Voters might get second chance to toughen ballot measure rules

QUICKREAD

Ballot-bound?

The Colorado Legislature is considering placing three measures on the November ballot. They would:

• Make it harder to alter the Colorado Constitution.

• Create a special commission that would place on the 2012 ballot a measure to alter constitutional amendments that govern how the state taxes and spends.

Use lottery funds to pay for scholarships for colleges and universities.



Colorado voters may get another chance this fall to decide whether they want to make it more difficult to amend the state’s Constitution.

A Senate panel Wednesday approved a measure to place a watered-down version of 2008’s Referendum O on this year’s ballot.

Among other things, that referendum would have increased petition-signing requirements to get measures on the ballot that amend the constitution, but it would lower those requirements for statutory changes. It also would have required citizens’ initiatives to get signatures from each of the state’s seven congressional districts.

Under Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, signatures still would be needed from each congressional district, and it would take at least 60 percent of Colorado voters to approve changes to the Constitution.

Unlike the referendum, SCR3 leaves alone current rules for getting citizens’ initiatives on the ballot that call for statutory changes.

Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, who pushed Referendum O through the 2008 Legislature and has returned with this idea, said something needs to be done to curtail the number of changes Colorado makes to its Constitution.

Colorado voters rejected the referendum by a 53-47 percent margin, but Tapia and his supporters said they are hoping a lighter version of it will fare better.

Tapia needs a two-thirds vote in the Senate and House to get the measure onto the ballot.

“The Constitution stands as a foundational document with guiding principles,” said Michael Valdez, legislative liaison for the Colorado Bar Association. “As such, we think a higher standard of 60 percent support to pass a constitutional measure is appropriate. We supported Referendum O in ‘08, and we think this resolution is in line with that.”

Opponents, however, said voters already decided this question, and it was a slap in their face to try again.

Jessica Peck Corry, an attorney and program director for the Golden-based free-market think tank Independence Institute, said the 2008 election had one of the longest ballots in the state’s history.

Even though voters had to pore over 14 measures that year, some failed and some didn’t because they were able to discern which ones they liked, she said.

“If we don’t want to have a ballot-initiative process, fine. Let’s have that conversation,” Corry said. “What we have here, however, in its wording and in its impact and in its intent is a hypocritical measure.”


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