Colorado voters mulling restrictions on new oil, gas wells
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A sign stands along St. Paul Street in south Denver urging voters to cast their ballots against Proposition 112. The measure targeting oil and gas setbacks was rejected.

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It seems inconceivable the electorate would enact Proposition 112. But stranger things have happened.

To vote for 112 is to vote for recession. It is to vote in favor of killing hundreds of thousands of jobs and depriving public schools of billions of dollars over time.

That is why Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is hedging against potential economic crisis, with talk of a special legislative session if 112 passes.

Prop 112 would require 2,500-foot setbacks for oil and gas production from homes, schools and any area deemed “vulnerable” by a government. It means oil and gas, a major segment of Colorado’s economy, would have almost no surface from which to drill. It means energy companies would likely give up on Colorado.

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Everyone should know this by now. Most major candidates for public office have publicly opposed this measure, including the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor. Hickenlooper has starred in TV ads pleading with the public to defeat this measure. All living past governors have warned about 112. It is not a left versus right, Republican versus Democrat issue. It is a kill jobs versus don’t-kill-jobs issue.

Yet, it could pass.

Anyone who trusts an informed electorate to craft responsible laws at the ballot box should contemplate results of a survey conducted last year by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The survey, sampling the public’s civic IQ, found 40 percent of Americans could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment. That means they could not come up with “freedom of speech,” “freedom of religion” or “freedom of the press.”

The same survey found 33 percent could not name one of three branches of the federal government, let alone all three.

A 2016 poll by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found 10 percent of college graduates think TV’s Judge Judy serves on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Take no offense at our dismay. People who read this far into newspaper editorials cannot be among those who fail tests of that sort.

The survey results point to the fact a portion of the public has little information about public process. Those who don’t know the First Amendment — on the books for more than 200 years — probably don’t know details and ramifications of a newly drafted ballot measure.

Even people who would pass civics-proficiency surveys with flying colors might not have time to adequately study this year’s long list of ballot measures, as most Coloradans are busy working and providing for children and households.

Given the imminent economic consequences of 112 becoming law, Hickenlooper is meeting with both potential winners of the governor’s race, and with a variety of stakeholders about a possible special session.

“These initiatives are often bare bones,” Hickenlooper said, as quoted by Denver’s CBS4. “They don’t go on 40 pages of what happens in this case or that case. You want to minimize the unintended collateral damage.”

We have faith voters will reject 112. If they don’t, we will need a special session and other damage-control measures to prepare for a voter-enacted statewide recession. Those who have not voted yet can help avoid the cleanup, by voting no on 112.

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