10.15.08

Colorado Amendment Crib sheet, Part 1

Posted in Society at 9:06 by RjZ

Colorado has 14 amendments up for a vote. It’s one of the longest list of public referenda in the nation. I thought I’d make a cheat sheet for those wise folks who want to vote just like I would. All none of you.

I’ll spare you the details of each amendment, but you can follow along by reading Colorado’s blue book here.

Amendment 46 wants to change the Colorado Constitution to prohibit discrimination. Sounds innocuous enough, but this may be the hardest one on the ballot. How about we come back to it. We’ll skip a couple for now; I’ll explain later.

47 wants change the Colorado Constitution to prohibit requiring employees to join unions. This seems reasonable enough. If you’re pro-union, you can certainly understand that it might not be OK to force people to join one, even if they don’t want to. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that companies and unions get away with this. Still, isn’t this something unions negotiated with the companies they serve? Those companies do not have to require new employees to join a union, yet some do! Why would they do this of their own free will? Well, because the unions collectively negotiated that all the fine folks they represent might just quit working unless the companies were willing to so. It’s blackmail, in my opinion, and it really is only intended to strengthen the union, but those companies can walk away any time they want! They continue to support such rules because they think they can’t live without the union.
In other words, this amendment wants to weaken unions and strengthen corporations. Regardless, what business is of the government how companies wish to run (so long as they’re following the laws and not hurting anyone.) If you think that’s really the government’s right, then great, we should pass a law. What need would there be to change the constitution to implement such a thing.
NO on 47!

Definition of a person, #48. Some crazy chick wants the Colorado Constitution to define a person as starting the moment of conception. But she’s a law student, so she writes up this way too simple little amendment and plenty of people without the slightest concept of what impact this would have on our legal system jump on the anti-choice bandwagon.

Problem is, in addition to being a bit silly and against a significant number of people’s idea of when life really begins, this change to our constitution would bring undue burden to so many people. Do we really need to have doctors worried about being sued on behalf of the person by inducing an abortion in a woman 20 minutes pregnant after being raped? This list of frivolous, confusing lawsuits goes on and on. If you’re pro-life, great, make a better law that wouldn’t cause a woman who bought a pregnancy test and then has an accident guilty of reckless endangerment.

NO on 48!

Amendment 49 seeks to change the Colorado Constitution to prohibit public employee paycheck deductions. OK, first, does anybody really care? Second, why should government employees have such different standards than private employees? Because of conflicts of interest of course. We don’t want folks with government connections demanding deductions for their pet projects. So, instead of prohibiting corrupt behavior of a few politicians specifically, we take the ham-handed approach of permanently altering our Constitution in such a way that eliminates employee choice, even for those things they might quite reasonably want to do. Sorry we’ve decided for you, regardless of how sensible the deductions were or not. Hey, there might be a conflict of interest.

NO on 49!

Amendment 51 will change the Colorado Constitution to raise sales tax a tiny bit to benefit folks with developmental disabilities. Here’s a contentious one. It’s so hard to vote against helping truly disadvantaged people that there seems neither any reason nor any way this won’t pass. Here I’ll quote from the blue book:

Decisions about how to spend state tax dollars are best made through an open and deliberative process that considers the needs and priorities of the entire state. Amendment 51 permanently raises taxes without any discussion about whether the measure raises an appropriate amount of money, how the new money can be spent most effectively, or how the needs of people with developmental disabilities compare with other needs in the state. The new money must be spent on services for people with developmental disabilities even if the amount raised exceeds what is legitimately needed to provide services, which could lead to wasteful spending while other needs remain underfunded.

OK, I am not saying we shouldn’t spend money on people with developmental disabilities. We can afford to help them, along with the homeless, war veterans, you name it. Indeed, we already do help all of these people. Personally, I’d like to know where we draw the line? Shouldn’t we raise taxes for babies with cancer, women who can’t have children, families of people addicted to alcohol, folks who overspent on their McMansions (wait, we’re doing that last one…)

Still, forget all that. Even if you believe that this particular cause seems to be beyond the role of charities. Even if you somehow think the State government will be better at distributing your money than a charity specifically working for the needs of developmentally disabled people. There are still dozens of ways for legislators to budget for this expense, if the voters truly think it is the best way to spend their money. They can do so without permanently ear-marking the cash, regardless of its effectiveness, by changing the constitution. Without knowing how much is necessary and what needs are over time. Without deciding that this particular special interest (worthy as it may be) is more important than all others, like say, a efficient enough public transport system that would not only help everyone, but even those people who can no longer afford a car because they are struggling to take care of their disadvantaged family member. Get your legislator to pass a law to effect the budget if this is important. Meanwhile, look up your local charity and spend. Call your friends and get them to do it too. The money will be better spent anyway. OK, I’m sure I’ll make friends here, but: 

NO on 51!

52 will have us change the Colorado Constitution to require a portion of severance taxes to be spent on highway projects. Have you noticed a theme yet? It should be coming into focus. Um, why do we even have state legislators? I mean we spend a lot of money on those folks, their staffs, the pretty offices and the fine buildings in which they work. And yet, at the same time we don’t trust them to actually look at the budget and decide what to spend money on. Many of us want them to spend less money and do less, and yet we spell out exactly what they must collect and how it should be spent, not withstanding the changing issues that the world faces. In other words, does it make sense to codify in our constitution spending for highways if we might get lucky and be able to use the money for, I don’t know, monorails next year? We may want to spend this severance tax on highways, I am not opposed to that, but this isn’t the way to do it.

No on 52!

53 will change the Colorado Constitution to hold business executives themselves accountable when their business break the law. This is such a good idea that it’s already the case. Federal law, and some state laws, already hold executives accountable for the actions of their businesses. Now, to be honest, I don’t know to what extent our current laws do and how this law changes that. Proponents say it will fill gaps and opponents say it will create new ones. I read the text, but I’d have to have read the details of our existing laws and constitution in order to be absolutely sure who is right. I don’t think I am the best person to do this, and, unless you’re a lawyer who is familiar with this stuff, you’re probably not either. Which is why I wonder if it’s OK that we should be voting on this at all.

No on 53!

54 prohibits government contractors from contributing to political parties. Which, given the likelihood of corruption seems like a good idea. The problem here is that first, it’s a free speech issue; why shouldn’t I be allowed to give to a political candidate if I believe she is the best one for the job and if she is required to announce where she got the money (anything over $100,000 must be declared)? Second, proponents say this law adds transparency to the process, but opponents point out its broad scope and how baroque it will make government contracting. How do these subtle issues even get on the ballot for us once a year political professionals? 

No on 54!

Oh my, is this a long post, and that’s only half of them! I think we’ll take a break for now. While I’m off spouting about the rest of the amendments, see if you can see a theme here. Hint, the constitution is supposed to be the basic structure and framework for our government, not a giant, million word document dealing with the vagaries and details of every day legislation.

1 Comment »

  1. Traveling Hypothesis » Colorado Amendment Crib sheet, Part 2 said,

    October 15, 2008 at 14:54

    [...] were we? (It may be better to read part 1 first, but that’s up to [...]

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