GUEST POST: Stop the onslaught. Raise the bar.

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In the polarized, political days before an election, it’s heartening to see consensus building around a significant problem facing Colorado. Most voters recognize that our state’s constitution is the easiest in the country to amend and should have a higher bar than state law. That much we can agree.

It’s under this premise that Building a Better Colorado travelled throughout the state listening to residents about problems facing the state and their proposed solutions. Addressing the financial constraints caused by TABOR and getting our public schools the funding they deserve and desperately need were common themes throughout. As a former State Budget Director under Governor Lamm I share many of these concerns and have been on the front lines supporting efforts to increase revenues for our local school districts. For example, I backed Amendment 66, which would have increased school funding statewide.

But many other issues have been thrust upon us by special-interests seeking to amend our constitution. As we’ve seen, some of our current constitutional amendments have wreaked havoc limiting the power of our elected budget writers to get funding to the people who need it most.

In particular these initiatives rarely make the distinction between policies like oil & gas fracking, minimum wage, tax increases, or recreational marijuana and fundamental constitutional rights like the right-to-die or women’s reproductive rights.

Additionally, every election year, there seems to be a new onslaught of divisive proposed constitutional amendments because of dissatisfaction with the legislative process. It’s time we stop doing this to ourselves.

That’s why I’m proud to support Amendment 71 that will help stem the tide of these divisive and dangerous constitutional proposals. As a progressive, my goal is to raise the bar for constitutional amendments that more closely match other states that provide an initiative process.

We’ve seen the damage caused by intended and unintended consequences alike in our state’s foundational document. Amendment 71 will help protect future generations from this onslaught of near permanent changes to the constitution by driving more citizen-initiated measures to change state law, whose process will remain exactly the same under Amendment 71 and ensures safeguards are in place for potential unintended consequences.

Amendment 71 will require statewide outreach so progressives and conservatives throughout the state will have an opportunity to weigh in. It will also require a higher bar to pass from a simple majority to 55%.

While opponents stress that the legislature can overturn or change statutory ballot measures after they pass, elected officials that stand for retention do so at their peril. Overturning the will of the people is bad politics and securing a majority vote at the legislature and the governor’s office is a high hurdle except in the most crucial cases.

We can continue to agree that the bar to amend our constitution should be higher. This November we can act on that agreement and adopt Amendment 71 for the future.

Photo credit: filip bossuyt, Creative Commons, Flickr 

Lee White is an Executive Vice President for George K. Baum & Company at its Denver Public Finance Headquarters. He has been in the investment banking business for 34 years and is responsible for underwriting over $8 billion of municipal bonds. He was Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Administration in 1979-80 and then Executive Director of the Colorado Office of State Planning and Budget in 1981-82. Mr. White is Co-Chairman of Raise the Bar Constitutional Committee, Colorado.


  1. I am suspicious, since the majority of proponent funding comes from the oil and gas industry. What better way to stop citizens from wanting more say abut drilling in their neighborhoods than make it too expensive to get an amendment on the ballot.

    I do believe it should be harder, maybe by simply requiring a 55, or 60% voter approval. But not this amendment…

  2. This opinion piece states absolutely no information that discusses enough detail to justify the piece. This is another attempt to bias people without relevant details. Anything that tries to circumvent the TABOR laws should be suspect as they were implemented to stop an out od control legislature.

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