LOEVY CRONIN
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Tom Cronin, left, and Bob Loevy.

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If you vote in the Nov. 6 election, you will have 13 statewide ballot issues on which to make a decision. There are nine proposed amendments to the Colorado Constitution and four proposed state laws. Here are our recommendations:

Amendment V: Lower Age Requirements for Members of the Legislature. The writers of the U.S. Constitution set age limits for holding office at 25 for the U.S. House, 30 for the U.S. Senate, and 35 for U.S. president. They argued an elected official needed a certain amount of life experience before holding office and making rules and regulations for others. On the other hand, we want to encourage young people to take more interest in politics by lowering the state legislative age requirement from 25 to 21.

Cronin — For

Loevy — Against

Prediction: Adopted

Amendment W: Election Ballot Format for Judicial Retention Elections. We are shocked that anything this trivial and detailed is in the constitution and requires a vote of the people to make a change. Minor issues like this should be decided by the Legislature and the governor. The amendment will reduce repeating the words “Shall Judge So-and-so of such-and-such court be retained in office?” on the judicial retention ballot. The new ballot wording is a bit more confusing .

Cronin — Against

Loevy — Against

Prediction: Rejected

Amendment X: Industrial Hemp Definition. This is another item that should not be in the constitution, but it rode in with the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012. Amendment X would eliminate the definition of industrial hemp from the constitution and have the definition set by federal or state law. The major gain is less regulation of the hemp industry .

Cronin — For

Loevy — For

Prediction: Adopted

Amendment Y: Congressional Redistricting. The district lines for Colorado’s seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives are drawn by the Legislature, but in virtually all cases recently the Legislature has not agreed on the new lines and the drawing of congressional district boundaries took place in the courts. This is an item of government procedure that belongs in the constitution. Amendment Y will create a new Congressional Redistricting Commission consisting of four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated voters. It is assumed the presence of unaffiliated voters will prevent the Democrats or the Republicans from drawing congressional district lines favorable to their political party, a process known as gerrymandering. The commission is instructed to, among other things, draw congressional districts that are politically competitive.

Cronin — For

Loevy — For

Prediction: Adopted

Amendment Z: Legislative Redistricting. This referred constitutional amendment would create the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission to draw boundary lines for state House districts and state Senate districts. It would closely resemble the congressional district commission created in Amendment Y (four Democrats, four Republicans, four unaffiliated voters, etc.).

It would replace an existing Reapportionment Commission that can easily be dominated by one political party and result in gerrymandering. Similar to Amendment Y, Amendment Z belongs in the constitution.

Cronin — For

Loevy — For

Prediction: Adopted

Amendment A: Prohibit Slavery and Involuntary Servitude in All Circumstances. The Colorado Constitution prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime for which a person has been convicted. This referred constitutional amendment would remove the phrase, making slavery and involuntary servitude illegal under all conditions. The enabling legislation for Amendment A emphasizes that voluntary work programs, with their positive benefits, will still be available in all state prison programs.

Cronin — For

Loevy — For

Prediction: Adopted

Amendment 73: Funding for Public Schools. This amendment would increase public school funding by raising taxes on incomes over $100,000 in a range from $185 to $24,395 per year. It would raise the average corporate tax by $14,395 per year. Public schools are important , but constitutional amendments that earmark tax increases for a particular interest group (public schools are an interest group) are unfair to the many other facets of Colorado government that need more money. We might feel differently about this proposal if it were an initiated ordinance rather than a hard-to-change constitutional amendment.

Cronin — 2/3 For

Loevy — Against

Prediction: Rejected

Amendment 74: Compensation for Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation. This amendment expands the circumstances under which the state or a local government is required to provide compensation to a property owner. Thus, if a government limits natural gas development on a property, an owner of mineral rights could file a claim for the reduced value of the property.

This appears to be an effort to guarantee payments to mineral rights owners if the state or local governments restrict drilling for oil and gas close to homes and schools. The constitution protects those rights well. This amendment could result in expensive lawsuits against the state and local governments. Also, such detailed treatment of a minor issue does not belong in the state Constitution.

Cronin — Against

Loevy — Against

Prediction: Rejected

Amendment 75: Campaign Contributions. Designed to correct the problem that millionaires can finance their own election campaigns without spending limits, this amendment would allow competitors to exceed the per-person contribution limit by five times. The present $1,150 limit per contributor would be raised to $5,750 if an opponent contributes $1 million to his or her own campaign. There is no real purpose to this constitutional amendment. All candidates can escape contribution limits by forming independent expenditure committees that can spend money without limits. And, even if this were a good idea, it would not belong in the constitution but should be a regular law.

Cronin — Against

Loevy — Against

Prediction: Approved

Proposition 109: Authorize Bonds for Highway Projects. To its great credit, this proposal would change state law rather than the state constitution. Flaws could be corrected by the Legislature and the governor, if necessary. In the main, however, the Legislature and the governor respect initiated laws approved by the voters and are reluctant to change them unless absolutely necessary.

Proposition 109 would increase bridge and road spending by $1 billion over 20 years with borrowed money. It would also borrow money to pay for currently authorized bridge and road programs. The borrowed money would be paid back out of the state budget without an increase in taxes and thus may require cuts in other state programs .

Cronin — Against

Loevy — Against

Prediction: Rejected

Proposition 110: Authorize Sales Tax and Bonds for Transportation Projects. This would change state law rather than the constitution. It is a 20-year road and bridge spending increase that is paid for with a rise in state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent. The state would borrow up to $6 billion for transportation expenses — 45 percent to the state, 40 percent to local governments and 15 percent to rail passenger, bus, bike, and other multimodal projects.

This proposition requires a major tax increase, but it represents a major effort to do something about the woeful condition of roads and bridges.

Cronin — For

Loevy — For

Prediction: Approved

Proposition 111: Limitations on Payday Loans. This would change state law rather than the constitution. The total cost of payday loans — small short-term loans — would be set at 36 percent per year. The present complicated interest and fees structure would be eliminated.

Lowering the cost of poor people borrowing small amounts of money in difficult situations sounds like a good idea, yet there is the risk this initiated law might drive many payday lenders out of business and leave many poor people without a quick source of emergency funds.

Cronin — For

Loevy — For

Prediction: Approved

Proposition 112: Increased Setback Requirement for Oil and Natural Gas Development. This would change law rather than the constitution. The setback requirements on new oil and gas developments (drilling) would be raised from 500/1,000 feet (depending on the land use) to 2,500 feet. This is one of the most important issues on this ballot. Cities, towns and counties are struggling to regain control over how close oil and gas drilling and wells can be to homes, neighborhoods and schools. Residential values and personal health and safety are at stake. On the other hand, oil and gas production is one of the vital industries in the state, and fossil fuels are badly needed . This is a classic showdown between local vs. state and also neighborhoods vs. the extractive energy industry. This issue cries out for a solution by the Legislature.

Cronin — Against

Loevy — For

Prediction: Rejected

Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy are political scientists at Colorado College.

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