After #41: Making It “A Little Bit Harder”

Unintended consequences.

Those two words just may grow into a rallying cry to make amending Colorado’s constitution more difficult.

Driving the debate are several recent constitutional amendments that voters have given the big thumbs up to, only to watch in horror as they morphed into unrecognizable blobs that require constant feeding by a veritable army of lawyers, lobbyists, pundits and politicians.

Need some examples? Voters might have thought TABOR only meant the government has to ask first for a tax increase. But, boy, that ratchet down thing really turned out to be a surprise. Amendment 27, “campaign finance reform,” was music to the ears – until the 527s started marching in with their nasty lowball tactics and hard-to-track financing. Now we have Amendment 41: Ethics in government. Who, possibly besides Tom DeLay, would be opposed to that? Now that 62 percent of the voting public have effectively banned scholarships for the children of government workers, many are pointing the fingers at Colorado Common Cause, which sponsored 41, at Denver lawyer Martha Tierney, who wrote 41, and at Jared Polis, who bankrolled 41. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, they say.

Others say that, perhaps there is no greater example of why it should be harder to amend the state’s constitution.

“At some point [41] may give us an opportunity to go back to the voters and say, ‘you know, we should probably make it a little bit harder to amend the constitution because these are some of the consequences of making it so easy,” said Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

Romanoff has already announced plans to make a rare move of sending proposed legislation that would clarify 41 to the Colorado Supreme Court to determine beforehand if it’s constitutional. “Some folks have suggested that we send this whole thing back to the ballot – but you can’t do that until 2008,” he said. “And in the meantime you’ve got kids potentially losing their scholarships and other consequences.”

Also in the meantime, Romanoff and others – including Denver lawyer Mark Grueskin, who is working to salvage 41 – have weighed in with possible scenarios that could be considered to reform the process by which Colorado’s constitution can be amended. 

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Cara Degette

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