Are you a lazy progressive? Do you want to know what statewide ballot issues are worth voting for or against in Colorado in the 2006 General Election, which will have a record long ballot. Check out Colorado Confidential for a link to the Blue Book descriptions. Here are my calls:
Amendment 38: Petitions
Vote No. Why? Colorado makes too much bad policy by petition as it is, making petitions easier to get on the ballot only aggravates the problem. One recent study of the Colorado economy by a blue ribbon panel found that excess policy making by ballot initiative was the single biggest threat to Colorado's economy.
Amendment 39: School District Spending Requirements
Vote No. Why? The extremely strict definition of instructional spending that this initiative mandates 65% of school spending be devoted to, is met by only 11 school districts in the state out of 172.
All are small and either affluent or rural (small rural districts get much higher state funding per pupil than other school districts), both of which have very high per pupil spending. Four of those eleven met the 65% mandate by only one percentage point. The combined instructional spending in these eleven districts is about 14% of the that in the Denver Public Schools alone, so they aren't representative of good practice with normal sized school budgets. Doing things like ending bus service or not paying heating bills, so that more money can be spent on teachers, doesn't make sense. We have elected school boards to make local school budget decisions. Let them do their jobs.
Amendment 40: Term Limits for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Judges
Vote No. Why? This is a court packing plan designed to kick out Romer appointees from office, pure and simple. It also encourages increased political influence in Colorado's courts. Colorado's system works well.
Amendment 41: Standards of Conduct in Government
Vote No. Why? This is overkill. Colorado hasn't had a serious problem with excessive gifts. It has strict ethics rules already. The limitations on even petty gifts would turn innocent situations (e.g. a single legislator going on a date or a donated pen at a county fair), into political scandals. Government by scandal doesn't make Colorado politics cleaner. The solution to excessive reliance on lobbists is to publicly fund campaigns to some extent, and to provide legislators with sufficient staffs that they can independently research legislation, instead of relying upon information from interested parties, not to ban trivial gifts.
Some of the proposals in Amendment 41, like a ban on lobbying shortly after leaving office, and a statewide independent ethics board, make sense. Legislators can be bought. But, they can't be bought for dinner, a movie, a scholarship to attend an educational conference, or free beer bottle openers, which are the kinds of gifts this proposal bans.
Amendment 42: Colorado Minimum Wage
Your call. Why? I'll probably vote yes, because the minimum wage is too low. But, the state constitution is not an ideal place for minimum wage legislation.
Amendment 43: Marriage
Vote No. Why? This puts in the state constitution something that is already part of state and federal law. Our constitution has too much junk already. And, symbolically, this measure is a discriminatory vote against gays and lesbians. We don't need to enshrine that in our constitution. And, the constitution also isn't the place to address complex issues like polygamy, which may make sense in some contexts (e.g. where there are mutually consenting adults from a culture, such as Islam, where there are clear guidelines and cultural acceptance of the practice), but not others (e.g. where girls are coerced into marriages with much older men).
Amendment 44: Marijuana Possession
Vote Yes. Why? This merely changes a statute, so details can be adjusted. And, Colorado has better ways to spend its money than prosecuting and incarcerating people in essentially harmless minor marijuana possession cases.
Referendum E: Property Tax Reduction for Disabled Veterans
Your Call. Why? Disabled veterans probably deserve a tax break, so it isn't a bad law.
Why disabled veterans deserve more of a property tax break than say, people disabled at birth, is far from obvious. We'd be better off with a generalized homestead exemption that gave a property tax break to say, the first $45,000 of equity in everyone's home, which would disproportionately help low income people, without an elaborate means test.
I'll probably vote yes, but the general scheme is really moving in the wrong direction, and quite frankly, Colorado's residential property taxes are already too low. Colorado puts too much emphasis on sales taxes and too little on property taxes, and that is generally a bad thing. High property taxes aren't the big problem in the state. And, disabled veterans who their own homes, and hence benefit from this bill, are probably, on average better off than disabled veterans who rent, and hence, don't benefit.
Referendum F: Recall Deadlines
Vote Yes. Why? It shouldn't take a constitutional amendment to adjust election deadlines to fit new realities.
Referendum G: Obsolete Constitutional Provisions
Vote Yes. Why? We have to much obsolete junk in our constitution, which is 710 pages long (with annotations) in the statute books.
Referendum H: Limiting a State Business Income Tax Deduction
Vote No. Why? This law makes no sense from a tax policy perspective, increases tax compliance costs for the Colorado Department of Revenue and every employer, and will raise gross revenues by less than $150,000 a year. It is just another piece of xenophobic anti-immigrant grandstanding that has no practical benefits to the state.
Indeed, it is counterproductive. If an employer is going to employ illegal immigrants, from a state revenue perspective, we'd rather have those people classifed as employees and subjected to income tax withholding, rather than classified as independent contractors and exempted from income tax withholding. This measure encourages employers, instead, to structure relationships with people who aren't legally allowed to work as independent contracts not subject to withholding taxes.
Referendum I: Domestic Partnerships
Vote Yes. Why? Gays and lesbians deserve a way to receive most of the legal incidents of marriage. Also, it is a statute, not a constitutional amendment. If there are problems with implementation, they can be fixed relatively easily.
Referendum J: School District Spending Requirements
Vote No. Why? While this measure is far less draconian than Amendment 39 because its 65% of spending on instructional matters is more broadly defined, so that only three districts in Colorado fail to meet the 65% threshold, it addresses a problem that doesn't exist, already safely in the hands of elected school boards, and makes the budget process for schools more complex adding unnecessary expense and complexity to school administration.
Referendum K: Immigration Lawsuit Against Federal Government
Vote No. Why? Ordering the Attorney General to bring a frivilous lawsuit against the federal government is a waste of $190,000. Many similar suits have been thrown out.
Vote yes on Amendment 44 (Marijuana), and Referendums F (Recall Deadlines), G (Obsolete Constitutional Provisions) and I (Domestic Partnerships). I lean yes, but have qualms about, Amendment 43 (Minimum Wage) and Referendum E (Disabled Veterans Property Tax Breaks). On everything else, vote no.