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'Personhood' back on the ballot, but with a new focus

October 20, 2014
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The November ballot is packed full of statewide measures for voters to ponder.

Colorado voters will decide whether fetuses are people, if a Denver-area horse racing track will get casino games, how school boards negotiate with unions and how food is labeled for sale.

The most familiar of these is the "personhood" measure, which has been making it to the ballot but failing at the polls for nearly a decade. In 2008, Colorado voters defeated a constitutional amendment defining fetuses as people by nearly 3-1.

Backers, though, say Amendment 67 is different from its predecessors. Rather than attempting to redefine the role of fetuses throughout state law, this time the focus is on changing definitions within Colorado's criminal code.

The pitch, said pro-67 spokeswoman Jennifer Mason, is that killing a mother-to-be should result in two murder charges.

"This is a no-compromise amendment," she said.

That lack of compromise is the biggest argument against 67, said Fofi Mendez, who is running the campaign against 67.

"It would make pregnant women and their doctors subject to criminal investigation, including when a woman has a miscarriage," she said.

Mason agreed that the language might impact abortion.

"Our lawyers say it does definitely set a legal precedent for rights of the unborn child," she said.

Mason said voters, though, like that the law creates consequences for those who kill unborn babies through criminal acts such as drunken driving.

Mendez said she's all for the criminal protection, but 67 goes too far.

"We all want to protect pregnant women, but Amendment 67 is not the way to do that," she said.

Amendment 68

Backers of proposed Amendment 68 want state voters to expand gaming at a horse racing track in Aurora now, and at up to two other tracks later. The plans call for table games and slot machines at the tracks and would funnel gambling taxes - as much as $100 million annually - to schools.

"We owe it to our children to better prepare them - and in turn, our state - for future success," supporters say on their website, yesforbetterschools.com.

Opponents of 68 say it's a get-rich-quick scheme for the owners of the Aurora track and would do little to help schools.

The Woodland Park school board passed a resolution opposing 68.

"The inclusion of education funding in gaming initiatives helps to persuade the public to pass such efforts and constitutes bribing the electorate," the board said in the resolution.

Proposition 104

School boards are in the crosshairs of Proposition 104, which would require contract negotiations between boards and teacher unions to stay open to the public. With exceptions, most contract deals are hammered out in closed-door executive sessions, with the up-or-down vote on the deal open to public scrutiny.

A 104 backer, Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute said secret negotiations leave too much room for shenanigans.

"The single biggest thing a school board does is negotiate the union contract," Caldera said. "In most school districts, that is done in the dark."

School districts and unions say the measure with claims that it is too broad, improperly targeted and would harm contract negotiations.

Kevin Vick, president of the Colorado Springs Education Association, said turning the difficult business of contract negotiation into a public spectacle would lead to gridlock.

"When negotiations are open, people tend to grandstand," Vick said. "You can't compromise."

Proposition 105

The last statewide ballot measure could change what Colorado voters see on supermarket labels.

Proposition 105 would require labels to identify genetically engineered food at grocery stores. Restaurants and liquor stores would be exempt.

Nationwide, farmers have embraced crops including corn that have been genetically modified for better yields. Supporters of the measure say those foods, though, haven't been properly tested and the public has a right to know they're eating something manipulated by science.

"I look at it like cigarettes," said Larry Cooper, who is leading the push for the measure.

Cooper said the labeling won't ban the foods but will allow consumers to choose what they eat.

Rancher Don Shawcroft, one of the measure's leading opponents, said 105 would hurt farmers for little purpose.

"Trillions of meals have been fed to billions of people without reaction," Shawcroft said.

The rancher said consumers have an alternative to genetically engineered foods - they can buy organic.

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Contact Tom Roeder:

636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

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