We already know six big questions that will be on your ballot to answer in the fall, from defining “industrial hemp” to lowering the required age for state lawmakers and removing language about slavery from the state Constitution, among others.
But there are also several more proposed measures— from limiting drilling and payday loans to compensating property owners if the government limits fracking— that could still make it on the ballot if supporters have persuaded enough voters to sign petitions for them.
The deadline to turn those petitions in is today, Aug. 6.
Campaigns that have been out trying to collect enough of the 98,492 valid signatures needed to get their question on the ballot are dropping off boxes of petitions at the Secretary of State’s office. A state agency will review the signatures and let the groups know if they met the legal threshold sometime within the next month.
Because of a successful 2016 ballot measure to limit ballot measures, campaigns must gather signatures in all 35 Senate districts instead of just along the populous Front Range if they want to try and change the state’s Constitution. Any measure to do that also must pass with at least 55 percent of the vote. Otherwise, if the ballot question just changes state law, petition gatherers can still collect as many as they want from the urban corridors.
As of around 3 p.m., here are the campaigns that had turned in their petitions (we will update this throughout the day if others roll in):
— Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (@COSecofState) August 6, 2018
And here is some background on these potential measures:
Backers of this measure to raise the corporate tax and income tax rates of those making more than $150,000 per year in Colorado to fund public schools said they turned in about 70,000 more signatures than they needed.
If passed, the measure would use the money from increased taxes to “increase base per-student funding, to pay for full-day kindergarten, and to put more money toward students with special needs, such as those learning English, those with disabilities, and those who are gifted and talented,” ChalkBeat Colorado reported.
The proposal would hike the corporate income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 6 percent and the income tax rate from a sliding scale between 5 percent and 8.25 percent for people earning more than $150,000. People who earn $500,000 or more would pay the highest.
Arguments for it are that Colorado is 28th in the nation for per-student funding, according to the National Education Association, with individual school districts varying widely on that front. Half the state’s school districts operate four days a week to save money and Colorado needs a sustainable revenue stream to fund education equitably. Arguments against include that the state should be able to find existing money in the budget to fund schools without raising taxes.
Should state or local governments be required to compensate a property owner if a law or regulation reduces the fair market value of property?
This measure, if it passes, it would change the state Constitution by expanding the ways in which governments would have to pay back property owners under something called a “regulatory taking”— for example, if a government prohibits someone from building on a property thereby reducing its value. But the real reason for the measure is about the government putting limits on oil-and-gas development and limiting a property owner from selling their mineral rights because of it.
The faces of the measure are Chad Vorthmann, director of the Colorado Farm Bureau, and Michelle Smith, who is a farmer in Elbert County and who has said she relies on money from oil-and-gas developers.
“These measures are about protecting Colorado’s farmers and ranchers from extremist attempts to enforce random setback requirements for oil and natural gas development,” Vorthmann told The Sterling-Advocate in May. “While these setbacks may on their face sound reasonable, they would essentially eliminate oil and natural gas development in Colorado and strip away Colorado landowners’ right to use their land the way they wish.”
Supporters say if a government does that, property owners should be compensated, and the measure would allow for that. Opponents argue the measure could open the door to claims by property owners that reduction in fair market property value is because of a government law or regulation, which could lead to frivolous claims for payouts that would require public money to defend.
The measure already faces opposition from the state’s largest environmental group, Conservation Colorado. The group’s deputy director Jessica Goad worries about unintended consequences and calls the measure “so vague and sweeping that it essentially destroys the ability for state and local governments to protect health and safety.”
This measure would raise the sales tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent for 20 years and allow Colorado to borrow up to $6 billion next year to pay for transportation projects. The total payment would be limited to $9.4 billion.
Backers of this measure include big-time business interests like the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Club 20, a heavy-hitter Western Slope civic and business group based in Grand Junction.
Chamber President Kelly Brough has said the coalition behind the measure said the reason they focused on a sales tax is that a flood of tourists would also pay in to help fund transportation.
Arguments for include: Colorado’s road projects face a decade-long $9 billion backlog and costs for transportation projects outstrip what the state brings in from its 22-cents-per-gallon gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since 1991. New revenue would give local governments flexibility in how they spend it.
Arguments against include: the state should be able to find existing money in its budget for transportation projects without raising sales taxes, which are already at 10 percent in some places, and money should go towards roads and not projects like bike lanes.
This proposed measure, backed by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, would require the state to borrow up to $3.5 billion for up to 66 specific highway projects and limit the total amount to $5.2 billion over the next two decades. Colorado would also have to come up with a source of money to repay the borrowed amount and could only do so without raising taxes or fees.
The campaign to pass this measure goes by “Fix Our Damn Roads” and is in direct competition to the one the Denver Chamber supports. The campaign comes with a colorful pitchman in Jon Caldara, who leads the Independence Institute and has a big megaphone in Colorado as host of the public affairs TV show “Devil’s Advocate” and access to digital and traditional media.
Arguments for the measure are that it will force the government to prioritize spending on road projects over other programs without raising taxes. Arguments against are that it would divert money from existing programs, and borrowing money is expensive because of interest rates.
This measure would not change the Constitution but would change state laws by limiting the total cost for a payday loan “to a 36 percent annual percentage rate” and expanding what constitutes “unfair or deceptive trade practices” for payday lending.
Payday loans are those places you see, often in strip malls, that offer quick cash loans at high interest rates and are seen by supporters as offering an economic lifeline and by critics as predatory lenders that hurt low-income Coloradans.
According to Legislative Council:
Colorado law limits payday loans to $500 with a minimum repayment term of six months and no maximum repayment term. The law allows lenders to charge an origination fee of up to percent of the first $300 loaned, plus 7.5 percent of any amount in excess of $300. In addition, lenders may charge an interest rate of 45 percent per year per loan and a monthly maintenance fee of $7.50 per $100 loaned, up to a total of $30 per month. If the borrower repays the loan early, the lender must refund a prorated portion of the APR. Current law defines unfair and deceptive trade practices as making loans disguised as personal property sale and leaseback agreements or as a cash rebate.
The measure would change that by limiting loan costs to a maximum APR of 36 percent and also scrap all specific fees. It would also say that whether or not a payday lender has a physical location in the state, it can’t skirt the new restrictions by, say, offering higher cost loans through the mail or online.
Arguments for the measure are that some Coloradans get stuck in a debt trap and new limits would help. Arguments against are that the measure could hurt the payday loan industry and if consumers can’t get payday loans they could pay fees for overdrafts, bounced checks, or utility re-connects.
A perennial tension in certain parts of Colorado is the clash of surging residential housing growth and encroachment of oil-and-gas drilling operations near homes, neighborhoods, and schools. The current state law states that drillers must drill at least 500 feet from homes and at least double that for schools.
This measure would increase those setbacks to 2,500 feet from occupied structures, water sources, and other vulnerable areas. If this one makes the ballot, get ready for a major war being waged on your TV screens and across the airwaves from well-funded oil-and-gas interests.
Backers of this measure say drilling operations are unhealthy for those living close to them while the opposition says more than 80 percent of non-federal land would be off limits under those new setbacks. Just how far drillers should have to operate from homes became an issue in the Democratic primary for governor where the four candidates differed on their stances during a final televised debate.
Call this the millionaire rule. Or even the millionaire-buddy rule. Colorado has relatively low limits on how much individuals can donate to a candidate for office. Right now it’s $1,150. The national median is around $3,800. The amount a candidate can give to his or her own campaign, however, is unlimited.
This became an issue in the recent Democratic primary for governor when the eventual nominee, Jared Polis, spent roughly $12 million of his own money on his bid. Critics of the status quo say that’s unfair to candidates who can’t roll their own dough into the race, and also that it leads to outside special interests pouring their own money into a race to help fund candidates of their choice, sometimes in ways where the source of those funds aren’t known.
So the idea behind this proposed measure is that if a candidate for office in Colorado puts more than $1 million of his or her own money into the race, all other candidates in that same election would be allowed to raise five times the limit for individual donations under the law. So, basically, they would able to raise $5,750 instead of $1,150 from each of their supporters.
This cap raise would trigger also if a candidate for office gave $1 million to an outside group to spend on the race or coordinated third-party spending on the race of more than $1 million— or if an outside individual put in more than a $1 million on behalf of a candidate in a race.
Former Republican lawmaker Greg Brophy, who ran for governor in the past, says it would level the playing field for non-wealthy candidates. He chose the multiple of five because that puts it closer to the limits for members of Congress, which is $5,400.
“There are those on the Libertarian right who say there should be no campaign contribution limit at all,” he says. “So you have to find something that has a chance to pass.”
Arguments for changing the state Constitution this way are that doing so levels the playing field when running against a wealthy candidate. Arguments against are that it would just allow even more money into politics and allow more wealthy donors to influence elections. “Self-funded candidates may be more likely to approach issues based on their own convictions, without the outside pressures that fundraising brings,” writes the Legislative Council.
“People don’t want an auction,” Brophy says. “They want an election.”
Caroline Fry, outreach director for Colorado Common Cause, which hasn’t taken a position on the issue, says while she understands the need to counteract big money in politics, opening up the floodgates isn’t a thoughtful approach.
“We’ve worked really hard to establish meaningful contribution limits in order to make sure that Coloradans’ voices are heard in elections— not just the wealthy and special interests,” she says. “We want to work to further improve our campaign finance system, not walk those limits back. It’s a large jump.”