Amendments challenge voters
October 10, 2006
The Aspen Times’ election endorsements begin today with a handful of amendments and referendum on the statewide ballot. We will continue sharing our thoughts about the races and questions on the ballot every Wednesday and Friday up to election day.Amendment 38This proposed amendment to the state constitution is written to allow the submission petitions for initiatives at all levels of government. It sets limits on ballot title length to 75 words and does away with a provision that requires citizen initiatives to one subject.This amendment will muddy a process that, for all its faults, works well enough. Home rule governments such as Aspen and Pitkin County currently allow citizen initiatives to overturn local laws and regulations. Other local jurisdictions have that same option.We also are concerned with the Californication of Colorado’s ballots, where representative government is supplanted by government by petition. If anything, Colorado needs to make it more difficult to overturn laws set by the people who represent us.Vote No on Amendment 38.Amendment 39If passed, this amendment to the state constitution would require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of operational expenditures on classroom instruction.While this sounds reasonable, there are more than 150 school districts that are not currently in compliance with this amendment. While some districts certainly should be spending more in the classroom, others are probably spending their tax dollars just as they should. Ironically, this amendment would likely create another layer of bureaucracy – there’s an exemption process that would need to be administered – that diverts money and attention from children.Wouldn’t it be a shame if the schools in Bailey weren’t able to hire counselors to help students deal with last month’s shootings because doing so would violate this amendment to the state constitution?Vote No on Amendment 39.Amendment 40This amendment, which calls for term limits for judges serving on the state Supreme Court and the state court of appeals, would result in the departure of more than 50 percent of sitting judges. The loss of judicial and administrative experience would be staggering. And from here on out, judges would be required to step down just as they gain familiarity with state law. Although this would be one way to remove “bad” judges, there are other methods already in place for doing so. Vote No on Amendment 40.Amendment 41While there are some problems with this amendment, which sets strict standards of conduct for government officials, it would likely bring clarity in an number of areas. Gifts in excess of $50 would be banned. It sets up a state ethics commission to oversee implementation and investigate violations. And it sets strict limits on lobbying by elected officials for two years after leaving office. Our main problem with Amendment 41 is a provision that gives individual members of the ethics commission broad subpoena power, perhaps concentrating too much power in a single person’s hands. Nevertheless, its benefits outweigh its drawbacks.Vote Yes on Amendment 41.Amendment 42This amendment would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.85 per hour. Each year hereafter, the minimum wage automatically would be raised each year to cover inflation.The federal government has not seen fit to raise the minimum wage for nine years. A person earning minimum wage today makes just $10,712 a year. Imagine being a single mother trying to raise a child on that paltry amount. Raising it to $6.85 means that same person would be earning $14,248, which still isn’t very much, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.While it seems odd to be amending the state’s constitution to solve this situation, politicians don’t have the necessary backbone to do it legislatively. Amendment 42 would, to some extent, take the politics out of the issue.Colorado voters have a chance to make a difference in a lot of hardworking people’s lives. Vote Yes on Amendment 42.Amendment 43Amendment 43 calls for a constitutional amendment would define the word “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman.This amendment enshrines an anti-gay philosophy in our state’s constitution, which is written to govern ALL the people of Colorado. Do we really want the state government to play such an intimate role in our individual lives, defining how men and women and men and men and women and women relate to each other?Vote No on Amendment 43.Referendum IReferendum I proposes implementing a state statute to authorize legal domestic partnerships and confer rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples entering such a partnership. First off, we like the fact that this question would result in a new law, which is much easier to amend (and swallow) than a constitutional amendment.Same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships deserve recognition as family, even if they aren’t officially married. This amendment would secure basic rights for such folks. They would have visitation rights in the hospital, and in dire circumstances have authorization to make those critical medical decisions for their partner. In cases of adoption, which already occurs, it would confer responsibility for rearing the child to both adults in the household, not just one as currently is the case in Colorado.While this referendum seems to be opposed to Amendment 43, they can in fact coexist. Referendum I makes it clear that marriage involves a man and woman.Vote Yes on Referendum I.