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Ballot advice: yes on letters, no on numbers

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By Greg Romberg

Colorado voters will find nine statewide ballot proposals on their ballots this year. How they are identified will tell you how they got there and what document they propose changing. Those identifiers should also help you decide how to vote.
The three proposals that are identified by letters are constitutional amendments that have been referred to you by the legislature. The four amendments that are identified by numbers are proposed constitutional amendments that have been brought to the ballot through the initiative process, and the two propositions that are identified by numbers are proposed state laws that made their way onto the ballot through citizen initiatives.
Over the last few election cycles, I’ve come to the conclusion that short of a compelling reason, I vote for things that are identified by letters and against things that are identified by numbers.
For the legislature to place a proposed constitutional amendment onto the ballot, two-thirds of each body of the legislature must approve its referral to the voters. These resolutions go through the normal rigorous legislative process of a public hearing, with testimony from the public, questions of the legislative sponsor by his or her colleagues, floor debate in both the House and Senate and formal recorded votes. These proposals can be amended at any point in the process to address problems and improve the final product. While the legislature clearly has the capacity to make mistakes, this tried-and-true process and the requirement that two-thirds of both the House and the Senate support a proposal before it makes its way to the ballot create a presumption that proposals are well thought out, thoroughly considered and deemed necessary by both Republicans and Democrats before they are referred to voters.
Contrast that to the initiative process. A private entity proposes a change. It gets petitions signed, usually circulated by paid staffers who may or may not have any interest in the proposal. People who sign the petitions often have little or no real knowledge of what they are signing, just the representation of someone who benefits financially just by getting people to sign. The language is not subject to the same kind of public process and the vetting and amendment process that fix glitches when a proposal is subjected to the legislative process. Even if the general idea expressed in the proposal is appealing, we have a plethora of examples where problems in how the proposals were written because of deficiencies in how they were developed make implementation expensive or impossible.
Based on the way these things get to the ballot, I start my analysis by saying, “Yes on the letters, no on the numbers,” and then analyze the proposals to see if I should make any exceptions to the rule. This year, I will stick to yes on letters, no on numbers.
Amendments P, Q and R are streamlining and updating proposals that centralize regulatory functions related to gambling and games of chance; establish an alternative seat of state government in case of a disaster; and streamline certain property tax issues. They all deserve our support.
Conversely, as I mentioned in a previous column, Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 are ill-advised proposals that would make it impossible for governments to function in Colorado. Amendment 62 would state when life begins as part of our Constitution. Amendment 63 would say constitutionally that Colorado citizens are not subject to federal health care laws. Whether you agree with Obamacare or not, this issue will not be solved in this manner. Proposition 102 would preclude certain people arrested for crimes from using pretrial services programs. It is something that shouldn’t be addressed through the initiative process.
All of the proposals were published in newspapers across the state last week. The Blue Book, which explains each proposal and contains arguments for and against them, will arrive in your mail shortly. If you can’t wait, you can find the Blue Book at: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/12005361....
Review each proposal carefully before you vote, but when it’s all said and done, your choice is clear. Vote yes on the letters and no on the numbers.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.