Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Amendment 38 on the November ballot appears to be an initiative to put more power in the hands of the people.
Don't be fooled. It is messy, bureaucratic legislation that will cost taxpayers, disrupt the operation of state government and undermine our system of representative democracy. Vote no on Amendment 38.
Advocates for Amendment 38 call it the petition rights amendment and say it will achieve three primary objectives: simplify the petition process, allow petitions to all local governments and end single-subject abuses.
The amendment would allow any petitioned amendment to go on the ballot in November; current laws limit odd-year elections to issues involving taxes and spending.
On the surface, such changes might seem well and good. What's wrong with opening the door to more citizen initiatives?
Plenty, in our opinion.
The truth is that Colorado already has one of the easiest petition processes in the country. State statistics show only California and Oregon average more citizen-initiated petitions on their ballots.
There is nothing wrong with direct democracy per se. The petition process serves as a proper check and balance on government operations, giving citizens the right to redress their government in light of mistakes and prevent such mistakes from being made in the future.
But such redress should come as a last resort, not as an annual rite of passage for special interest groups, lawyers, lobbyists and those on the extremes of issues. Unfortunately, that's what we have seen more often than not through the petition process.
Also, such amendments often are conceived in a vacuum, without regard to their impact on other government functions. Witness the contradictory mandates placed upon state government by the volatile mix of Amendment 23, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and the Gallagher Amendment. It took another initiative - last year's Referendum C - to finally correct that problem.
In our representative democracy, we pick who we want to represent us at the local, state and federal level and charge them with governing us properly. If they don't govern properly, we can choose someone else. The ballot box is the most powerful method of redress at our disposal.
Petitions allow people to circumvent that system. Sometimes - rarely, we argue - it's necessary to take that step. But we should be looking to raise the threshold to do so, not lower it. Vote no on Amendment 38.