Since many of you have again asked for my recommendations, here’s my analysis of Colorado ballot measures in 2018. They’re listed in the order in which they’ll appear on your ballot and in the Blue Book.
Amendment V – Lower Age Requirement for Members of the State Legislature
Objective: Lower the age requirement for serving in the state legislature from 25 to 21.
Comments: There are certainly plenty of smart 21 year-olds with high IQs and 4.0 grade point averages. But smarts are not enough. Experience and wisdom come later in life. I’ll concede that not all older legislators are wise or possess impressive experience but we’re stuck with them. Why add to the problem? Additionally, most young people these days are still under the spell of the liberal indoctrination inflicted upon them in K-12 and higher education. Let’s give them a few more years to overcome that in the real world.
Amendment W – Election Ballot Format for Judicial Elections
Objective: Streamline the wording on the ballot to eliminate unnecessary repetitions.
Comments: This one is just housekeeping and a slam dunk. Anyone who would be confused by the change doesn’t have the wits to cast a vote.
Amendment X – Industrial Hemp Definition
Objective: Remove the definition of “industrial hemp” from the Colorado Constitution and, instead, use the definition in state law or state statutes.
Comments: Hemp is legal in Colorado and has become a significant agricultural crop and source of tax revenue. Hemp (CBD) is derived from the cannabis plant as is marijuana (THC). But unlike marijuana, it’s not a recreational drug. It’s used for benign industrial and therapeutic purposes. While it’s currently treated as a controlled substance by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, pending legislation before Congress may change that. If so, the state legislature can simply pass legislation to conform Colorado’s definition of hemp to that of the federal government’s without having to amend our Constitution again.
Amendment Y – Congressional Redistricting
Objective: Create an Independent Congressional Commission to redraw Colorado U.S. congressional district maps every ten years after a census as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Comments: In past years, a politically divided state legislature has been unable to come up with a fair redistricting compromise. Consequently, the court has stepped in to break the impasse. Unfortunately, partisan judges have imposed new maps favorable to Democrats. This “independent” commission will be made up of equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Unaffiliated voters tend to lean liberal and vote for Democrats in Colorado, so King Solomon would have a tough time coming up with a fair mix on the commission. The details and the selection process in this proposal is mind-bogglingly complicated and takes up eleven single-spaced, small-type pages in the Blue Book put out by the Colorado General Assembly Legislative Council. Nonetheless, the final work of the commission would probably be fairer (especially for Republicans) than it’s been in recent years.
One big concern I have is on the subject of gerrymandering. I would hope the commission doesn’t succumb to simplistic, misinformed populism on this topic. Yes, politicians of both parties have historically rigged the redistricting game in the interest of protecting their respective incumbents. But impassioned calls for making every district “competitive” are unjustified and range from impractical to downright nutty. As a matter of law and custom, the criteria for creating legislative districts include: roughly equal populations among all districts; compactness of shape (squares, circles, hexagons, etc.); contiguity (physical connectedness); preservation of political subdivisions (boundaries of counties, cities, towns); natural geographical separation (mountains, rivers, etc); and preservation of communities of interest. That last category is especially important. Denver, as a community of interest is overwhelmingly partisan for Democrats, as it has every right to be. And that’s not the result of gerrymandering. There is no imaginable way of redistricting Denver’s First Congressional District to make it politically competitive that would conform to the other districting criteria. The shape of such a district on a map would be ludicrous. Similarly, the congressional district encompassing El Paso County and Colorado Springs is a natural Republican stronghold. Combining it, say, with the left-wing People’s Democratic Republic of Boulder in the interest of competiveness would be a disservice to both places. Where feasible, competiveness may be a good thing but let’s not go overboard in that quest.
Amendment Z – Legislative Redistricting
Objective: Create an Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission to redraw Colorado legislative district maps every ten years.
Comments: The is the sister amendment to Y. Ditto the above analysis.
Amendment A – Prohibit Slavery and Involuntary Servitude in All Circumstances
Objective: Remove outdated language from the Colorado Constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for the conviction of a crime.
Comments: This is mostly symbolic. Although there’s no realistic danger that slavery would ever become lawful in Colorado, our state Constitution does allow that “slavery or involuntary servitude” may be imposed as punishment for a crime. Some people find that language offensive and would strip it from our Constitution. On the other side, others fear that groups like the ACLU could exploit this as an excuse to forbid prisons from requiring inmates to perform work. I wouldn’t put it past some ACLU radicals to try that, but I think it’s unlikely they’d succeed. I doubt we’ll see Cool Hand Luke laboring on a Colorado chain gang. This isn’t worth arguing about. Let’s just dump that clause and be done with it.
Amendment 73 – Funding for Public Schools
Recommendation: Hell no!
Objective: Increase funding for pre-K-12 public schools through sharp hikes in income taxes on individuals, corporations, small business and farms; and higher property taxes.
Comments: This is another bite at the apple by the teacher unions in Colorado to line the pockets of their members after the last two recent attempts via ballot questions were soundly rejected by voters. But this one is even worse. Even the liberal and teacher-union friendly Denver Post is against it. It’s a plan socialist Bernie Sanders would love, punishing the “the rich and big corporations,” as their ads put it, with huge tax increases (along with homeowners, small businesses and farms). In its deceptive language, “rich” includes middle-income families with three kids earning over $150,000 a year. (And that amount isn’t indexed to inflation, so “bracket creep” would entrap many more middle-income families in future years.) Also deceitful is the claim that this will only “increase the corporate income tax rate by 1.37%.” Not exactly. The measure increases the corporate income tax rate from its current level of 4.63% to 6.0%. You don’t have to be a CPA to understand that this 1.37 percentage point increase calculates to a 30% increase in the actual tax collection. And corporate taxes are a cost of doing business just like all other business costs that are ultimately passed on to the customers of a business. That means you.
In 2000, the same activists now pushing Amendment 73, suckered voters into approving Amendment 23 which put public-school spending on automatic pilot regardless of economic conditions and other pressing budget needs. When a serious recession hit, and ever since, this squeezed-out much needed spending for roads, infrastructure, prisons, health care, higher education and just about everything else that’s discretionary in the state budget. The huge cost and tax burden of PERA ─ the extravagant government employees pension plan (the largest component of which is public school employees) ─ similarly squeezes out all other spending. Amendment 73 would compound this problem even more. Imbedding it in our Constitution will usurp the duty of legislators to prioritize and fairly distribute limited revenues. The massive tax increases would undermine economic incentives, investment and growth in Colorado. We’ve seen the damage excessive tax rates have done to other states like California. And nothing in this measure would guarantee better educational outcomes; it just throws more money at the same flawed system.
Years ago, I vowed to oppose any future increase in taxes for public schools unless and until the educrats agreed to give up their monopoly. By that I mean opening up the system to competition through parental choice and school vouchers empowering parents to take the tax dollars earmarked for educating their kids to the school of their choice public or private. I stand by that vow, and you should, too, if you truly want to elevate the quality of your kids’ education and replace liberal indoctrination with basic academics.
Amendment 74 – Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation
Objective: Require state or local government to compensate a property owner if a law or regulation reduces the fair market value of his or her property.
Comments: This is the potential antidote for Proposition 112 which I oppose (see below) if it were to pass. Governments need to be restrained from encroaching on the property rights of its citizens in the name of the “common good.” If they do so, they should fairly compensate the injured parties, as they are required to do when condemning private property for public use in cases of eminent domain.
Amendment 75 – Campaign Contributions
Objective: Increase state campaign contribution limits to competing candidates when another candidate contributes more than $1 million to his or her own campaign.
Comments: You might call this the “anti-Jared Polis Amendment” for future elections. If Polis were a Republican, the liberal media would be branding him a “fat cat” and attack him for buying an election. Since he’s a Democrat, they give him a pass on that. He’s already fed his campaign about $20 million and there’s no limit to what he can spend. Colorado’s limits on what individuals can contribute to candidates (other than themselves) are ridiculously low. They range from $400 for legislators to $1,150 for Governor and other statewide offices. This amendment would increase those limits five-fold. Still not that much, but it’s an improvement.
Proposition 109 – Authorize Bonds for Highway Projects
Objective Require the state to borrow up to $3.5 billion to fund 66 specific highway projects, funded within existing state revenues without raising taxes or fees.
Comments: Also known as “Fix Our Damn Roads” this is fathered by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute (and Complete Colorado). On a recent road trip that took me through Utah, the comparison of that state’s roads to ours is astounding. Colorado’s roads are in terrible shape, the consequence of serious underfunding for decades by the legislature downgrading the priority of roads. This has been compounded by electric cars and enhanced fuel economy which have reduced gasoline tax revenues. There’s no easy budget fix in sight, which is why bonding is necessary. Prop 109 specifically mandates every dollar of this project for highways and bridge expansions, and that alone, unlike Prop 110, discussed below, which would divert funds for other purposes.
Proposition 110 – Authorize Sales Tax and Bonds for Transportation Projects
Objective: Increase the state sales and use tax rate from 2.9% to 3.52% (a 21% increase) and borrow $6 billion. Distribute 45% of the revenues to state government, 40% to local governments and 15% for multi-model transportation projects.
Comments: Prop 109, above, is a better alternative. Prop 110 is another huge tax increase to be piled on top of others on the ballot measure menu this year. Maintenance and improvement of state roads should be a fundamental part of the state budget not an afterthought. And local road projects should be funded locally. Note that this is called a “transportation” project. That means funds that should go exclusively to long-needed highway maintenance will be diverted to so-called “multi-model” projects like “bike paths, sidewalks and public transit.” That’s bait and switch. Those projects have no business being piggy-backed on a highway proposition.
Proposition 111 – Limitations on Payday loans
Objective: Limit the total cost for a payday loan to a 36% annual percentage rate.
Comments: Interest rates on payday loans are very high. But the risk attached to these loans is high for lenders, as well. When compounded to an annual interest rate they sound outrageous. But that’s misleading since these are usually very short-term loans, on average about two weeks. For example, a two-week payday loan for $100 at typical 15 percent rate would cost $15 in interest. While that computes to an annual rate of almost 400%, the actual cost is just the fifteen bucks. If Prop 111’s 36 percent annual limit (3 percent per month) were imposed, a two week loan of $100 would be limited to an interest rate of just 1.5 percent or just $1.50 (or a fee of $7.50 on a $500 loan). That may not be worth the trouble for payday lenders. For people with low incomes and no credit rating who are unappealing to banks or finance companies, the only option (other than hitting up a friend or family member) could be the neighborhood loan shark, whose collection methods if you’re late can be hazardous to one’s health. By reducing the availability of legal payday loans, Prop 111 would hurt the very people it’s trying to help. (And illegal loan sharks may raise their rates.) This is a voluntary transaction between a willing payday lender and a willing borrower. There’s no need for government to interfere. If Prop 111 fails, look for liberals to come back in the next election cycle with a proposition to create a government bureaucracy to provide no-interest payday loans. If you think I’m kidding, listen to Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s plans about student college loans.
Proposition 112 – Increased Setback Requirement for Oil and Natural Gas Development
Recommendation: No, no, a thousand times no!
Objective: Require that new oil and natural gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures, water sources and areas designated as vulnerable.
Comments: On your ballot and in the Blue Book, the absolute worst measure has been saved for last. This is the brainchild of radical greenies, anti-fracking fanatics and those wishful dreamers who believe wind and solar “renewable” energy sources can replace fossil fuels anytime in the near future. The 2,500 foot setback is greatly excessive and existing state regulations are sufficient to protect public health in this area. Prop 112 would savage Colorado’s oil and gas industry, cost 150,000 jobs over ten years, deprive the state of $26 billion in economic output by 2030 and a loss of $1 billion in state and local tax revenue each year. Reasonable Democrats have joined in opposition to this measure including Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Interior Secretary and Senator Ken Salazar. Even the oh-so green and liberal Denver Post opposes it, placing this headline above its editorial: “Proposition 112 isn’t about safe distances; it’s a ban.”
As for Recommendations on Retention of Judges:
I usually don’t bother casting votes on this unless I have personal knowledge of a judge for good or bad. And the process is perfunctory. Rarely is any judge not retained. The evaluations in the Blue Book by the State Commission on Judicial Performance don’t deal with a judge’s judicial philosophy and aren’t penetrating. This year, every single judge up for retention was deemed by the commission to “meet performance standards.” Not much help there.
Here’s a summary for marking your ballot:
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.