By Jack Minor
This election year Colorado voters will have a variety of amendments that will reduce taxes and muzzle legislators’ ability to raise taxes. Several other issues will be decided as well, including whether an individual in the womb is a person. In many instances, voters put controversial issues before the people in response to politicians’ unwillingness to make difficult choices.
In response to such initiatives, legislators have attempted to curtail the rights of the people to bring issues to a vote. Recently in Massachusetts, state Rep. Byron Rushing in the House, and state Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem in the Senate, proposed an amendment to the state Constitution that would essentially put an end to any citizen initiatives in the state.
The amendment SB 23 would not allow any initiative that would affect a person’s “enjoyment of life, Liberty and property”. Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Association said if the amendment were to pass, “it would virtually eliminate the citizen’s right to petition in Massachusetts,” noting, “I can’t think of a single piece of legislation that doesn’t affect life, liberty or property in some way.”
While the Republican House Minority Leader Brad Jones believes the proposal will not pass describing it as “ridiculous”, the measure received only one dissenting vote and is out of the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee with an “ought to pass” recommendation.
Colorado is currently one of only 24 states that have the initiative process and only18 states allow citizens to place constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Similar attempts to restrict the rights of citizens to place initiatives on the ballot have been attempted in Colorado as well. Three years after the voters approved term limits the legislature passed a statute requiring individuals circulating petitions to be residents of the state and registered voters. They would also be required to wear a badge identifying them as either paid or volunteers.
Additionally, this year those attempting to gather signatures were confused over the deadlines. The Colorado Constitutions says the deadline is three months from the election however a statute passed in 2009 moved the deadline up by three weeks.
In Colorado, voters have used this process often, including the Taxpayer Bill of Rights which put strict limits on the amounts government can spend and included a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and woman.
The initiative process is an integral part of our system of government in Colorado, affording us unique privileges over half of the country does not have. In the next few articles we will look at the propositions and amendments on our ballots this November.