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Most amendments unworthy

Alex Miller

Eagle County locals have their plate full with Avon Town Council and county commissioner picks, home rule and three tax-increase questions. But Colorado voters also have to weigh in on a dizzying array of ballot questions, some of which appear to contradict one another. At the Vail Daily, we’ve had the chance to listen to some of the proponents and opponents of some but by no means all of these initiatives, and we’ve also talked to plenty of locals with strong opinions regarding the merits of these questions.There are six proposed amendments to the state Constitution. We recommend voting “No” on all but one of them. Some of these have merit, but we believe amendments to the constitution of the state or the nation should be reserved for things like “should slavery be illegal?” or “should women vote?” On the referendum side, there are a few questions that make sense and just as many that are plain silly. Take a little time to read up on these before forming your opinion. In the mean time, here’s a quick rundown of our recommendations on ballot questions in the voting booth this November:NO to Amendment 38: Petitions. Similar measures were soundly defeated by voters in 1994 and 1996. On the surface, it looks like a “rein-in-government” kind of thing because it opens the petition process to all state and local governments. In reality, it’s a boondoggle for local government because it could submit just about any decision to a vote of the people. What’s the point in having elected officials at all, then? Amendment 38 could also crimp private property rights by delaying development decisions by months or years. It would place the burden of the additional litigation that will no doubt ensue firmly on the shoulders of taxpayers. Vote this turkey down.NO to Amendment 39: School district spending requirements. Another amendment that might sound good on the surface, this one would require state school districts to dedicate at least 65 percent of their budgets to “specific items” which mostly means classroom instruction and not things like overhead, support staff and administration, maintenance and the like. But this one-size-fits-all figure may prove unworkable, especially in larger counties like Eagle where transportation costs eat up a sizeable chunk of the budget. Additionally, the amendment takes away local decision-making, which is what we have educational professionals and an elected school board for.NO to Amendment 40: Term limits for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals justices. Like wine, most judges get better with age. This amendment would limit the number of terms judges on the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals can serve; from 10 to four on the Supreme and from eight to four on Appeals. Colorado already has a good process in place for reviewing these judges and ousting them if they’re lousy. Keep the experience on the bench by voting this one down.NO to Amendment 41: Standards of conduct in government. Again, sounds like a good idea but it doesn’t belong in the state Constitution. The amendment would bar gifts over $50 to elected state officials, prevent family members from taking gifts, puts in place an ethics commission and places some restrictions on lobbyists. Processes to address these things are already in place, so if they’re not working, it’s an enforcement question to be addressed by the state Legislature, not an amendment to the constitution.NO to Amendment 42: Colorado minimum wage. We have the U.S. Congress to thank for this one, since they’ve failed to address raising the minimum wage while they’ve enjoyed automatic salary increases for themselves year after year. We’d love to see the minimum wage increased from its lowly $5.15 an hour – where’s it’s been since 1997 – up to the proposed $6.85, but the Constitution, again, isn’t the place to do it. When it comes time to change it again, yet another amendment will be required. NO to Amendment 43, marriage. The gay bashers are at it again, trying to amend the state Constitution when state law already defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Our state and U.S. constitutions are places for protection of rights, not places to single people out for discrimination. This is an unnecessary and bigoted attempt to further alienate same-sex couples.YES to Amendment 44: Marijuana possession. This is a proposed amendment not to the Constitution but to state statutes that would legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older. All arguments for or against this amendment are superfluous when considering the fact that alcohol – a statistically much more dangerous substance – is legal while marijuana is not. Cops should spend their time doing other things besides hassling people in possession of such a relatively benign substance. This will not change federal law or how federal law enforcement agencies view marijuana possession. But it eliminates a nominal fine and sends a message about what should be this nation’s priorities.YES to Referendum E: Property tax reduction for disabled veterans. We worry that this referendum will set a precedent for future attempts to give tax breaks to other special interest groups. But this one’s about disabled veterans, who deserve a break – especially in light of the fact that the U.S. government doesn’t do all it should to help these people after serving and being injured in the armed forces.YES to Referendum F: Recall deadlines. This measure would update the procedures for recall elections, enabling state officials more time to validate petition signatures and changing requirements for when recall elections can be held. This measure should save taxpayer money by adapting special elections to current conditions.YES to Referendum G: Obsolete constitutional provisions. This is one of those occasional house-cleaning questions that simply deletes things from the state Constitution that no longer make sense, or changes some language or dates to be more relevant.NO to Referendum H: Limiting a state business income tax deduction. This is an attempt to punish business owners for hiring illegal aliens. For one thing, the only way business owners will pay more taxes is if they admit having paid wages to illegals, making this effort impractical from the start. And, last we checked, patrolling the borders and managing immigration is a function of the federal government, not the responsibility of the states.YES to Referendum I: Domestic partnerships. This measure would created a “domestic partnership” relationship for same-sex couples. It’s not gay marriage, but it does afford more legal protections for gay couples, especially as they relate to questions of inheritance, joint debt liability and other responsibilities. Gay couples with kids splitting up would be subject to the same laws as heterosexual couples, meaning one partner would have to pay child support. Holding same-sex couples to these types of rights and responsibilities is in the state’s interest. Also, voters dogged about opposing “gay marriage” can still vote for the moral cudgel of Amendment 43 and still support the commonsense Referendum I.NO to Referendum J: School district spending requirements. If voters aren’t confused enough by the 65-percent “solution” of Amendment 39, here’s Referendum J, which represents a slightly softer stance, allowing school districts one-year waivers from the spending requirements and enabling voters to exempt a school district from them if they want. Once again, we believe decision-making for how school budgets are managed belong in the hands of the district. If you had to vote for one of these, though, “J” would be a better option, since it allows greater flexibility and local control.YES/NO to Referendum K: Immigration lawsuit against the federal government. This simple question asks if the state of Colorado should be required to sue the U.S., demanding enforcement of federal immigration laws. While it’s tempting to think this might accomplish something, the reality is you’re asking the state to use taxpayer money to sue the federal government, which will then defend the case using more taxpayer money. Still, it’s a coin-toss: It will likely do little harm and may spur the feds to do something, anything, about our illegal immigration problem other than blow hot air or build a ridiculous fence.Vail, Colorado


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