Record 24 Colorado ballot issues filed on rafting amid lawmaker inaction
The Denver Post
A battle pitting river rafters against private landowners could shift from lawmakers to voters after both sides Friday filed a record 24 proposed ballot initiatives on the subject before Friday’s deadline for trying to get issues on the November ballot.
Rafters believe they should be allowed to use the rivers they have floated on for decades and are upset that the Senate turned a bill on the issue into a study. Robert Hamel and Jay R.K. Kenney filed four measures on behalf of rafters.
Landowners believe they should be able to protect their property rights. John Leede and Charles Thrailkill, members of the Creekside Coalition, filed 20 measures, limiting the use of rivers or targeting rafters with strict liability provisions.
“We knew this was coming, but not 20 measures,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry, U-Gunnison, who sponsored the rafting bill.
House Bill 1188, dubbed “Row vs. Wade” by House Republicans, would allow rafters to float through private property with incidental contact and not be accused of civil or criminal trespass.
Curry said the initiatives from both sides are part of what she calls “the ballot game.” Groups that don’t get their way on an issue then go to the voters.
As the 5 p.m. deadline passed, 98 proposals had been filed since the last statewide election, all seeking spots on the November ballot and dealing with topics including taxes, liquor sales, payday lending, renewable energy, health care and rafting.
So far, only four – three with ties to Colorado Springs anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce – have passed all the steps to be placed on the ballot. Others are still in process, and some have been withdrawn or invalidated.
Curry and others speculated that the river-rafting proposals might be pulled if some sort of compromise is reached.
Outdoor enthusiasts said they filed their ballot proposals to ensure Colorado rivers stay open to the public.
“We’re glad we did,” said Duke Bradford, spokesman for the Colorado River Outfitters.