02 October 2008

Four Issues Dropped From Colorado Ballot

A deal between labor and business and removed four initiatives from the Colorado general election ballot in 2008, on the eve of the deadline for doing so.

The measures to be withdrawn are 53 (criminal liablity of corporate executives), 55 (just cause employment), 56 (mandatory health insurance for most private employers), and 57 (employeer liability in addition to worker's compensation).

Apparently, unions are doing so in exchange for business support (to the tune of $3 million) in their campaigns against anti-union Amemdments 47, 49 and 54, and to allow them to conserve their resources to fight those three measures. This covers the cost of getting those measures on the ballot with some left over. But, Pete Coors and his anti-union buddies do not appear likely to drop any of the objectionable ballot measures themselves.

I had previously come out in support of Amendment 53, opposed Amendments 55 and 57, and had been undecided about Amendment 56.

The ballot in Denver will now consist of:

Measures I oppose:

Amendment 46 (end affirmative action)
Amendment 47 (end closed shop management fees, i.e. anti-union)
Amendment 48 (egg as person)
Amendment 49 (public employee union related payroll deductions, i.e. anti-union)
Amendment 52 (existing severance taxes for highways)
Amendment 54 (ban government contractors and public unions from politics)

Measures I favor:

Amendment 50 (expanded casino gambling)
Amendment 51 (sales tax increase for developmentally disabled)
Amendment 58 (severance tax increase for college scholarships and other things)
Amendment 59 (loosen TABOR and Amendment 23)
Referendum L (allow 21 year olds to serve in state legislature from current age 25)
Referendum M (obsolete property valuation language)
Referendum N (obsolete prohibition language)
Referendum O (tighten up constitutional amendment ballot issue requirements)
Referendum 3A (Denver Public Schools bond issue)

The Blue Book has been printed, and so have many mail in ballots which start going into the mail today, so physical ballot length may not change, even though four of the measures listed will no longer count.

Which Colorado Ballot Measures Will Pass?

Politically, it is hard to know what odds these measures will have of winning at the ballot.

Measures similar to Amendment 46 have won in many states, but could be hurt by changing public attitudes and distrust of the many items on the long ballot. Amendment 48 seems likely to lose. The unified business-labor front against 47, 49 and 54 mean that all three will probably fail, although the margin of victory is hard to guess.

Referendums M and N, like all other obsolete language removals (a routine type of referendum in Colorado) are almost sure to win.

Referendums L and O have brought support and little opposition. But, O may face resistance from voters who don't like to limit their own power; an instinct that may be muted by the pain in the neck of working through a long ballot.

The fiscal measures: 50, 51, 52, 58, 59 and 3A are harder to gauge.

Gambling is controversial at the best of times, so if Amendment 50 does win, it will not be by a large margin. But, it is unlikely to have a well funded opposition, and has a large, if ineffectual, ground game.

Raising sales taxes in the midst of an economic crisis for the developmentally disabled as Amendment 51 does, may be a hard sell this year.

Amendment 52's lack of a tax increase, may win support from anti-tax conservatives who like highway spending, but there are few who would seem to have an intense political interest in supporting the bill other than road builders and oil companies (since it would probably trump Amendment 58 if that also passed, since it is a constitutional amendment, while Amendment 58 is a statutory change). Water and wildlife interests, and low income energy program supports all have reason to oppose Amendment 52.

Amendment 58 may tap into a wave of anti-oil and gas resentment and concern about sliding support for education in Colorado. The fact that is impacts severance taxes may also mute the usual self-interested anti-tax vote. The hard question is whether voters believe that it will hurt the currently economically healthy oil and gas industry in the state killing jobs and increasing gas prices.

Amendment 59 has broad support from legislative and political elites, and is window dressed to be a basically pro-education measures without imposing major new taxes. But, it may draw opposition from TABOR supporters on the right, and from Amendment 23 supporters on the left, and it isn't clear if the center will hold.

Referendum 3A has the virtue of a good track record of voter support for school and city spending in Denver, but may have a harder than usual time winning over voters in hard economic times.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts about these ballot questions. Can you suggest any additional sites which discuss these in a nonpartisan way?

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The Blue Book is the be all and end all of non-partisan discussion. Pretty much all other discussion (outside newspapers) includes advocacy.

Perhaps the League of Women Voters does additional analysis, I haven't checked lately.

Anonymous said...

At the Referendum O website, it gives a really comrehensive explanation of the initiative, as well as a look at the support coming from both sides of the ideological divide.

Referendum O represents a completely public interest, nonpartisan measure, because it aims at mandating that these ballot initiatives come with the support of the entire state, not just one region. It also raises the threshold of required signatures for state constitution amendments while it lowers the required number of signatures for statutory changes, which eliminates constitutional clutter. I think that both parties can agree with what this initiative is aiming to do.