30 October 2008

Election 2008: Colorado Amendments

Filed under: Culture, Reflections — ktismatics @ 4:53 pm

[The morning after: Colorado election results are in the comments.]

With the election just a few days away I guess it’s time for me to decide how I’m going to fill in my ballot. In addition to the presidential and senate races there are several issues being put to the vote in Colorado. Although ordinarily this blog doesn’t have many local readers, I thought it might be informative to show what kinds of things the local citizenry is being asked to decide. Here’s how I plan to vote on each of them, but I might be dissuadable if you’ve got a good counter-argument to offer. Here are the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the State of Colorado being decided by popular vote during this election:

Amendment 46 — Prohibit governments from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, or public contracting.

The U.S. Constitution already prohibits this sort of discrimination; the key phrase is “granting preferential treatment.” If this amendment passes, equal opportunity and diversity hiring policies, which attempt to rectify institutionalized biases and injustices in academe and the workplace, would be prohibited. I vote NO.

Amendment 47 — Prohibit requiring an employee to join and pay any dues or fees to a labor union as a condition for employment.

This is basic union busting — NO.

Amendment 48 — Define the term “person” to include any human being from the moment of fertilization.

A proven strategy for getting out the conservative vote is to put pro-life and anti-gay marriage any amendments on the state ballot. If this proposal wasn’t on the ballot I think Obama would win Colorado for sure. NO.

Amendment 49 — Prohibit any public employee paycheck deduction except for deductions required by federal law, tax withholdings, judicial liens and garnishments, health benefit and other insurance deductions, deductions for pension or retirement plans or systems or other savings or investment programs, and charitable deductions.

There seems no need for this legislation, except for making it illegal to deduct union dues from government employee paychecks. NO.

Amendment 50 — Allow residents of Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to extend casino hours, approve additional games, and increase the maximum single bet limit; give most of the gaming tax revenue that results from new gaming limits to Colorado community colleges and to the gaming cities and counties; exempt the revenue raised from new gaming limits from state and local revenue and spending limits.

I don’t know. I think gambling can be fun, and if you want to play big-stakes games why should the State prevent you? It’s not like second-hand smoke, where hanging around in the same casino with a compulsive gambler is going to rub off on you. I have no idea how the local citizenry of these three towns feel about having gambling joints in their neighborhoods, but this amendment, but I’ve got to believe it’s the casino owners rather than the townies who are pushing for this amendment. On the other hand, the local jurisdictions will get significant increases in tax revenues, so they might like it. But the biggest chunk of increased taxes would go to the community colleges located throughout the state. This sort of earmarking of state revenues I’m generally against, but giving it to schools isn’t so bad. State-run lotteries are a regressive mechanism for raising tax revenues. Still, this amendment isn’t proposing a sin tax imposed on the gamblers, but rather an income tax to be paid by the casinos. The Voter Guide distributed by the Boulder County Democrats says “no,” but they don’t say why — I suspect it’s worries about compulsive gambling and the seedy environment that seems to crop up in casino towns. Much as I think casino gambling is a stupid way to spend your money, I could say the same thing about luxury cars and crappy $6 coffee-flavored beverages. The amendment doesn’t require these 3 towns to accede to statewide results; if it passes the legislation just just gives them the right to decide for themselves. I’m going to vote YES.

Amendment 51 — Increase state sales tax from 2.9% to 3.1% over two years; direct the new money be used to pay for services for people with developmental disabilities.

Again, the earmarking is problematic. Also, sales tax is regressive. So after originally thinking yes I’m changing to NO for this one.

Amendment 52 — Require the state legislature to spend a portion of state severance tax collections on highway projects.

Severance tax is levied against mining companies based on the amount of nonrenewable natural resources they extract from the earth. So, e.g., an oil driller’s severance tax would be used to pay for highway projects that would… encourage more driving and thus more oil consumption. NO.

Amendment 53 — Hold a business executive criminally responsible for the business’s failure to perform a duty required by law if the official knew of the duty and the business’s failure to perform it.


Amendment 54 — Prohibit certain government contractors from contributing to a political party or candidate for the contract’s duration and two years thereafter; prohibit contributors to ballot issue campaigns from entering into certain government contracts relating to the ballot issue.

I’m sure the government contractors claim discrimination and excessive bureaucracy to monitor compliance, but I say YES to this one.

Amendment 55 — Prohibit private-sector employees from firing or suspending full-time employees except for specific reasons.

I understand that employers are going to regard this legislation as restricting their flexibility to respond to volatility in the economic climate. However, one of the “specific reasons” that’s acceptable for letting a worker go is “documented adverse economic circumstances that directly affect the employer.” YES.

Amendment 56 — Require private employers with 20 or more employees to either provide health insurance for both employees and their dependents or pay for insurance through a new state authority; limit the amount the employee must pay to 20% for employee-only coverage and to 30% for dependent coverage.

I favor single-payer health insurance that would eliminate employers as purchasers of health plans. This legislation will make it relatively harder on the smaller employers, providing competitive advantages to bigger companies. However, this law is designed to protect workers regardless of who they work for. YES.

Amendment 57 — Allow an injured employee to seek damages in court, beyond workers’ compensation benefits, if the employee believes that the employer failed to provide a safe and healthy workplace.

Certainly a company should be subject to punitive damages for creating or tolerating conditions that make it more likely for workers to be injured. As an aside, I’d like to see current and former employees of subprime lending institutions start suing their employers for PTSD and punitive damages caused by putting their workers in the untenable position of pushing toxic mortgages on their friends and neighbors. YES.

Amendment 58 — Increase the amount of state severance taxes paid by oil and natural gas companies, primarily by eliminating an existing state tax credit; allocate the increased severance tax revenue to college scholarships for state residents, wildlife habitat, renewable energy projects, transportation projects in energy-impacted areas, and water treatment grants.

I described severance taxes in Amendment 52. YES.

Amendment 59 — Eliminate rebates that taxpayers receive when the state collects more money than it is allowed, and spend the money for preschool through 12th grade public education.

I believe that current law requires the state to refund tax revenues that exceed expenditures within any given year, which seems stupid to me. This amendment eliminates that requirement. YES.

Referendum L — Lower the age requirements for serving in the state legislature from 25 to 21.


There are three more referenda on the ballot, but they’re mostly technicalities. If you think I should change my vote on any of these items, or if you want to reinforce my potentially wobbly support for any of them, pleas let me know. Tomorrow I’ll post on the city and county issues if they prove interesting (I haven’t read them yet).



  1. After 88% of the votes have been counted the results are clear for most of these proposed amendments to the Colorado Constitution:
    – The pro-life Amendment 48 lost badly, 72% to 28%.
    – The two union busting amendments, 47 and 49, are both going down to defeat.
    – Amendment 46, which would prohibit governmental affirmative hiring practices, is just about a dead heat so far. The wording probably confused a lot of voters, since it appears to be an anti-discrimination measure. Apparently similar amendments, had already passed in 2 or 3 other states, owing in part to the ambiguous wording.
    – Four of the proposed amendments got tossed from the ballot — 53, 55, 56, and 57. I don’t know why. Each of these 4 would have extended more rights to workers or held businesses more legally and financially accountable. Maybe corporate lawyers found technicalities to have these proposals tossed out as unconstitutional.
    – The expanded gambling Amendment 50 is winning handily.
    – The tax measures (52, 58, 59) all got defeated.
    – Amendment 54, prohibiting campaign contributors from scoring state contracts, is too close to call.
    – No to reducing the age requirement for serving in the state legislature.

    I said at the top of this post that I don’t have many local readers. It turns out that this post has gotten a lot of Colorado traffic. If you google Election 2008 Colorado Amendments this post is listed second, right after the CO Secretary of State and ahead of all the print and broadcast media and campaign websites. Thank you for your support, Colorado! YES WE CAN! I couldn’t have done it without your generous financial support, but the work has just begun. Please send more money!


    Comment by ktismatics — 5 November 2008 @ 10:24 am

  2. The counting seems to be going slowly: 4 hours later and only 3 more % of the votes counted. Part of the problem is Boulder County — it seems the dust from the mail-in paper ballots is messing up the scanners, so they’re having to count by hand. At this point the anti-pork Amendment 54 (no contracts for campaign contributors) is winning and the anti-affirmative action 46 is losing — both good results from my standpoint, but the margins remain very tight.


    Comment by ktismatics — 5 November 2008 @ 3:10 pm

  3. With 100% of the vote now counted I am pleased with the results of the two mostly tightly-contested proposed Amendments:

    AMENDMENT 46 LOSES: yes=49.2%, no=50.8%. If it had passed, affirmative action in government hiring, university admissions, etc. would have been prohibited.

    AMENDMENT 54 WINS: yes=51.2%, no=48.7%. Passing this amendment restricts the ability of political contributors to secure government contracts.

    The rest of the outcomes remained unchanged from my prior reports of incomplete results.


    Comment by ktismatics — 11 November 2008 @ 12:00 pm

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