VALLEY— Decoding the legal speak in Colorado’s 2018 state ballot booklet can be enough to cause brain freeze. There are websites to help voters better understand the official language of this year’s ballot measures. But to save time, here are excerpts on each measure from ballotpedia.org. Not only does the website break down each measure into layman’s terms, it gives the history and details of the measures as well as the pros and cons. For more details on each amendment and proposition, check out the state ballot information blue book.
Amendment V - Reduced Age Qualification for General Assembly Members
A “yes” vote will reduce the age qualification from 25 to 21 for citizens to be members of the Senate or state House of Representatives. In 2008, a similar measure was rejected by voters. Arguments against the measure say the current age requirement strikes an appropriate balance between youth and experience. Lack of experience could hinder a young legislator’s ability to represent his or her constituents effectively. Proponents say excluding 21- to 24-year-olds from seeking election to the state legislature is an unnecessary restriction, and voters should be able to judge a candidate’s maturity, ability and competence. Allowing younger candidates to run for office encourages civic engagement of younger folks.
Amendment X - Definition of Industrial Hemp
A “yes” vote would remove the definition of industrial hemp from the Colorado Constitution and require it has the same definition as in federal law. The measure has a large base of bipartisan support as well as support from the Colorado hemp industry.
Proponents say that because federal law is poised to change to permit more hemp cultivation, having the definition of industrial hemp in the state’s constitution would effectively prevent the legislature from adapting state laws in accordance with changes at the federal level. If passed, the measure would provide the state legislature with more flexibility in regulating industrial hemp and allow Colorado’s hemp industry to remain competitive with other states as the federal regulatory landscape evolves with the crop.
Opponents believe Amendment X would give politicians more power and people less power by gutting the state’s constitutional protection and legalization of “industrial hemp.” They argue the measure would in essence allow the legislature to re-criminalize hemp because industrial hemp remains illegal under federal law.
Amendments Y & Z - Independent Commission for Congressional and State Legislative Redistricting
A “yes” to Amendments Y and Z supports the creation of a 12-member commission responsible for approving district maps for Colorado’s congressional and state districts, respectively. Each of Colorado’s seven United States Representatives and 100 state legislators are elected from political divisions called districts, and the Colorado General Assembly is currently responsible for creating district boundaries. Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. District lines are redrawn every 10 years after the United States Census. The 12-member commission would include four members from the state’s largest political party, four from the state’s second largest political party and four unaffiliated members. The final map would require the approval of eight of the 12 members, including at least two members that are not affiliated with any political party. It would also require approval by the Colorado Supreme Court.
Proponents to amendments Y and Z say they would ensure more fair competition among candidates and eliminate political gerrymandering. Opponents say the amendments ban civic involvement by potentially allowing commission members to create districts that disenfranchise third party voters. The measures have large bipartisan support.
Amendment A - Removal of Exception to Slavery Prohibition for Criminals Amendment
A “yes” vote supports removing part of the Colorado Constitution that says slavery and involuntary servitude are allowable for the punishment of a crime. Opponents say that the amendment may result in legal uncertainty around current offender work practices in the state, such as prison work requirements and community service programs. Proponents say the measure eliminates slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances.
Amendment 73 - Establish Income Tax Brackets and Raise Taxes for Education Initiative
A “yes” vote supports a tax bracket system rather than a flat tax rate, raises taxes for individuals earning more than $150,000 per year, raises the corporate income tax rate and creates the Quality Public Education Fund. The measure would increase income taxes for people earning above $150,000 per year. The initiative would also increase the corporate tax rate from 4.63 to six percent. The measure would establish a fund generated by the new tax revenue to support preschool through 12th-grade public education called the Quality Public Education Fund. Specifically, the fund would be used to increase the statewide base per-pupil funding and increase spending for special education, preschool, English language proficiency and gifted programs.
Opponents say the amendment would impose a tax increase without guarantee of increased academic achievement. It would also place the burden of funding education on small businesses and negatively impact the state’s economy.
Proponents say the state needs a sustainable source of revenue to adequately and equitably fund public education. The measure also provides property tax relief for business property owners, farmers and ranchers who have paid an increasingly higher proportion of property taxes compared to residential property owners.
Amendment 74 - Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Initiative
A “yes” vote would require property owners be compensated for reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations. Proponents argue that property is the most significant asset owned by many Coloradoans. If a law or regulation causes loss of value, the property owner should be fairly compensated by the state or a local government. Current law does not require a government to compensate an owner unless the loss in value to the property is near total. Opponents argue that the measure has potentially far-reaching and costly consequences for taxpayers and governments. Under the measure, taxpayers would be responsible for payments to property owners for loss in property value resulting from a change in law or regulation, regardless of whether the property retains a profitable use. The potential liability for large payouts to private property owners may discourage governments from making decisions that benefit communities and protect vital public resources, such as water, air and infrastructure.
Amendment 75 Campaign Contribution Limits Initiative
A “yes” vote would provide that if any candidate for state office directs more than one million dollars in support of his or her own campaign, then every candidate for the same office in the same election may accept five times the amount of campaign contributions normally allowed. The measure would apply only to statewide candidates including state house and state senate, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and state board of education.
Supporters say wealthy candidates have an unfair advantage in elections because current campaign finance laws allow them to contribute vast sums of their personal resources to their own campaigns. Colorado’s current limits on individual contributions are among the lowest in the country, and candidates who rely on individual contributions are at a significant disadvantage in communicating their message to voters. Proponents say this measure would encourage more competitive elections.
Opponents argue that Colorado’s campaign finance system is broken and this measure would further complicate the system without truly addressing financial disparities among candidates. An increase in campaign contribution limits would allow all candidates, including wealthy candidates, to collect even more money, further inflating election spending.
Proposition 109 - “Fix Our Damn Roads” Transportation Bond
A “yes” vote would authorize $3.5 billion in bonds for statewide transportation projects including bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs. It would also require principal and interest on the borrowed money to be paid from the state general fund rather than by raising taxes. The state’s executive branch agencies would be prohibited from transferring proceeds from the bonds to any other program or purpose.
Supporters say Colorado has failed to invest sufficient funds to maintain and expand the highway system. The measure would change that by directing the state to prioritize highway projects ahead of other program and require the state to invest more money in transportation, improving the state’s economy and quality of life. Opponents say the lack of highway capacity is a significant contributor to traffic congestion. Proposition 109 would commit up to $5.2 billion to repay borrowed funds without creating a new source of revenue, which would divert money from other programs such as education, health care and routine transportation maintenance. Under this measure, opponents estimate $1.7 billion in taxpayer money would be spent on interest payments.
Proposition 110 - “Let’s Go Colorado” Transportation Bond and Sales Tax Increase Initiative
A “yes” vote would authorize the Colorado Department of Transportation to issue bonds up to $6 billion to fund transportation. The borrowed funds would be repaid through a 20-year state sales tax increase from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent.
Proponents say that Colorado’s highways are deteriorating and improvement costs are increasing. Colorado needs a modern transportation system that includes road, bus, bike, pedestrian and rail options to address its growing population. The measure would create a flexible statewide transportation solution and allow local communities to identify their own transportation projects and prioritize their needs. The measure would offer a way for the state to increase transportation funding and repay bonds while also meeting its obligations to fund education, health programs and public safety.
Opponents say the measure would raise taxes for a fundamental government service that should be funded through the state general fund. Additionally, the measure would dedicate too much revenue to multimodal transportation. Sales taxes are already high, exceeding 10 percent in some areas of Colorado. Raising the state sales tax would disproportionately affect low-income individuals because they must spend a larger share of their budget buying taxable necessities.
Proposition 111 - Limits on Payday Loan Charges Initiative
A “yes “vote would reduce the annual interest rate on payday loans to a yearly rate of 36 percent and eliminate all other finance charges and associated fees. Currently, the maximum charges allowed for payday loans are: 1) a charge of up to 20 percent of the first $300 loaned; 2) a charge of 7.5 percent for any amount loaned above $300; 3) monthly maintenance fee up to $30 per month; 4) an additional annual interest rate of 45 percent.
Proponents argue that Coloradans are paying too much to borrow small amounts of money from payday lenders. The APR for these loans can exceed 180 percent in some cases. Some consumers borrow money to pay off other payday loans, leading to a debt cycle. The measure would reduce the high cost of payday loans, allowing borrowers more ease in repaying loans.
Opponents say the measure may eliminate the payday lending business in Colorado. Payday loans provide options for consumers who may not qualify for other types of credit. With limited or no access to these loans, consumers may pay higher costs to other creditors for late payment, bounced checks, overdraft and utility disconnect fees. They may also turn to unregulated lenders for higher-cost loans.
Proposition 112 - Minimum Distance Requirements for New Oil, Gas, and Fracking Projects Initiative
A “yes” vote would mandate that new oil and gas development, including fracking, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings such as homes, schools, hospitals, and other areas designated as vulnerable. The current restrictions specify that wells must be 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings such as schools and hospitals, 500 feet from occupied buildings such as homes, and 350 feet from outdoor areas like playgrounds. Vulnerable areas are defined as playgrounds, permanent sports fields, amphitheaters, public parks, public open space, public and community drinking water sources, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks, and any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or a local government. The setback requirements would not apply to oil and gas development on federal lands.
Supporters of a greater setback point to the negative health effects, including sinus and respiratory conditions, headaches and nausea that have been reported by some people living near these operations. Oil and gas activity also increases noise, traffic, dust, light and odors. Another drawback is the reluctance of some people to purchase or rent a home or visit a business or recreation area located near oil or natural gas development.
Opponents of the measure fear a downturn in Colorado’s economy because they say some 85 percent of the state’s non-federal land would be excluded from development with the required 2,500-foot setback. Oil and natural gas development generated some $10.9 billion in production value in 2017 and it supports other industries and jobs. The measure may result in the loss of jobs, lower payments to mineral owners and reduced tax revenue for local schools and other governmental services and programs.
Ballots can be dropped off in the Rio Grande County Clerk’s Office during regular business hours or in the 24-hour drop box on the west side of the Rio Grande County Annex Building located at 965 Sixth Street in Del Norte. Ballots can also be mailed using the envelope enclosed with the ballot. Ballots must be received at the county clerk’s office by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The postmark does not count as being received. People can register to vote, vote in-person or vote on the accessible voting machine at the annex building.