Colorado voters will decide on 13 state-level measures, addressing big issues like education and road funding, oil and gas setbacks, and congressional redistricting. The measures are of three types: …
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Colorado voters will decide on 13 state-level measures, addressing big issues like education and road funding, oil and gas setbacks, and congressional redistricting.
The measures are of three types: numbered amendments begin as citizen initiatives, and would be added to the Colorado Constitution. They cannot be altered without another popular vote.
Numbered propositions also begin as citizen initiatives, but if approved become state law, not constitutional amendments.
Lettered amendments are created in the state Legislature and referred to voters for approval.
Amendment 73: school funding
Among the more high-profile measures on this year’s ballot, Amendment 73 aims to create new revenue for public education by instituting a complex graduated income tax increase on individuals earning more than $150,000 a year, and increasing the corporate income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 6.0 percent. The measure would also fix residential property tax rates at 7.0 percent, preventing them from falling further due to the Gallagher Amendment.
Proponents say the measure would generate $1.6 billion per year for public education in Colorado, which has seen reductions totaling $7.2 billion since 2010. Colorado’s schools suffer from underfunding, proponents say, leading to inadequate special education and mental health counseling, as well as increasing class sizes and other detrimental outcomes.
Opponents say tax revenue is increasing without tax rate increases, and the measure does not guarantee improved student performance. Tax increases are burdensome on individuals and businesses, they argue, and the measure’s income tax brackets won’t be adjusted for inflation, thus pushing more earners into the brackets over time.
Amendment 74: compensation for property devaluation
Though Colorado law already requires government to compensate property owners if their actions totally devalue private property, such as through eminent domain or by enacting regulations that bar construction, Amendment 74 would allow property owners to petition the state for reimbursement of lost partial value of a property due to new laws or regulations, for example if government limited natural gas development on private property, an owner could sue for reduced mineral rights value.
Proponents say the law would help protect real estate, which is the most significant asset many people own.
Opponents say the measure could have unintended consequences, and make governments gun-shy about basic infrastructure projects or decisions beneficial to the state’s environmental health.
Amendment 75: campaign contributions
Seeking to level the playing field in state-level elections, Amendment 75 would allow political donors to increase their campaign contributions to candidates to five times the current limits if one or more of the other candidates in the race contributes $1 million or more of their personal funds to the campaign.
Proponents say the measure would reduce the unfair advantages enjoyed by wealthy candidates in political races, and give a better shot to small-fry candidates seeking to get their message out.
Opponents say the measure only increases the money in state politics, thus sending campaign expenditures ever higher.
Proposition 109: bonds for highway projects
Previously called the “Fix Our Damn Roads” initiative, Proposition 109 directs the state to borrow up to $3.5 billion to address up to 66 different road and bridge projects around the state. The funds would be raised through bond sales with a total repayment of up to $5.2 billion. The money raised would not be enough to cover the total cost of all 66 projects, and project priorities would be determined by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the state Transportation Commission.
Proponents say the measure would address Colorado’s neglected road infrastructure, which they say contributes to traffic congestion and reduces the safety of motorists.
Opponents say the measure could divert funds that could be used for other state priorities, such as education, health care and other infrastructure maintenance.
Proposition 110: sales tax and bonds for transportation
Another bill to address Colorado’s roads, Proposition 110 would raise the base state-level sales tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent for 20 years to fund transportation projects around the state. The proposition would also authorize the Colorado Department of Transportation to borrow up to $6 billion, with a total repayment cost of up to $9.4 billion, to fund a variety of transportation projects. A Colorado family making $74,000 a year would pay roughly $130 more a year in sales taxes.
Proponents say the measure would go a long way toward improving Colorado’s deteriorating highways, and that costs only increase the longer maintenance is deferred while population increases.
Opponents say the state should fund road projects with money it already collects, and that sales tax increases disproportionately impact low-income residents.
Proposition 111: reducing payday loan rates
Payday loans are big business in Colorado, with 207,000 individuals taking out 414,000 payday loans totaling $166 million in 2016, according to state data. Proposition 111 would limit the annual percentage rate for repayment of the small, short-term loans, lowering the maximum APR to 36 percent down from the current average of 129 percent. Other fees can bring the APR up to roughly 180 percent. Under the proposition, repayment on a $500 loan would be no more than $553, as opposed to the current maximum, which could be as high as $793, not including fees that the proposition would eliminate.
Proponents say the measure would protect low-income consumers in financial crisis from predatory lenders, and give them a better chance to repay loans without becoming trapped in a cycle of debt.
Opponents say the measure could have the unintended consequence of eliminating the payday loan business in Colorado altogether, stripping consumers of easy access to quick cash that can help stave off bounced checks or utility shutoffs.
Proposition 112: oil and gas setbacks
Easily the most contentious issue on Colorado’s ballot this year, Proposition 112 would increase the distance that oil and gas development can be built to 2,500 feet from homes, up from the current limit of 500 feet for homes and 1,000 feet from high-occupancy structures. The measure reflects increasing tensions over the presence of oil and gas development in Colorado, where oil production doubled between 2013 and 2017, according to state data. In 2017, there were 54,000 producing wells in Colorado, an increase of 48 percent from 2007. Oil and gas producers paid nearly $500 million in property taxes in 2017, and had many other wide-ranging economic impacts.
Current oil and gas sites would be grandfathered in, but the law would render 85 percent of non-federal land in Colorado off-limits to future oil and gas development.
Proponents say the measure protects residents from potentially harmful health effects of living near oil and gas development, and protects vulnerable natural environments from pollutants. As both residential and resource development encroach on one another, the measure would allow residents greater certainty about the location of future oil and gas apparatus.
Opponents say the measure could have devastating effects on Colorado’s economy, majorly scaling back an industry that provides a wide range of jobs that support other industries. The measure could also significantly reduce tax revenue that supports numerous state and local agencies.
Amendment A: eliminating slavery in the state constitution
A revision of a failed 2016 measure, Amendment A would strike a provision in the Colorado Constitution that bans slavery “except as punishment for a crime.” The idea is to ensure that the state constitution unambiguously bans slavery. The 2016 measure failed because of wording that could be construed as banning judicially imposed community service, inmate labor, and probation requiring offenders to maintain employment. While jail inmates in Colorado are not required to work, they face loss of privileges or delayed parole eligibility if they don’t.
Proponents say the measure unequivocally confirms Colorado’s commitment to striking from the books outdated language that prolongs the legacy of slavery.
Opponents say the measure is merely symbolic and could create legal confusion over offender work requirements.
Amendment V: lowering minimum age for state Legislature
Colorado’s current minimum age for serving in the state legislature is 25, but Amendment V would lower the minimum to 21. The measure would bring Colorado in line with 43 other states that set the minimum age for serving in state legislative bodies between 18 and 21. About half of states, however, have higher thresholds for serving in state senates — generally between ages 25 and 30.
Proponents say lowering the minimum age encourages young people to participate in the civic process, and allows voters to decide whether a candidate has sufficient maturity to hold office.
Opponents say lack of experience and maturity could make young legislators ineffective.
Amendment W: simplifying ballot language for judicial retention
The Colorado Constitution mandates that while the vast majority of the state’s judges are appointed by the governor, they face regular popular votes to decide if they should retain their seat on the bench. Amendment W would change the way retention votes appear on the ballot. The current ballot language mandates a separate question for each judge up for retention, reading: “Shall justice/judge … be retained in office?”
Under Amendment W, all judges up for retention would be listed under a single banner reading “Shall the following justices/judges be retained in office?” Each judge’s name would appear next to bubbles for yes or no.
Proponents say the measure makes the ballot more user-friendly and efficient, and may save printing costs for counties with numerous judges or those that print in English and Spanish.
Opponents say the measure is unnecessary and may give voters the impression they’re voting in a multi-candidate election.
Amendment X: industrial hemp definition
With Colorado now the nation’s largest producer of industrial hemp — a form of the cannabis plant used in commercial applications, with no psychoactive effect — Amendment X would strike the definition of the crop spelled out by Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana, and replace the definition with the one used in federal law. The idea would be to streamline cooperation with federal law in the event that the U.S. Congress adopts pending legislation loosening restrictions on growing industrial hemp.
Proponents say striking the state definition reduces any potential conflicts between state and federal law as the regulatory landscape for industrial hemp evolves.
Opponents say that the current definition was enacted through the popular initiative process, and changing the wording could weaken voters’ original intent.
Amendment Y: Congressional redistricting
Colorado is expected to add a new congressional district after the 2020 census, bringing the state’s number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to eight, and requiring a redrawing of district lines to carve out the new one. Previous redistricting efforts, which are conducted by the state legislature, have ended up in lengthy court battles. Amendment Y would create a state commission to conduct congressional redistricting. The commission would consist of four Republicans, four Democrats, and four unaffiliated voters. Lobbyists and politicians would be prohibited from participating, and the commission’s work would be subject to public oversight and commentary. The Supreme Court would rule on the commission’s district maps.
Proponents say the measure makes the redistricting process more transparent and limits the role of partisan politics, and establishes clear criteria for establishing new district boundaries.
Opponents say the commission’s members are not subject to being voted out like members of the Legislature, and that the presence of unaffiliated members could unintentionally stack the commission with partisan members who simply haven’t declared their allegiance.
Amendment Z: legislative redistricting
Similar to Amendment Y, Amendment Z would create a new commission to redraw Colorado’s state House and Senate districts after the 2020 census. Currently, Colorado has 35 state senators and 65 state representatives. The state redistricting process is conducted by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, which consists of 11 members, six of whom can be from the same political party. Amendment Z would create a commission composed of four Republicans, four Democrats and four unaffiliated members. The commission would be subject to the same public oversight as in Amendment Y, and its maps would have to be approved by the state Supreme Court.
Opponents say the commission’s unaffiliated members could unintentionally stack the commission with partisan members who simply haven’t declared their allegiance, and that the redistricting criteria could be applied subjectively.
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