Constitutional amendments |

Constitutional amendments

If Amendment 34 passes, there will no longer be a limit to how much money property owners can recover from companies found liable for shoddy construction. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Colorado voters are being asked to approve four amendments to the state constitution in the Nov. 2 election. Following are brief synopses of those ballot measures.

Amendment 34 would nullify a Colorado law limiting the amount property owners can recoup for shoddy construction practices.A direct response to House Bill 1161, which was introduced by outgoing state Rep. Gregg Rippy and passed in 2003, Amendment 34 would create a constitutional ban against setting limits on how much money property owners could recover from companies that are found liable for construction defects. Proponents of the amendment argue the proposal would protect property owners by ensuring they can be fully compensated for faulty construction. They say the change would also allow damages to be determined on a case-by-case basis in a court of law, rather than through a formula that treats all property owners the same.Opponents of the amendment argue the proposal would drive up the cost of housing as it will increase the number of lawsuits, their respective rewards, and insurance rate premiums. They also say the change would allow lawsuits to be filed against anyone who makes improvements to a property, not just construction professionals, essentially encouraging lawsuits.

Amendment 35 would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 320 percent, with the new tax revenue to be used for health-care services and tobacco education and cessation programs. Colorado currently has the lowest tax on cigarettes at 20 cents per pack; the national average is 98 cents per pack.Proponents of the amendment argue the proposal would deter youth from becoming addicted to tobacco products and reduce tobacco use among all age and gender groups throughout the state. They say the measure would also put more money in the coffers of those charged with preventing, detecting and treating tobacco-related illnesses.Opponents of the amendment argue the tax will hit low-income families the hardest as people living in poverty are 48 percent more likely to smoke than those living above poverty level. They also say a constitutional amendment is not the way to secure a tax increase as the legislature would have no control over changes to the tax or its distribution should the state budget, economic conditions, or need for tobacco education programs change.

Amendment 36 would change the way the state elects the president. Currently, the presidential candidate receiving the most votes gets all nine of Colorado’s electoral votes. Amendment 36 would, effective this election, change that system to allocate Colorado’s electoral votes based on the percentage of votes for each presidential candidate.Proponents of the amendment argue it more accurately reflects the statewide vote. They also say it will encourage more Coloradans to go to the polls because voters would no longer feel as if the Republicans have a lock on the state’s electoral votes.Opponents of the amendment argue Colorado will likely become the least influential state in the presidential election because the state’s nine electoral votes will almost always be split 5-4. In other words, they say, the state would be trading in its nine influential votes – which, in turn, encourage candidates to campaign in Colorado and address the needs of Coloradans – for one innocuous vote.

Amendment 37 would force Colorado’s largest suppliers of electricity to derive 10 percent of the energy they sell from renewable sources by 2015. It does, however, limit the amount that an average residential electric bill can increase, as a result of the mandate, to 50 cents per month.Proponents of the amendment argue renewable energy makes environmental and economic sense. They say requiring suppliers to invest in renewable energy will ultimately clean up the air and water while improving the stability and security of Colorado’s electric supply.Opponents of the amendment argue the requirement could increase the cost of electricity for customers dramatically, and that while there is a limit to how much residential customers will pay, no such cap exists for nonresidential customers. They say they don’t have anything against clean, renewable energy sources such as hydro- and wind-generated power, but its use should be a choice not a mandate.The measure applies to utilities that serve 40,000 or more customers. The Aspen Municipal Electric Utility, with about 3,000 customers, is unaffected. And, the city utility already gets a whopping 57 percent of its electricity from renewable sources anyway. Holy Cross Energy, with about 50,000 accounts in the Roaring Fork Valley, Vail Valley and areas from Glenwood Springs to Battlement Mesa, would be affected, but the company hasn’t taken a position on the amendment. It currently obtains about 6.5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is

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