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Voters face decisions beyond candidates

Cliff Thompson

If you’re planning on voting in the Nov. 2 general election, you can plan on making plenty of decisions.In addition to deciding on national, state and local candidates, there will be other decisions ranging from splitting the state’s electoral votes to deciding how much renewable energy you should have to building an RV park in Minturn. There will be a half-dozen initiatives and several more referendums facing voters around the state and in towns and special tax districts, including a property tax increase proposed by the Vail Recreation District. Following is a summary of those initiatives and ballots:StatewideAmendment 34This statewide initiative proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to allow property owners to recover damages from construction companies that do shoddy work. The amendment also seeks to prohibit laws that limit a property owner’s right to recover damages.Opponents say existing state law that encourages good faith negotiations between homeowners and homebuilders is adequate, and that it limits lawsuits. The opponents also say the amendment was written by tort lawyers to encourage lawsuits and that it will result in higher insurance premiums.Proponents say the proposal will no longer limit the amount of damages they can seek for faulty construction. They say the current system favors the construction industry over individual property owners.Amendment 35This is a proposal to increase the taxes on tobacco products sold in the state to help fund children’s medical care, cancer prevention, anti-smoking programs and treatment and other health problems. This tax is expected to raise $175 million per year.Proponents says it will help offset the cost of tobacco and smoking-related health issues that are now paid by non-smokers. Opponents decry the additional cost of the measure.Amendment 36Amendment 36 proposes eliminating the state’s winner-take-all system of casting presidential electoral votes. If the amendment is adopted, Colorado would become the first state to apportion its nine electoral votes according to the results of the popular vote. Maine and Nebraska have split electoral votes according to how candidates fare in voting within individual congressional districts.In the wake of the 2000 Gore-Bush Electoral College decision – which was made by the Supreme Court – this measure is sure to spark partisan controversy. An early indication of how controversial this measure is may be gained from the name being adopted by one of the groups opposing it: “Coloradans Against a Really Stupid Idea.”Opponents say the matter will create less representation, not more, because it will be challenged in court thus leaving the decision to the justices, not the voters.Proponents say it’s a good idea to have the electoral vote represent the state’s vote. Had the measure been in place in the 2002 election, it would have landed Al Gore in the presidency.Amendment 37This amendment wants to increase the amount of renewable energy – wind, solar and water – that large energy providers will be required to make available to consumers over the next 10 years. It seeks to increase renewable energy production by 10 percent by 2015. Only 2 percent of power used in the state now comes from renewable energy.Proponents say it’s time for Colorado to use its abundant wind and solar power to decrease demand for fossil fuels and that by decreasing their use, the new technology will have the twin benefits of cleaning up the air and creating jobs. States like Maine get up to 30 percent of their energy from clean, sustainable sources.Opponents, mostly the state’s largest power providers, say the measure will cost up to $1 billion over the next 20 years and that that cost will be largely borne by businesses. They also say renewable sources of energy are not as dependable as fossil fuels.Referendum BThis referendum requires a bit of housekeeping from lawmakers. It seeks to eliminate obsolete provisions of the state constitution contained in Articles IV, VII and IX. VailReferendums 5A and BTwo separate referendums will be on the ballot for voters in Vail. There, the Vail Recreation District will be seeking authorization from voters for a $6 million bond to rebuild the Vail Golf Course and Nordic Center. That bond will be repaid by an increase in property taxes.A second request seeks permission from voters to increase property taxes by $915,000 per year. The money will be used for capital projects and overall operating expense. MinturnReferendum 2 BVoters in Minturn will be deciding whether they want to have a recreational vehicle park with a community swimming pool and pavilion built on the site of an existing concrete batch plant and gravel pit.The measure, if approved, will allow the Town Council to negotiate with the developer. The referendum will not affect the tax rate because the expense of developing the park and pavilion south of town will be borne by the developer.GypsumReferendum 2AGypsum residents will be asked to authorize an increase in the town’s sales tax from 3 to 4 percent to build an $8.5 million town recreation center. If approved, the increase in sales tax will begin Jan. 1, 2005 and the measure has a sunset provision that would rescind the tax once all the costs of the recreation center have been paid. The town will use the additional money raised by the sales tax to pay off the cost of floating municipal bonds to build the facility.Northern Eagle CountyReferendum 3AThis is a proposal from the West Grand Board of Education to eliminate term limits. The West Grand School District serves a tiny portion of northern Eagle County. The measure seeks to allow elected officials to seek unlimited terms of offices.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.comVail Colorado


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