Lawmakers to again consider raising threshold for ballot measures

DENVER — State lawmakers will try once again to place a measure onto the ballot to change the way ballot measures get onto the ballot.

Rep. Lois Court said she’s hopeful this time Colorado voters will agree that something needs to be done to protect the state’s Constitution from contradictory proposals that oftentimes aren’t written well, or have far-reaching unintended consequences.

The Denver Democrat, who is one of a long line of lawmakers regardless of political ilk to attempt such changes, hopes this effort will be more successful than previous attempts.

Unlike those efforts, including Referendum O in 2008 that lost by less than 3 percentage points, Court’s new idea would make only a few changes, and focuses only on proposed constitutional amendments.

Her measure, House Concurrent Resolution 2, would alter petition-gathering laws, requiring an equal amount coming from each of the state’s seven congressional districts and doubling the amount of signatures needed currently to get onto the ballot.

“To me the first thing that is a priority is to the geographic distribution of signatures,” Court said. “Rural Colorado should not be ignored when we’re changing the Constitution. The fact that you can (under current law) change the Constitution by getting all your signatures right here in the Denver metro area is wrong to me.”

Under current law, the only time petition gatherers must get signatures in each congressional district is for candidates seeking statewide offices, such as governor or secretary of state.

The measure, which Court hopes to get onto this fall’s ballot, also would double the number of signatures required. Currently, state law requires petitions to have at least 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last secretary of state’s race.

As of now, that figure stands as 86,104, meaning petitions would need more than 172,000 signatures if the measure were already in place.

“The second priority is more citizen awareness that something is a constitutional change, and that’s the reason for changing the number of signatures,” Court said. “The argument is ... having more people aware that they are agreeing to a change to the Constitution before it gets to the ballot seems to me to be beneficial for the state.”

Previous efforts not only attempted to make it harder to alter the Constitution, but also make it easier to approve ballot measures that enact state statutes.

Court’s measure doesn’t do that, but it does allow for the current petitioning rules to be used to alter constitutional provisions that voters already have approved, such as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and Amendment 23, which called for automatic increases in education spending.

Court, who introduced the measure with Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, has wide support for the measure in the House already, including 15 Republicans. Currently, 48 of the 65 members there are co-sponsoring it, including Reps. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction; Jared Wright, R-Fruita; Millie Hamner, D-Dillon; and Bob Rankin, R-Glenwood Springs.

Additionally, Republican Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa and Democratic Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village are to jointly sponsor it in the Senate if it gets that far.

The proposal is to receive its first hearing in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee today.


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The fact this effort to simultaneously increase the power of legislators and makes life harder for the grassroots peasantry has bipartisan support merely demonstrates the fact that “Good Old Boy” corruption and tyranny is bipartisan.
In case there are folks out there who have not researched what is required to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot or to recall a corrupt politician, it seems to me it might behoove one to do some research to find out just how difficult it actually is before gullibly making it even harder.
Doubling the number of signatures required under the rubric of making more of the required signatures come from rural areas smells fishy.
Why not just require more of the signatures to come from rural areas without increasing the total number of signatures required?
Bottom line, this is a political contest between legislative Takers and grassroots Makers. At issue is the Power of legislators to seize grassroots’ assets at will. My guess is that most grassroots would want to make that process as difficult as possible.
I’m also not thrilled by the arrogant notion that the grassroots citizenry is too stupid to understand whether or not they are agreeing to “change the Constitution.”
If this measure passes, it is safe to predict that attempting to make recalls more difficult will undoubtedly follow. Anything to protect the inherently evil and inevitably corrupting One Ring of “Good Old Boy” power.
As the Founders said, the price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.
I see this as a pure and simple manipulation that will in no way benefit the grassroots citizenry, notwithstanding the support of some local politicains who cast themselves as pro-constitution and pro-grassroots.
Here’s hoping the measure fails.

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