in the state legislature from 25 to 21. Why not 18, then? Worldly wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age but it definitely doesn’t come with youth.

Referendums M and N: Yes — Eliminates obsolete language in the state constitution about land values and liquor. Just housekeeping.

Referendum O: Yes — Makes it harder to place constitutional amendments and easier to place state statutes on the ballot. The constitution is getting thicker than a phone book.

Amendment 46: Yes — Prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the public sector. A person should be judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin or by her gender.

Amendment 47: Yes — Right to work. Protects employees from forced union membership or dues. Would help defend against national labor union efforts to eliminate secret ballot elections. Similar laws work successfully in 22 other states.

Amendment 48: No — Declares a fertilized egg a person. Life and personhood aren’t synonymous. This is unreasonable, inflexible anti-abortion extremism.

Amendment 49: Yes — Ask First. Limits payroll deductions for public employees. Government shouldn’t be dues collectors for labor unions and special interests.

Amendment 50: Yes — Allows legislators or local voters to increase the betting limit and add games in Colorado casinos. Long overdue. Five bucks ain’t what it used to be. You might as well play for matchsticks.

Amendment 51: No — Increases sales tax for services for the developmentally disabled. Sales taxes are piling up; have to draw the line somewhere.

Amendment 52: Yes — Redirects current minerals severance tax to fund transportation projects, specifically, to relieve Interstate 70 traffic congestion. The project is necessary; this is as good a place as any to fund it.

Amendment 54: Yes — Bans “Pay to Play.” Prohibits recipients of no-bid government contracts from contributing to the politicians who awarded them for the following two years.

Amendment 58: No — Minerals severance tax hike to fund scholarships and enviro projects. This would eliminate the existing state tax credit that oil and gas developers get for severance taxes they already pay to counties. It’s double taxation that would discourage production while passing the tax on to consumers.

Amendment 59: No — Titled SAFE (Savings Account for Education), this is unsafe for taxpayers. Would permanently eliminate TABOR refunds to taxpayers. While, in principle, I favor some kind of compromise modifying TABOR, this one isn’t it. It panders to the teachers’ unions by earmarking future budget surpluses exclusively to a K-12 education slush fund at the expense of other public needs.

I’ve saved the worst for last.

Amendments 53, 55, 56, 57 — Death to Business and Your Job (my title, not theirs). These amendments would have imposed absurd mandates on businesses in the areas of health insurance, employee relations, working conditions and criminal liability.

It was a witch’s brew, hastily thrown together by labor unions to combat the Right to Work initiative. Union bosses then used this doomsday device to extort Colorado Concern, a coalition of prominent business leaders. The unions dropped their amendments Thursday after business agreed to eat its own and cough up $3 million to labor’s campaign war chest against Right to Work and other ballot issues it opposes.

Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 might still appear on your ballot, but votes cast for or against them won’t count — this time. Having cowed business leaders once, don’t be surprised if the blackmailers return.

Mike Rosen writes a weekly column for the Rocky Mountain News. His radio show airs weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on 850 KOA.


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