Ballot for 2016 Shaping Up to Be Crowded

Colorado voters in November 2016 may be forced to read a ballot pamphlet as long and dense as a political science textbook.  While most attention is being payed towards the dramatic 2016 Presidential campaign, 2016 is also shaping up to be a very dramatic and crowded year for statewide ballot questions which tackle a host of issues affecting our economy and political process.

Several factors come into play when a group of citizens decide to pursue a ballot initiative.  It could be that in order to affect the change they seek, the constitution requires them to pursue a vote of the people for permission.  In the case of 2016, however, citizens who have either been rejected through the legislative process or are opting to bypass the legislative process altogether knowing they will not receive a favorable outcome will also pepper the crowded ballot with ballot questions.

A complete list of 2016 ballot initiatives won’t take shape until later this year, but the short list is already a mile long. It includes proposals to fund and finance transportation (including north I-25), boost Colorado’s minimum wage, effectively prohibit oil drilling, provide a single payer health system, allow unaffiliated voters the option to vote in primaries, and, ironically, make proposing ballot initiatives more difficult.

Below, a brief summary of ballot issues positioning themselves today for debate in November 2016.

Oil and Gas

A series of petitions were filed for statewide ballot measures that would allow communities to ban drilling and fracking within their boundaries, or effectively prohibit new drilling by greatly expanding setbacks between development and homes or other buildings. Frustrated with state-level efforts to regulate the industry, activists are taking to the ballot to find relief and control an industry struggling to prosper with declining oil prices.

Minimum Wage

On the heels of the defeat of a legislative proposal to allow local governments to raise the minimum wage, proponents filed a statewide ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020 from the current $8.31.  The increase would phase in over three years and would include inflationary adjustments after 2020.  The business community defeated the legislative measure and will oppose a statewide initiative.

Single Payer Health Care

Already qualified for the 2016 ballot is a measure to convert Colorado’s health care system to a “Single Payer” system.  Dubbed ColoradoCare, the measure calls for 10% payroll tax plus 10% non-payroll tax to raise the $25 billion necessary to cover the costs of the proposed single payer system.

Statewide TABOR “DeBruce”

Frustrated by a lack of flexibility in the state constitution TABOR’s amendment for Colorado to keep revenues generated by the growth in the economy, a ballot initiative is anticipated to be filed within the next couple of weeks which proposes a statewide “debrucing” approach which would grant constitutional permission to keep such revenues.  We anticipate the retained revenues would be dedicated to transportation as well as the K-12 and higher education systems.

Unaffiliated Voters in Primary

With an increasing number of voters opting to register as unaffiliated, some believe all voters should have a voice in each phase of the electoral process, including the political party primaries.  Under a measure submitted in the last few weeks, any unaffiliated voter would be eligible to vote for any candidate on the day of a primary election for president or any other partisan election.   The only restriction would be the voter could only vote on within the Republican or Democrat primary, not both.

Transportation

With transportation funding and finance the major issue in the 2016 legislative session, complimentary efforts are underway to secure new funding to shore up Colorado’s failing transportation system.  Under the leadership of the NCLA, the legislature is positioning to introduce a legislatively referred measure to seek voter approval to issue bonds to accelerate 60+ transportation projects throughout the state, including major expansions of North I-25, I-70 West and South I-25.

Additionally, the road building industry is preparing to submit ballot initiative to ask voters to increase the statewide sales tax by ¾% to raise funds necessary to sustain our transportation system over the long term.

Ballot Reform

In a year where we may see a record number of ballot questions, ironically, we will likely see a measure to counteract the rush to the ballot to make constitutional changes.  The same group pushing for the DeBrucing measure is promoting a measure to reform the ballot initiative process.  Crafted to dissuade constitutional amendments, the measure proposes to increase amount of the vote required to pass a constitutional amendment to a 55% majority.  It goes further to assure signatures collected to secure position on the ballot are collected from throughout the state by requiring at least 2% of signatures come from each State Senate District.

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