Our View: Time is right for ballot reform

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Editorial Board, January through May 8, 2011

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Traci Day, community representative
  • Dean Vogelaar, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Some good news came out of the state Capitol on Monday. In a 3-2 party-line vote, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee approved a measure that would make it tougher to change the state constitution through ballot initiatives.

Such a change is long overdue. We now urge the full Senate and House to pass the resolution and send it to Colorado voters for the fall 2012 ballot.

As written, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 would require a 60 percent vote of the people to amend the constitution, as opposed to the current simple majority. It also would require that petition initiatives collect a certain number of signatures from voters in each of the state’s seven congressional districts.

The 60 percent requirement would not apply to the alteration or repeal of constitutional amendments passed by voters before 2013. Also, a two-thirds vote of the Legislature would be required to amend or repeal any voter-initiated law three years after it took effect. The Legislature currently can make such changes with a simple majority vote.

These proposed changes to the constitutional amendment process are good, and needed. Colorado has among the lowest threshold among all states for changing its constitution, and Colorado voters are annually confronted with more ballot measures than voters in all other states except California and Oregon.

We’ve seen the damage special-interest-driven initiatives can have on our state — look no further than the impacts of the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23. And how many years do we need to vote “no” on an amendment defining personhood? Our current citizen initiative process opens the door to any fringe or politically motivated group to circumvent our representative democracy and place confusing, convoluted measures before the people. It then becomes incredibly expensive and time-consuming to defeat poorly conceived proposals that seldom reflect the will of the people.

Constitutional amendments should be absolutely necessary, not the easiest route for special-interest agendas to be crammed down the throats of Colorado residents. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, and Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, supports the notion that the state constitution is a sacred, guiding document, not a spiral-bound notebook with room to support the endless causes of activists.

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