As we stated back in 2016, we intend to spend our careers fighting for justice. We understand that the fight for justice must take place beyond just the courtroom. When we formed our law firm, we agreed we would never shy away from political issues and would instead donate time and money fighting to improve the lives of ordinary people. To that end, these are our endorsements for the state amendments and measures that will be on our ballots in Colorado in November. For our Denver Ballot Measure Guide, click here.
Amendment A – Vote YES! This amendment is a retry after Amendment T, a very similar measure, failed in 2016. Currently, the Colorado Constitution prohibits slavery or involuntary servitude in all situations except as a punishment for being convicted of a crime. Essentially, the constitution allows prisons to force prisoners to work for free. This should change. In 2016, an amendment was proposed that would ban slavery in all situations. We supported that amendment, but it failed over concern it would prohibit voluntary prison work programs and community service. This new version addresses those concerns by specifically allowing work programs and community service. While we believe the last version was fine, we support this amended version which will wipe slavery from the Colorado Constitution.
Amendment V – Vote YES! This amendment will lower the age to serve in the Colorado General Assembly. Currently, the age is 25. This amendment will lower it to 21. At 21, a person can fight and die for his or her country, drink liquor, sign a lease, approve major surgery, and vote. While not everyone who is 21 may be qualified or responsible enough to be a legislator, certainly some are. That is why we have elections. A flat ban on people 21-24 makes no sense. After all, several of our nation’s founding fathers were under 25 when the Continental Congress was formed.
Amendment W– Vote YES! This is a common sense and clerical change. First, it replaces male pronouns with the more inclusive “he or she” language. Second, instead of repeating the same question over and over and wasting tons of paper, the ballot will ask voters, “Do you want to retain the following judges:” with a yes or no option for each judge. There is no reason to repeat “Do you want to retain” 10 times on every ballot.
Amendment X – Vote YES! This is another common sense change. Currently, the definition of industrial hemp is in the Colorado Constitution. It is defined as cannabis with less than .3% THC. However, now the federal government is also working on defining industrial hemp. If the government defines hemp as, for example, cannabis with less than .5% THC, Colorado hemp farmers would be at a competitive disadvantage. This Amendment would give the Legislature permission to redefine industrial hemp to fix that issue. It may not be needed, but better safe than sorry.
Amendments Y and Z – Vote YES! Amendment Y and Z are nearly identical except Y deals with federal redistricting and Z deals with state-level redistricting. Currently, gerrymandering, or the process in which politicians draw absurd maps for congressional and state legislative districts in order to benefit their party, is the norm across the country. But more and more states are taking this role away from elected officials and having non-partisan boards draw the maps. Amendments Y and Z would appoint boards, made up of an equal number of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, to draw the maps. Final approval would come from a bipartisan super-majority or, if that failed, the Colorado Supreme Court. If we were more cynical, we would argue that CO is likely to be in Democratic control for the 2020 redistricting, and we should wait to make this change. But good policy should never wait. And we take comfort in knowing that Democratic appointees have a large majority on the Colorado Supreme Court. We support these amendments and wish all 50 states would adopt similar policies.
Amendment 73 – Vote YES! Amendment 73 would raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy while, at the same time, preventing property tax cuts for homeowners. All the money will go toward education. First, we support progressive taxes and Amendment 73 is very progressive. Currently, all Colorado tax payers pay the same state income tax rate, 4.63%. Under the new plan, individuals making $150,000 or less would pay the same as they do now. New income brackets would set rates for those making $150k to $200k, $200k to $300k, $300k to $500k, with the final bracket being $500k or more. The State’s Corporate tax rate would increase from 4.63% to 6% across the board. Finally, homeowners would get a slight tax cut, but it would also prevent deeper property tax cuts in the future. We understand this bill is going to be a tough sell in notoriously anti-tax Colorado. But our children deserve more. We need to keep trying until we can get more funding for education. Amendment 73 is a great start.
Amendment 74 – Vote NO! This amendment is, quite frankly, awful. Sponsored by some sectors of the oil and gas industry, this bill would require all governments, including municipal or county governments, to compensate property owners any time a new law changes property values. Currently, the government must compensate you if it takes your land through eminent domain. But, for example, if you own land zoned for commercial buildings, and the government changes it to residential zoning, the government doesn’t have to compensate you if the land is now worth less money. This Amendment would require the government to pay for the difference. Not only would this Amendment be absurdly expensive and essentially prevent local governments from ever changing laws or regulations, but its true purpose is to make it financially impossible to regulate the oil and gas industry. This Amendment is so bad, and has so many unintended consequences, that even some oil and gas companies are now coming out against it. If the government takes your property without your permission, it should pay you fair-market value. But laws change all the time. That is the risk of property ownership. Our government cannot govern effectively if it has to issue checks to property owners every time it wants to update its policies.
Amendment 75 – CGH is not taking a position on Amendment 75. Amendment 75 would raise contribution limits if one person in a race gave his or her own campaign $1 million or more of that person’s own money. Essentially, if a person is running against a millionaire, that person could raise more money from donors if the millionaire-opponent invested personal money into the race. While that may be good in theory, we question its effectiveness. In the time of SuperPACS and dark money, people can essentially raise as much money as they want anyway. So why do we need higher caps? It will not affect the loopholes that are being used to circumvent these kinds of laws anyway. And while we understand working-class politicians wanting to compete with rich politicians who can self-fund their campaigns, is more money in politics really the answer? Overall, we lean no on this simply because of its likely ineffectiveness, but we can understand those who would want to vote yes. As we’ve stated previously, we believe publicly-funded political campaigns are the best way to get money out of politics and reduce corruptive influence.
Proposition 109 – Vote NO! Proposition 109 is one of two ballot measures that have to do with transportation, an issue pretty much everyone in Colorado cares about. But Proposition 109 is a terrible approach. Essentially, it would force the State to borrow billions of dollars to pay to fix our roads with $0 in new taxes. Awesome, right? Hardly! In reality, the State will have to pay back those loans. And without any new revenue we will see MASSIVE cuts in education, health care, and other important state programs. Colorado simply does not have enough revenue to properly fund education, health care, roads, and other important issues. Since there are two measures on the ballot related to roads, make sure your family and friends know that 109=bad and 110=good.
Proposition 110 – Vote YES! We support Proposition 110, but not without strong reservations. Proposition 110 is the other transportation funding bill. It would increase the state sales tax by .62% which would raise $767 million a year to pay for roads. For a family making $74,000 a year, this would amount to an annual tax increase of $131. We support increasing taxes to pay for roads, but sales taxes give us pause. Put simply, a sales tax taxes millionaires and poor people the same. It hurts the poor, who, just like the rich, must pay this tax when they buy goods. But every dollar, every cent, counts when you’re poor. Paying a small sales tax increase isn’t a big deal when you are very wealthy. It is when you’re poor. Instead, we wish this Proposition was an income tax increase, where the wealthy would pay more than the poor and middle class. But that was very unlikely to pass given the political reality. Ultimately, we need to fix our roads. And we need money to do it. Proposition 110 isn’t perfect and we understand why some of our friends farther to the left than us are voting no. But the alternative isn’t a fairer tax bill, it’s Proposition 109. And Proposition 109 will do MUCH more damage to poor people than this bill.
Proposition 111– Vote YES! There are lots of industries that leave bad tastes in our mouths. But payday lenders have to be near the top for evil industries. Currently, Colorado caps payday loans at 50% interest, meaning if you borrow $1,000 the max you have to repay is $1,500.00. But with other fees tacked on, the average payday loan has 129% interest. That means if you borrow $1,000 you may owe $2,239 just a few days later. Proposition 111 would ban fees and cap interest at 36%. Payday loans play a huge roll in the cycle of poverty. Someone who needs to borrow $300 to make rent one month quickly realizes they now owe over $600. When they can’t pay, they go farther and farther into debt. Long term, we need federal intervention to allow more banks to make small, low-interest loans backed by the government. But until that happens, we can shut down many of these predatory lenders.
Proposition 112 – Vote YES! This may be the most controversial ballot measure on the ballot in 2018. It certainly has split the Democratic Party. Proposition 112 would prohibit all new oil and gas drilling that takes place within 2,500 feet of homes and natural features like lakes and streams. It would also allow local governments to go even farther if they were so inclined. This proposition is frustrating because we shouldn’t even be in this position if we had effective, responsive government. For years, there have been efforts to find a reasonable solution that would give local governments more control while not killing the industry. But no compromise was to be found. And, for the most part, we blame the industry. Every time local governments like Boulder or Broomfield attempted to increase set-back requirements, the industry ran to court and won. This is disappointing and, ultimately, probably self-defeating. If an area like Boulder doesn’t want drilling within a half-mile of any homes, why should non-Boulderites be able to stop them? On the flip side, if voters in Greeley or in rural areas want more drilling to provide jobs, why should liberal voters who live hundreds of miles away be able to stop them? Thankfully, this is a proposition and not a constitutional amendment. We urge voters to vote YES on this measure. But then we urge the legislature to remove the 2,500 set-back requirement while keeping language that allows local governments to regulate set-backs as they see fit. Colorado has never been a one-size fits all state. Local control is who we are. We shouldn’t even be voting on this, but the oil and gas industry’s greed left us no choice. Time will tell if they will reap what they have sowed.