Referenda and local ballot issues

During the past few weeks, The SUN has provided its readers with a guide to ballot initiatives during the weeks leading up to the start of early voting. In this final installment, having presented the 10 amendment initiatives in previous weeks, The SUN will cover the four referenda and two Archuleta county ballot initiatives that are on the 2008 ballot.

In the guide you’ll find the full text of the initiative as it is presented on the ballot, an explanation of the initiative in layman’s terms, and both pro and con arguments for the initiative. Hopefully, with clarification of the initiatives in simple language, as well as a balanced presentation of arguments for and against the initiatives, SUN readers who vote will have a clearer view of how they will decide the issues on the ballot.

Referendum L

An amendment to section 4 of article V of the constitution of the state of Colorado, concerning the ability of an elector of the state of Colorado who has attained the age of twenty-one years to serve as a member of the Colorado general assembly.

Simply stated: Would lower the minimum age requirement for serving in the Colorado general assembly from 25 to 21.

For: If someone is determined to be an “adult” when reaching the age of 21, there’s no compelling reason to prevent them from serving in the Colorado general assembly. If the voters feel someone is too young to serve in the state assembly, let them decide at the polls (although, hopefully voters would make their decision on the issues rather than a candidate’s age).

Against: 21-year-olds lack sufficient life experience to be effective state representatives. Besides, the minimum age of 25 keeps Colorado in line with many other states.

Referendum M

Shall section 7 of article XVIII of the state constitution concerning outdated, obsolete provisions regarding land value increase be repealed?

Simply stated: Would repeal provisions in the state constitution from 1876 that exempts lands from tax increases due to planting trees, hedges, orchards or forests.

For: Revisions to law have been enacted since 1876 that reflect more modern approaches and issues but essentially provide the same tax relief for property owners. The “outdated, obsolete provisions” are merely dead space in the constitution.

Against: There is no publicized opposition to this initiative.

Referendum N

Shall there be a repeal of section 5 of article XVIII and article XXII of the state constitution, concerning the elimination of outdated, obsolete provisions of the state constitution?

Simply stated: Would repeal two sections of the state constitution dealing with alcoholic beverages and have been made redundant by state and federal law.

For: Newer state and federal laws make these sections of the state constitution superfluous.

Against: There is no stated opposition to this initiative.

Referendum O

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning ballot initiatives, and, in connection therewith, increasing the number of signatures required for a proposed initiative to amend the state constitution; reducing the number of signatures required for a proposed statutory initiative; requiring a minimum number of signatures for a proposed initiative to amend the state constitution to be gathered from residents of each congressional district in the state; increasing the time allowed to gather signatures for proposed statutory initiative; modifying the review of initiative petitions; establishing a filing deadline for proposed initiatives to amend the state constitution; and requiring a two-thirds vote of all members elected to each house of the general assembly to amend, repeal, or supersede any law enacted by an initiative for a period of five years after the law becomes effective?

Simply stated: Would make it easier for proposed statutory changes to be placed on the ballot, but would make it more difficult for constitutional amendments to be placed on the ballot. Under this initiative, proposing an amendment change would require 15,000 more signatures than is currently allowed and would add a “distribution requirement,” meaning that 8 percent of the signatures for the petition would have to be gathered from each congressional district.

With more stringent restrictions on proposing amendments, Referendum O makes it easier for voters to propose statutory changes by decreasing the number of signatures required (from 5 percent of the vote to 4 percent) and increasing the amount of time allowed for gathering signatures. The initiative further encourages statutory initiatives (and discourages amendment initiatives) by limiting the legislature’s ability to change or repeal new laws for a period of five years after the enactment of those laws.

For: Before Oct. 2, the 2008 ballot had more initiatives included on it than any ballot since 1912 — the first year Colorado opened up the ballot to initiative and referendum. Even with four amendments pulled from the ballot and 10 remaining, the 2008 ballot is matched only by the 1972 Colorado ballot.

Voters frustrated by the sheer number of proposed constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot or perplexed, wondering why many of those measures are even worthy of a constitutional amendment, should appreciate Referendum O.

Not that this initiative promises shorter ballots in the future: easing requirements for statutory initiatives could invite more citizens to participate in the legislative process by proposing more changes to Colorado laws. However, Referendum O’s intent is clear: that while voters should be encouraged to create laws for the state, changing the state constitution is something that should only be done rarely and with careful consideration.

Against: It is the right of citizens to affect changes to the state constitution and Referendum O makes it more difficult and expensive for citizens to initiate those changes.

Archuleta County Referred Issue 1A

With no increase in any county tax rates, shall Archuleta County extend indefinitely the existing 2% countywide sales tax for the purpose of providing one percent of such sales tax to Archuleta county for the sales tax county road capital improvement fund to be used to provide construction and maintenance of county roads, and acquisition of equipment for construction and maintenance of county roads, and one percent to the town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and which tax shall be imposed, collected, administered and enforced as provided by Archuleta county resolution 94-34, amended by resolutions nos. 2001-101, 2001-102 and 2008-54, and may the county collect, retain, and spend all revenues generated from such sales tax rate constitute a voter approved revenue change, offset, and exception to the limits that otherwise apply under Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado constitution or any other law?

Simply stated: Reauthorize the existing sales tax shared by the county and the Town of Pagosa Springs. Authorization of this tax has traditionally been done every seven years but this ballot initiative would make the tax permanent.

For: This only retains the status quo for a tax that has been in place for many years and would not change the situation, other than not requiring the voters to reauthorize the tax every seven years.

If the tax is not reauthorized, with the loss of revenue, the county would be put into an extremely difficult financial situation, since that revenue is the primary source of money for the county Road Capital Improvement Fund.

Against: No opposition has been expressed.

San Juan River Village Metropolitan District Ballot Issue 5A

Shall the San Juan River Village Metropolitan District, without creating any new tax or increase any current taxes, be permitted and authorized in 2008 and each subsequent year thereafter, to retain and spend district revenues received from any source whatsoever, including without limitation ad valorem taxes, in excess of the spending, revenue raising, or other limitations set forth in Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado constitution, and to retain and spend district revenues in excess of the tax revenue limitations contained within Section 29-1-3-1, et. seq. C.R.S. utilizing such revenues for district operations, capital equipment and improvements, and other lawful public purpose?

Simply stated: Would allow the San Juan River Village Metropolitan District to sidestep TABOR restrictions by using its excess revenues (that would otherwise be subject to TABOR limits) for capital expenses.

For: Money collected directly from the San Juan River Metropolitan District’s residents, after making appropriate disbursements to local and state offices, should be used to invest in necessary improvements for the district and not delivered to a general pool for refunding that money to Colorado taxpayers.

Against: The intent of TABOR is clear ­­— keep government (whether state or local) accountable for the money it collects and, if it collects too much, that money should be returned to the taxpayers.