A bipartisan attempt at amendments fix

The Colorado Legislature is at it again. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing legislation that makes it more difficult to amend the state Constitution.

We sincerely hope they are successful.

The most recent effort to persuade Coloradans to change the rules for amending the Constitution was rejected by voters in 2008. But since then, voters in the state have experienced one more election cycle with seemingly endless citizens’ initiatives to change the Constitution in ways that a majority of voters don’t want.

Last November, two budget-cutting measures, Amendments 60 and 61, were overwhelmingly rejected by the state’s voters. And the group that pushed them faces possible fines for attempting to hide its involvement and spending on the initiatives.

A third, related measure, Proposition 101, would have changed state law, rather than the Constitution.

Another measure, Amendment 62, would have defined the term “personhood” to begin at the moment of conception. It was a reprise of a very similar 2008 initiative, both of which aimed to ban abortion in Colorado. And both were shot down by large margins.

Then there was Amendment 63 on Colorado’s 2010 ballot, which sought to prohibit Colorado from participating in the national health care law, even though it was largely symbolic.

The proposal being considered in the Colorado Senate this week wouldn’t necessarily have kept the above items off the ballot. But Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 sets two important requirements in that regard.

First, it would mandate that a proportional number of signatures to get a constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot must be gathered from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts.

Currently, there is no geographical requirement, so groups gathering signatures can simply focus on the most highly populated parts of the state, or those areas where they believe there is the most support for the idea behind their amendment.

Secondly, and equally important, the resolution would require 60 percent of voters in any statewide election to pass a constitutional amendment, rather than the simple majority that’s now required.

Groups and individuals pushing ideas they know have little chance of passing are more likely to think twice about trying to get constitutional amendments on the ballot if they realize they will have to gather signatures all over the state and then will have to convince 60 percent of voters to cast their ballots for their amendments.

With regard to citizens’ initiatives that only change state law, rather than the Constitution, the measure before the Senate would provide more protections to citizens’ wishes. To change such a statutory initiative within the first three years after its passage, legislators would have to have the votes of two-thirds of the members in each chamber.

That makes sense, because citizens should be able to change state laws and not have the Legislature simply overturn what the voters have done.

But changing the Constitution should be far more difficult. It should be done only to effect broad changes in the state’s guiding document, not to micromanage state budgets or to redefine legal terms.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 must be approved by two-thirds of the members of both houses, then sent to voters for their approval. It is important for Colorado that it be adopted.


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