Recently the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose a seemingly innocuous ballot initiative.
Amendment 38 may appear to be a responsible measure at first glance. However, when you peel away the layers, you find confusion, unintended consequences and, some would assert, manipulation.
One guiding principal that the chamber used in reaching the decision to oppose Amendment 38 is the foundational principal that our citizens should continue to have the access to the ballot that they currently enjoy.
Amendment 38 is unnecessary. When citizens go to the polls this November, they will find the ballot loaded with a broad range of diverse issues, more issues than in many years past.
They will get to decide policy questions such as raising the minimum wage and legalizing marijuana, along with many more detailed, complex issues.
Many other states have taken steps to restrain unwieldy ballots, while Colorado enjoys a high level of freedom with initiatives and referenda.
Colorado, California and Oregon have the most lenient petition/ballot processes in the nation.
The cynicism surrounding this proposal is concerning. Every two years, voters go to the ballot to elect individuals from their communities to represent them on city council and at the state legislature.
That is the very essence of what representative government has been about since our country was founded.
Amendment 38 makes a mockery of representative government. It allows even the minutest of decisions made by the very representatives the citizens elect to be easily contested, creating a chaotic impact on effectively managing the business of helping our community thrive and respond to citizen needs.
This proposal would dilute one of the best systems in the world.
Another unintended consequence appears to be the extra costs borne by taxpayers for initiatives they may never philosophically support. One of the components of the proposal mandates that taxpayers will have to pay for the printing of petitions espousing different issues. The taxpayers will have to pay for frivolous initiatives being circulated at best and, at worst, will have to pay for the printing of petitions that could very well run against the very grain of their value system.
Additionally, do citizens really want to pay for petitions about every disgruntled individual’s concerns?
This proposal has been settled in the past. It was turned down by the voters the two times it has been on the ballot through the years.
Each time, the voters realized that it created many more problems than opportunities. Why must we continue to revisit something the voters have clearly spoken on in past elections?
Research has shown that it is unsettling to the electorate to continue to have to make their wishes known through the ballot box, when there are more pressing issues like how to fund schools, find water solutions and how to fix our state’s budget problems. This issue clearly was settled with the voters in the past, but apparently not with those who seem to want to create conflict in our public policy process.
Another glaring unintended consequence with Amendment 38 is based around the argument from the proponents of this initiative that says that the state and cities should have common rules governing their petition process.
Having different rules in different regions for petitioning their governments is an affront to our citizens who appreciate that they are different from other communities. Many people in the Pikes Peak Region are thankful that they do not have the same rules governing its area that Boulder might allow with its unique culture, or Denver with their approach to governance or even a small town like Hayden on the western slope.
The uniqueness of every community is something to covet, not change. That creates the possibility that a small adversarial group might want to come into our community to put something on the ballot because they do not believe in how we make decisions.
When going to the polls to vote on this issue in November, we urge voters to keep in perspective that the Colorado Constitution has been amended 47 times since 1980 while the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 27 times in more than 217 years.
We have a system in place now that affords an individual plenty of opportunity to petition. If Amendment 38 does not pass, that ability to petition issues on the ballot will continue to exist.
Let us not fix a “non” problem and, instead, continue to appreciate the ability to have a balanced, measured approach to voting on issues as Colorado citizens.
Visit www.coloradospringschamber.org for more information. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org