Editorial: First, do no harm
October 5, 2010
While amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 have garnered the lion’s share of publicity this election season (and will be dealt with in a separate editorial), several other issues adorn this year’s ballot. Our approach to such issues can be summed up simply: First, do no harm. In other words, when in doubt, vote against ballot initiatives, and in particular constitutional amendments.
Amendment P would amend the Colorado Constitution to transfer the licensing of games of chance, such as bingo and raffles, from the Department of State to the Department of Revenue and allow the legislature to change qualifications for obtaining a license.
We see no overriding reason to either support or oppose this amendment. The one aspect that gives up pause is the projected $116,000 fiscal impact. Given the state’s financial crisis, every dollar counts.
Amendment Q would create a process for temporarily moving the seat of state government in the event a disaster were to make it impossible for the government to operate out of Denver.
All branches of state government already have the authority to continue operating under extreme conditions and we see no need to clutter the Colorado Constitution with this amendment.
Amendment R would eliminate property taxes paid by individuals who use government-owned property for private benefit worth $6,000 or less.
Among the arguments for supporting this amendment is that it would eliminate the cost of paperwork for collecting often small amounts of tax revenue. The argument against it is that it would unfairly exempt certain classes of taxpayers from paying their fair share of property taxes.
It is projected to have a fiscal impact of reducing property taxes statewide by $160,000. Again, given tight budgets, this is probably not the best time to eliminate such revenue.
This amendment would enshrine in the Colorado Constitution – contrary to nearly four decades of U.S. Supreme Court case law – the notion that an embryo becomes a “person” at “the beginning of biological development.”
Among other things, that would make abortion illegal in Colorado.
Similar measures in the past have been handily defeated by Colorado voters. It is suspected that the real reason for placing such measures on the ballot is that they help mobilize single-issue, evangelical voters, who will then presumably support other ultra-conservative causes and candidates on the ballot.
This measure, in the unlikely event it passes, has no chance of surviving federal court scrutiny and thus constitutes a waste of state resources. Vote no and spare us the spectacle and legal costs.
This amendment purports to protect Coloradans from the ravages or deprive us of the advantages – take your pick – of ObamaCare. What it really amounts to is grandstanding against the federal health care legislation.
The Colorado Constitution does not trump federal law, so just like all other Americans, unless ObamaCare is overturned at the federal level in the meantime, come 2014 Coloradans will be required to have health insurance whether this amendment passes or not.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has already engaged the state in the multi-state lawsuit against ObamaCare. We see no point – and potentially some harm – in permanently expressing in our constitution the pique of some Coloradans over the federal health care law.
This proposition would require that all criminal suspects in Colorado, other than those accused of first-time nonviolent misdemeanors, be released to pretrial supervision only if they post a secured, court-approved bond. As it is, some of these suspects are released on unsecured bonds, which means they do not have to put up money to secure a bond unless they fail to comply with court requirements.
Changing that arrangement would clearly have a disproportionate impact on those unable to afford secured bonds while wealthier suspects, irrespective of the seriousness of their alleged violations, would be able to bond out. It would also mean that those poorer suspects would spend more time in county jails before trial – to the tune of an estimated additional cost to jails statewide of $2.8 million.
Regardless of its merits, which are highly debatable, this is bad timing given the financial woes of many local governments in Colorado. We recommend a no vote.