Voters will decide what lawmakers can’t
DENVER (AP) ” When state lawmakers failed to address the growing tension between energy companies and landowners, Plan B was already in the works: Ask the voters.
On issues ranging from immigration and gay marriage to money in politics, voters and advocacy groups are also hoping to put questions on the November ballot to settle conflicts that the Legislature was unable or unwilling to do.
A total of 139 proposals were filed by Friday’s deadline to join that process but not all of them will end up on the ballot. Included in the mix are several versions of the same proposal as proponents test different ways of wording them. The final cut will be come next month.
John Gorman, a Glenwood Springs real estate agent, thinks voters will be receptive to his proposal to make sure oil and gas developers pay the “fair value” of damages they cause to surface property owners.
The industry did agree that it should pay some damages but Gorman said they were able to stop a stronger bill from being passed.
“It’s one thing to lobby the Legislature, it may be another thing to lobby the people of Colorado,” said Gorman, who filed his three-line proposal about a month before the bill was killed following opposition from home builders, the real estate industry and environmentalists.
Petitions to ban gay marriage and bar most state services for illegal immigrants have already been filed but a legal challenge has kept backers of the immigration proposal from beginning to the collect the approximately 100,000 signature they’ll need to be sure of making the ballot.
Eminent domain critics are collecting signatures for a constitutional amendment in case state lawmakers fail to pass a proposal that prevents the government from taking property to turn it over to developers.
Still waiting for reviews are proposals to allow pharmacists to provide emergency contraception without a doctor’s prescription ” a proposal vetoed by Gov. Bill Owens ” and to ban cash gifts to lawmakers. That’s something lawmakers have failed to do for three years.
“Almost anyone who’s lost at the Legislature or who’s lost at Congress is now turning to the ballot in Colorado,” said Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College.
Loevy said Colorado is the perfect place for people with money or grass roots support to get their issues heard because it takes relatively few signatures to make it onto the ballot, and because groups can pay people to collect them. It costs an estimated $1 to $3 a signature to hire a signature gatherer.
Gorman has been consulting with home builders and other opponents of the legislative proposal but he won’t know until the final language is approved who will help his campaign. He’ll need to get the signatures of 67,829 registered voters but groups usually get more because some will be rejected.
But that may not be the only hurdle.
Stan Dempsey of the Colorado Petroleum Association says his group is considering challenging Gorman’s language in court.
Meanwhile, Ken Wonstolen, senior vice president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has filed a ballot proposal of his own aimed at home builders, whom he blamed for blocking the split estate bill with an “all-or-nothing strategy”. It requires that home sellers guarantee that the property’s water supply is sufficient.
A spokesman for the Colorado Home Builders Association didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.
Wonstolen said he hoped the proposal would lead to a dialogue with home builders but he wouldn’t elaborate on his strategy.
“We see a very troubling, vague proposal on compensation issues already filed. In Colorado, it seems that’s the way we have the debate, through the ballot proposals,” he said.
A look at some of the proposals for November’s ballot:
– Marriage: A constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between one man and one woman; a constitutional amendment barring the state from recognizing a legal status similar to marriage, such as domestic partnerships.
– Immigration: A constitutional amendment barring the state from paying for non-emergency services for illegal immigrants.
– Oil and gas: A constitutional amendment requiring that mineral extractors, including oil and gas developers, pay the fair value for damages they cause; a constitutional amendment to impose a new one percent tax on oil and gas producers to pay for school construction and repairs.
– English immersion: A constitutional amendment to require English-immersion classes for students still learning the language. The classes would usually last no longer than a year and could include students of different ages and who have different native languages as long as they are at similar levels in English.
– Money in politics: A constitutional amendment barring state lawmakers from receiving gifts worth more than a total of $50 each year; Add a section to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights barring people who contribute $500 or more to a pro-tax campaign from receiving a job, a contract or other benefit from the tax.
– Miscellaneous: A statutory change to allow those 21 and over to possess up one ounce of marijuana; a constitutional amendment to bar nuclear weapons from being stored in Colorado; declare the third Friday of each October as St. Hooky’s Day, encouraging workers to call in sick.