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Colorado Springs mayor, former mayor promote 'raising the bar'

August 23, 2016 Updated: August 23, 2016 at 9:41 pm
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Mayoral candidates John Suthers and Mary Lou Makepeace talk before the start of a debate sponsored by KKTV and The Gazette and moderated by Don Ward Monday, April 27, 2015 in the KKTV studios. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Mayor John Suthers and former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace may not seem to have much in common beyond being Republicans and wanting the best for Colorado Springs.

But they share strong support for a ballot proposal to "raise the bar" and make it more difficult to amend the Colorado Constitution.

They'll appear in television advertisements later this week to urge Coloradans to vote for that proposal, expected to be Amendment 71 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Colorado Constitution is the easiest to amend of any in the nation, Makepeace notes in her video spot, which can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/aP5Z0Peqzec.

Voters in Denver and Boulder shouldn't be allowed to dictate changes that affect the entire state, Suthers says in his video, which can be seen online at https://youtu.be/_03IFyw_a0c.

"Our Founding Fathers made it hard to amend the U.S. Constitution," Suthers says, "because they knew it set forth fundamental rights that should be protected."

Colorado's Constitution has been "littered with some bad ideas," Suthers says. Ten years ago, for example, an amendment almost passed that would have made it illegal for firefighters' children to get scholarships.

"Last year, East Coast casinos tried to create a gambling monopoly in our Constitution," continues Suthers, the state's former attorney general.

"Our Founding Fathers were right. Constitutions shouldn't be easily amended. It's time to make it more difficult to amend our state Constitution."

The new amendment would require petition signatures to be gathered from at least 2 percent of registered voters in each of the state's 35 Senate districts. At least 55 percent of voters would have to approve any constitutional amendment that makes it to the ballot.

Currently, anyone with about $100,000 usually can get the signatures needed to put a proposal on the ballot - 5 percent of the number of votes cast in the previous race for secretary of state. More than 1.92 million ballots were cast in the 2014 race that Wayne Williams won.

Signatures now can be collected anywhere in the state, and a simple majority can pass the amendment.

Usually, petition circulators target urban areas with dense populations where voters can easily be found.

When "Raise the Bar" activists gathered signatures in each of the 35 Senate districts to get the proposal on the ballot, some eastern plains residents said it was the first time petitions were circulated in their area, reported former state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray.

He and former state Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, are supporting the measure as members of Building a Better Colorado.

That group of civic leaders has been conducting meetings statewide to gauge residents' preferences for policy changes, and "Raise the Bar" was one of the most popular, said project director Reeves Brown.

In her video, Makepeace notes that the Colorado Constitution "has more than 150 amendments and almost 75,000 words - nearly 10 times longer than the U.S. Constitution."

"Let's make sure the entire state has a voice," she says in the video. "It's time to protect our Constitution. It's time to raise the bar."

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