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« Tales From the Trail | Main | Thinking Outside the Lox »

Referendum O-Oh

There's no question that the Colorado Constitution has suffered from various inconsistent amendments. The primary argument in favor of the so-called SAFE Amendment is that we need some solution to the traffic jam of Amendment 23, TABOR, and the Gallagher Amendment. That's Exhibit A, although it's hard to actually find an Exhibit B.

Now, the Democrats, with considerable Republican support in the state Senate (8 of 15 Republicans supported the bill), are trying to use this vague dissatisfaction to pass Referendum O, a Constitutional amendment making it harder to, well, pass Constitutional amendments.

Referendum O would:

1) Increase the signature requirement by 7,000. Currently, constitutional amendments require 5% of the last vote for Secretary of State. Referendum O would require 6% of the last vote for Governor.
2) Push the deadline back to April from August. Petitions campaigns would have to start before the legislature met, and wrap up before adjournment. For all practical purposes, anything passed by the legislature wouldn't be subject to an Amendment over-turn for over a year. Any effort to pass anything could be derailed by a plea to wait and led the legislature deal with it. And if you believe that...
3) Require that at least 8% of signatures come from each Congressional district. Initially, it would have required 8%.

Here's where we need to do some math. With roughly 93,500 signatures needed, that means that about 7,500 valid signatures would be required from each Congressional district. Realistically, we'd need 15,000 since up to half may get invalidated by the Secretary of State. This won't affect signature gathering in Denver, Colorado Springs, or Boulder (CD-1, CD-5, or CD-2), and probably wouldn't affect CD-6 very much, as it's becoming urbanized, or at least, suburbanized. But take a look at the population distribution in CD-3 and CD-4.

CD-3 has liberal Pueblo, and more-liberal-than-conservative GJ. The population - especially the more Republican population - is much lower density, much more spread out. And it's not even like Grand Junction is that large. According to the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, at the last municipal elections, there were roughly 21,000 registered voters in Grand Junction.

This, just like Amendment 27, places a premium on organization and money to pay for signature-gatherers, especially for more conservative amendments. Especially as proponents will no longer be able to rely on popular anger over legislative action.

While the Democrats were in a perpetual minority, they made spectacularly effective use of the initiative amendment process, passing Amendment 23, which has helped hamstring the budget, and Amendment 27, which has placed a premium on big money and union organization in campaigns. Now that they are in the majority, the modern-day "progressives" find no end of fault with the only meaningful check the citizens have on a runaway legislature backed by a governor and a compliant State Supreme Court.

This is what the Democratic party is exceptionally good at: using power to perpetuate power.

When Coloradoans passed Amendment 27, they probably didn't realize that in their desperation for "reform," they were actually voting for a Trojan Horse.

This time, there are no excuses.

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