For better or worse—and you can argue it both ways—Colorado has a long tradition of deciding our state’s future via ballot initiatives. In 2014, our state’s voters will weigh in on four measures, down from our typical average of six since 1996. If not for the compromise reached in August that eliminated several competing fracking-related measures, we might have had more like eight, so we citizens have less homework to do this time. What follows is a summary of the initiatives we’ll decide on November 4, along with some not-unbiased analysis of each.
Amendment 67: The latest version of the “Personhood” amendment, which would give unborn children the same rights as people under the Colorado Criminal Code and Wrongful Death acts.
Who’s for it: Extreme social conservatives
Who’s against it: Everyone else
Analysis: This is a slightly modified rehash of the Personhood amendments Colorado voters have resoundingly rejected twice already (in 2008 and 2010). This version has been narrowed to protect fetuses only under the two acts mentioned above, as opposed to under all laws. But it still would effectively outlaw all abortion, and it could potentially criminalize certain types of birth control and open the door to criminal investigations into women’s miscarriages. Colorado is just red enough for personhood’s supporters to gather the required signatures to get such an initiative on the ballot but nowhere near red enough to get it passed, and a failure this time will probably have many people wishing we had a “three strikes” law against recurring ballot measures that have no chance of winning.
Amendment 68: If passed, this measure would establish a new K-12 education fund paid for by the expansion of gaming (i.e., casino gambling) in Mesa and Pueblo counties and at a horsetracks in Arapahoe County.
Who’s for it: A casino holding company in Rhode Island that’s trying to expand its operations to stay competitive; Coloradans for Better Schools, an organization that’s backed primarily by the company that owns the Arapahoe Park racetrack (which is owned by the Rhode Island company).
Who’s against it: Casino operators in Colorado that wouldn’t benefit from the deal; the Colorado PTA; the Colorado Association of School Boards; Denver Public Schools; Gilpin County Schools
Analysis: While Colorado desperately needs more public education funding, this measure could harm the state’s existing gaming industry by granting monopoly power to the Rhode Island group backing the initiative. And the fact that it would add a mere one percent to our schools’ overall annual funding explains why no Colorado public school district has announced its support for the measure.
Proposition 104: Would require that collective bargaining and employment contract negotiations in public school districts be open to the public.
Who’s for it: The measure is backed by the Independence Institute, a free market think tank, and supported by those seeking more transparency and accountability in government.
Who’s against it: Teachers unions and their allies
Analysis: Although it’s tempting to resist this latest assault on organized labor in the United States, there’s no doubt that most voters would like to see more transparency in government, particularly when it directly involves how our tax dollars are being spent. Over the past several years, Colorado’s teachers have faced calls for increased accountability in many areas, and this is merely the most current one. But opponents of this measure caution that if passed, it could lead to lawsuits over what, precisely, is considered an official school board meeting.
Proposition 105: Would require that genetically modified food be labeled as such.
Who’s for it: A host of food vendors and producers, primarily of the locally sourced and health-conscious variety.
Who’s against it: Another host of food vendors and producers and their parent organizations that lean more toward the mass-production side of things; the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; the Colorado Competitive Council.
Analysis: The raging global debate over food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) lands in Colorado. A “yes” on 105 would make us one of the first states to require such labeling. Proponents say consumers have the same right to know what’s in their food as they do with the long-mandated nutritional labels. Opponents say the labeling could be costly and will be confusing and incomplete because there still will be products, such as food from animals that have been injected with GMOs, that would be exempt. Bottom line: Groups such as the World Health Organization and the National Academy of Sciences have found no evidence so far that GMOs cause any undue health problems, but they’re also still studying it—the NAS’s review of this won’t be complete until 2016. So on this one voters should make whatever choice they think is best for themselves and their families.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.