Business/Economy, Elections, Energy, Environment, Gold Dome, Health Care, Legal, Politics, TABOR

Blake: On the initiatives, just say 'no'

I love the initiative process in theory. Power to the people!

In practice, not so much. At least this year.

Like a pianist playing scales, I used to warm up for my biennial ballot concerto by quickly flipping the “no” lever on all the judges up for retention. It not only flexed the fingers, it was one way to protest our Soviet-style judge selection process (“we pick, you ratify”). Besides, I was trying to do them a favor. They’d make more money in private practice.

But this year, with mail ballots long having replaced machines, I’m going to endorse judges and vote no on all of the statewide initiatives instead.

There might be as many as nine on the ballot if all the ones for which signature were submitted in the past week survive the verification process. Each needs 98,492 valid signatures. (There are also two minor referendums from the legislature.)

File photo - Todd Shepherd
File photo – Todd Shepherd

No. 143: Tripling the 84-cent state tax on a pack of cigarettes? I have friends who smoke and I wouldn’t do that to them. Besides, much higher taxes would only encourage a black market, as they have in New York. Remember Eric Garner, who died after police in Staten Island put a chokehold on him for selling untaxed single cigarettes called “loosies”? Do you want that here? It’s hard enough for the cops to fight real crime. Let’s not make them act as revenooers too.

No. 98: Automatically sending the state’s unaffiliated voters ballots of both major parties so they can vote for candidates in one or the other primary without joining, even temporarily, that party? That’s so…Millennial: Participation without commitment. Already the unaffiliated are mailed invitations by the secretary of state to apply for a ballot for either party, and that’s indulgent enough. If you want to choose a party’s candidates, join the party. You can always unaffiliate later. If this passes, the advocates will next ask the secretary of state to include a chocolate chip cookie with each ballot.

icon_op_edNo. 140: Restoring the presidential primary Colorado had in 1992,1996 and 2000 and allocating convention delegates according to the results? See above. The unaffiliated would be sent ballots and invited to vote for one party’s presidential candidate or the other without committing to the party. This system costs taxpayers money they shouldn’t have to spend. Parties are private organizations and should pay for their own presidential selection systems. They can use preference polls if they want. This spring the Democrats did and the Republicans didn’t. If permitted, the GOP might do it differently next time. Colorado’s Democrats, perverse as usual, voted for the loser, Bernie Sanders. Of course they voted for Jerry Brown in 1992.

No. 101: Raising the state minimum wage gradually from the current $8.31 per hour to $12 by 2020? Telling employers how much they must pay is one way for the state to boost the unemployment rate.

No. 145: Authorizing doctors to provide life-ending drugs to those of sound mind who want them because they are terminally ill?   It’s not fair to ask physicians to go against the life-preserving systems they’ve been taught and have sworn to uphold. At least they don’t have to participate in the process if they don’t want to. The proposal is ringed around with protections for all involved, but the process will still be abused by those interested in seeing somebody else die.

Photo and copyright: Tony's Takes - used by permission
Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes – used by permission

Nos. 75 and 78: Allowing local governments to regulate, even eliminate, oil and gas development and requiring a minimum 2,500 setback from occupied structures and “areas of special concern”? These have been targeted for months by the industry with heavy TV advertising. Some ads even urged people not to sign petitions for these proposals, which could cripple the state’s economy. A lot of the petitions arrived at the secretary of state’s office disguised as empty boxes. If 75 and 78 don’t make the ballot we won’t have to watch additional advertising — and the industry won’t have pay for it.

No. 96: No future constitutional amendment can pass with less than 55 percent of the vote? And at least 2 percent of the signatures must come from each state Senate District? That could be almost tolerable but for a glaring exception. The measure allows repeal of existing initiated amendments with a bare majority — a proposal clearly aimed mainly at the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Down with it.

Amendment 69 (already on the ballot): A single-payer health care system that would double the state budget and raise state taxes substantially? This is the easiest “no” vote in the bunch. Even Democrats like Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. Bill Ritter are against it. It would impose an extra 6.67 percent payroll tax on employers and 3.33 percent on employees (effectively, the entire 10 percent comes from the employee) plus a 10 percent tax on all non-payroll income.

Physicians and companies would flee the state and new businesses wouldn’t come. All we’d get is impoverished new residents looking for “free” health care.

It’s a good year to act like a two-year-old again. Just say no to everything.

(Correction: The first published version of this article stated Colorado’s minimum wage was $6.85. It is $8.31. We regret the error.)

Longtime Rocky Mountain News political columnist Peter Blake now writes once a week for Contact him at You may re-publish his work at no charge and without further permission; please give full credit to Peter Blake and


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