10 August 2010

Colorado's 2010 Ballot Initiatives Preview

Colorado's next election after the primary election will be held November 2, 2010, and will feature the Governor's race, races for Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Attorney General, CU Regent, State Board of Education, District Attorney, judicial retention elections, elections for county officers outside Denver. There will also be ballot initatives. The City and County of Denver's non-partisan elected officials face voters in the Spring of 2011.

Denver has a ballot initiative and there are at least seven and may be as many as nine state ballot measures. The short summary of my recommendations is to vote "no" on all of the ballot issues except Amendment P and Amendment R.

A Denver ballot initiative on the formation of an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, is on the ballot. I recommend that you vote "no", as it is even nuttier than the title would suggest when you review the details of who would serve on the commission (alien abductees and people who work with them).

The state ballot proposals will include Amendments 60, 61 and 101, collectively known as the "Dr. Evil initiatives" sponsored covertly by Doug Bruce that would drastically limit state and local taxing an borrowing powers. Amendment 60 applies to property taxes, amendment 61 applies to public borrowing powers, and amendment 101 applies to a variety of other taxes and users fees. Their result would be to bankrupt the state. You should vote "no" on all three.

Amendment 62 is a rerun of the Personhood initiative, a measure coming out of the anti-abortion and anti-contraception movement that would like to declare someone to be a person with all rights of a person who has been born from the time of conception, a measure derisively called the "Eggmendment." It was soundly defeated the last time it appeared on the ballot, and deserves a "no" vote again this time.

Amendment P, a referred measure from the state legislature, transfers authority for bingo and raffles to from the Secretary of State's office to the Department of Revenue, which regulates all other forms of gambling in the state. It is a housekeeping measure that makes good sense, may reduce administrative costs, reduces the number of special interests who might try to influence Secretary of State elections, and deserves as "yes" vote.

Amendment Q, a referred measure, authorizes the state legislature to temporarily relocate the seat of government in Colorado, by law, in the event that an emergency or disaster makes it impracticable to conduct business in Denver. The measure requires support from two-thirds of voters to pass. It is a paranoid bit of housekeeping that probably won't do any harm, and just might be helpful, but addresses probably that could probably handled in other ways if necessary. On balance, I think that the possibility that this will be misused in some way outweighs the remote possibility that it will be much help in a disaster so intense that government cannot be conducted anywhere in Denver, or on a temporary basis elsewhere without a constitutional amendment. When in doubt, as I am here, I recommend that you vote "no" on Amendment Q.

Amendment R, a referred measure, creates a property tax exemption for possessory interests in real property (i.e. leaseholds of government owned property) worth $6000 or less, with an adjustment for inflation. The exemption would apply primarily to low value agricultural leases and would reduce property tax revenues to local governments by 0.1% (about $160,000 statewide) of which $46,000 would be made up by state government school funding dollars.

The market value of all possessory interests in Colorado is about $330 million, which is less than 0.1 percent of the total market value of all property in the state. At this value, possessory interests generate approximately $23 million in property taxes annually. There are about 220,000 possessory interests in the state, of which nearly 215,000 are leases of agricultural land. Although agricultural leases greatly outnumber the other types of possessory interests, they account for only 3 percent of the total value of all the possessory interests in the state, averaging about $51 each.

Basically, this has the effect of exempting grazing leases (which make up 0.03 percent of all the total market value of all property in the state) from taxation while continuing to impose property tax on many of the 5,000 other government property leaseholds, like those of resort cities like Vail. This is a sensible proposal that voters should approve even in these tough fiscal times because the costs of collection outweigh the revenues generated. So, Vote "yes" on Amendment R.

Pending Ballot Issues

Two more initiatives had petitions submitted to the Secretary of State submitted and requires 76,047 signatures to appear on the ballot, something that the Secretary of State has not yet confirmed. The signatures were filed after the statutory, but before the state constitutional deadline for doing so, which the Secretary of State agreed was valid.

Measure #45 (which will be renumbered if there are sufficient signatures) directs the government of the state of Colorado, and authorizes people in Colorado to defy the federal health care law (contrary to the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause) by not participating in a system that requires people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty if they do not (it is from John Caldera of the independence institute) was submitted July 30, 2010 with about 130,500 signatures.

Measure #92 (which will be renumbered if there are sufficient signatures) limits the availability of unsecured personal recognizance bonds to people facing charges as first time offenders for non-violent misdemeanors. This would cost local governments about $2.8 million of year in jail costs because defendants need an average of eight days to locate secured bonding resources and 30% of defendants can't afford to post a bond at all; a petition was submitted August 2, 2010.

The Secretary of State has 30 days to rule on the validity of the respective petitions.

Both of these measures, if they do make it onto the ballot, are bad ideas and I urge you to vote "no" on them if they make it onto the ballot.

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