Vail Daily column: Strange bedfellows
October 11, 2016
The old adage about politics throwing together often-opposing interests is often true. In Colorado this year, those strange bedfellows have rallied both for and against this fall's proposed Amendment 71, the so-called "Raise the Bar" amendment.
In a nutshell, Raise the Bar would make it more difficult to amend the Colorado Constitution.
Statewide, constitutional amendments would require a 55 percent supermajority in order to pass.
More important to people on the Western Slope and in Eastern Colorado, Raise the Bar would change the petition signature requirements to place an amendment on the ballot.
The law today requires only valid signatures, which can come from anywhere. In most cases, that means an amendment sponsor could fan out from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins and get sufficient signatures to put a proposal on the ballot.
If Raise the Bar passes, those supporting a proposed constitutional amendment would be required to obtain valid signatures from 2 percent of the residents in each of Colorado's 35 State Senate districts.
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That means groups that want to change the state's Constitution would have to fan out to the four corners of the state, from Cortez to Julesburg and from Rangely to La Junta.
Residents who live in Colorado's less-populated areas ought to like Raise the Bar. With 80 percent of the state's residents packed into about 20 percent of its geography it's easy for those of us outside the Interstate 25 corridor to feel left out of much of the state's legislative processes. Raise the Bar might level the field somewhat.
Which brings us to our strange bedfellows.
Supporters include Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and wealthy LGBT activist Tim Gill. Every living Colorado governor supports the measure, including Republican Bill Owens, who critics often said was too Front Range-centric. Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb is another supporter.
Things get a bit more eyebrow-raising when looking at the roster of opponents. The two that stand out are the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, and the left-leaning ProgressNow Colorado.
Most days, those two groups would have a hard time agreeing on much of anything.
On the other hand, the Denver metro area-based Independence Institute and ProgressNow could be seen as a pair of the groups with the most interest in maintaining the status quo in the constitutional amendment process. The current system is certainly less expensive.
But many of the rest of us simply want a louder voice in changing Colorado's Constitution — or if it should be changed at all.