The yes and no of amending Colorado Constitution

September 19, 2016

By Bob Cox

Some opinions, comments and links relating to what is happening in this great nation and, in particular, in Western Colorado.


I have long opposed the process by which an amendment can be added to the Colorado Constitution. Amending the Colorado Constitution should be as least as difficult as amending the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers recognized from the get go that it must be that way.


The amendment process in Colorado has long been known for being one of the easiest in the nation. Currently, all a person or a special interest group must do is gather a certain number of signatures. There is no requirement that those signatures come from all over the state; just that they meet the quantity threshold. It is possible, and has been demonstrated as possible many times, that an amendment can be placed on the ballot by garnering signatures based only on demographics rather than statewide desires. Under this mechanism canvassing only one or two counties that have a high number of people who are known to support a given idea can result in the required number of signatures.


Because of the current procedure, I have advocated that we vote yes on Amendment 71. Frankly this amendment made it on the ballot under the current system and I am the first to acknowledge that not all proposed amendments are bad. This one I think is necessary and its necessity is demonstrated once again by the proposed Amendment 72.


Amendment 72 on it face seems to be a good thing. We raise the taxes on cigarettes, bringing in an estimated $315 million into the state coffers and the money goes to finance programs to encourage people to stop smoking. It also has that all-important “do it for the children” element. But, if we look deeper into the amendment we can see that only about 20 percent of the money goes to those programs. More that 50 percent of the money is earmarked for programs that are not yet determined and the remainder (about 27 percent) is designated for grants that, as of now, have no guidelines. In effect passing this amendment fills a purse full of cash for the use of lawmakers who will respond by using the money to fund pet projects that will get them re-elected. And, the worst part of it is that, in order to repeal it, we will have to pass another amendment to the Constitution.


As for Amendment 72 having any success, all we need to do is exam what is already being done. Colorado has already diverted over $1.6 billion in tobacco taxes to programs that are completely unrelated to the use of, or the prevention of the use of tobacco.


The long and the short of it, as far as I am concerned, is that the voters in Colorado need to approve Amendment 71 and soundly reject Amendment 72.

The Colorado Constitution is already a jumbled mess. We don’t need to make it worse.

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© Robert R. Cox 2016



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