Colorado OKs primary, wage hike, medically assisted suicide | VailDaily.com

Colorado OKs primary, wage hike, medically assisted suicide

JAMES ANDERSON
Associated Press

BC-CO–Election-Colorado-Ballot Measures, 2nd Ld-Writethru,520

Colorado OKs primary, wage hike, medically assisted suicide

Eds: Adds defeat of proposed tobacco tax hike.

By JAMES ANDERSON

Associated Press

DENVER — Coloradans voted Tuesday to restore a presidential primary, raise the minimum wage and allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives in an election that also will make it tougher to get constitutional initiatives onto future ballots.

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Voters soundly rejected a $25 billion universal health care initiative and a proposed cigarette tax increase.

Coloradans approved replacing the current Republican and Democratic presidential caucuses with winner-take-all presidential primaries.

Colorado held presidential primaries from 1992 to 2000 before returning to caucuses to save money. Both major parties opposed this year's initiative, and Republicans vow to challenge the new law.

Still pending was a decision on a second measure to allow independents to vote in major party midterm primaries without affiliating.

Other ballot initiatives:

—MINIMUM WAGE: Coloradans voted to hike the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, up 44 percent from the current $8.31 per hour. More than 400,000 people earn the minimum wage.

Colorado last voted to hike the minimum wage in 2006, when it was indexed to inflation. Advocates for the working poor said the wage hasn't kept up with costs, especially escalating housing prices in metro Denver. Business opponents warned the hike would cost jobs, especially in rural areas.

—HEALTH CARE: Voters rejected Amendment 69, a plan to create the nation's first government-run health care system that covers everyone. ColoradoCare aimed to abandon President Barack Obama's health care law and replace it with a universal coverage plan funded by a new payroll tax.

The $25 billion-a-year tax would have been taken out of paychecks, similar to how Medicare is funded. That money would then go to an elected board of trustees that would act as an enormous insurance company and reimburse doctors.

—MEDICAL AID IN DYING: Voters approved Proposition 106, allowing terminally ill people to end their own lives. The law requires that a mentally competent patient have a six-month prognosis and get two doctors to approve requests for life-ending medication.

Colorado becomes the fifth state to allow medically assisted suicide, joining Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California. Montana's state Supreme Court has ruled that doctors can use a patient's request for life-ending medication as a defense against any criminal charges linked to the death.

—CIGARETTE TAXES: Voters defeated Amendment 72, which would have tripled cigarette taxes. The initiative would have raised the state tax from 84 cents to $2.59 per pack. The national average is $1.63. Taxes on cigars and chewing tobacco would have risen 22 percent.

Proponents said higher prices deter cigarette use, especially among children and young adults. Opponents argued it would have locked in spending of new tax money on unnecessary programs not related to smoking.

—CONSTITUTION: Voters approved Amendment 71, which makes it harder for proposed constitutional changes to make the ballot and harder to pass once there. Anyone who wants to change the state Constitution must collect signatures from all 35 state Senate districts, and a 55 percent vote is needed to approve any changes. A simple majority vote was required previously, including on Tuesday, with no geographic requirement for petition signatures.

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Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.