Aspen Times Editorial: Breaking down the state ballot questions
This year’s state ballot questions are a mix of issues, from slavery in the state Constitution to transportation taxes that would pay for much-needed projects in the state.
The Aspen Times has been working in conjunction with our fellow newsrooms in the Colorado Mountain News Media group to cover the questions over the past two weeks. As such, The Aspen Times editorial board has reviewed both sides of the state issues and is making its endorsements this week on state and local issues.
We considered many factors, but the one in the front of mind always remains public safety and health, and how will it benefit Coloradans, especially in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.
Amendment A (slavery language) YES/For
This is merely a symbolic move since slavery and involuntary servitude are illegal, but it’s time we remove this kind of language from our state Constitution, gesture or not.
Amendment V (lower age to run) YES/For
This asks to lower the age from 25 to 21 to serve in the Colorado Legislature. We feel if there is a push by the younger electorate to get involved on a state level, we are for it. The voters in most cases (unless they run unopposed) still have to make the final decision. And really, is there much measureable growth in a young adult four years later?
Amendment W (judge retention) YES/For
Resetting the ballot to make it easy to read and understand is a good thing, especially as the ballots get big and the language more in-depth. Having the court listed first and then the name of the judge or justice should be less confusing.
Amendment X (industrial hemp) YES/For
Colorado continues to be a standard, and shows the ability to adapt and amend its cannabis laws. Colorado is the country’s largest producer of hemp, and we should continue to encourage that industry to grow. While still regulating it, we need to remove the definition from the Constitution and make it statutory to help the state remain competitive.
Amendments Y and Z (redistricting) YES/For
It is time for an overhaul of how the state’s districts are drawn every 10 years based off the census. Amendment Y would look at congressional redistricting and Amendment Z at legislative. It would mean a 12-person commission that is composed of Republicans, Democrats and now independents making the decision. We believe it would be a more balanced and public decision. There are more checks and balances, and considering Colorado lawmakers all agreed to send the question to voters it shows that even the electeds see there is a time for a change. It’s time to take the politics out of redistricting.
Amendment 73 (education tax) NO/Against
It is always hard to vote against any kind of education funding, and we usually promote helping out the schools at all levels. But we don’t see that this will solve the problem. We know the local votes are traditionally in favor of helping education, and we feel there should be more local control of the spending. This question won’t help in that endeavor.
Amendment 74 (property values) NO/Against
It sounds good on the surface, but there are deeper issues here. It likely would bring a flurry of lawsuits and court battles, essentially crippling local governments.
Amendment 75 (campaign contributions) NO/Against
Millions of dollars are being pumped into elections, and while there is a right way to look at this problem of campaign inequity, this is the wrong solution. It needs to be more exact about what groups would be applied to the donations and zero in on third-party groups coming into the state.
Prop 109 NO/Against and Prop 110 YES/For
These are two transportation funding questions getting lumped together. Prop 109 is the wrong way to address the funding for transportation improvements. Called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” adding $3.5 billion in bonds and contributing to the state’s debt is not the right road.
We are for Proposition 110, which would add a 0.62 percent sales tax for 20 years and is earmarked for transportation fixes. We’ll all share in the burden without messing with the state debt. In 20 years, it would raise about $21.7 billion and essentially pay as we go.
Prop 111 (payday loans) YES/For
Payday lending is not a thing in Aspen, but it is in the valley. Currently, payday loans can charge an average of more than 125 percent, while the state has limits on banks for predatory lending. We need to pull in the payday industry.
Prop 112 (oil and gas setbacks) YES/For
This is probably the most contested and most difficult of the ballot questions to break down. However, in the end, we feel that it is time for the state to take control of these setback issues. The oil and gas industry has been adjusting to rules and crying wolf whenever groups try to push back, and we think now is the time for people to have their say as a state and look to public health first.
While we agree that some of the language in the question could be overreaching, we’d rather we jump into this now and work a bit back on the language through the Legislature. It’s a better scenario than continuing to talk about oil and gas issues and getting nothing accomplished. The claims of tens of thousands of lost jobs and millions in lost revenue continues to be the drumbeat of the opposition. We feel those jobs and revenue will come back, or find other ways to pull oil and gas from underneath Colorado’s soil.
As a statutory measure, our elected officials can take a look and examine what doesn’t work in the coming years. It’s time to be bold as a state.
The Aspen Times editorial board consists of the publisher, editor and members of The Aspen Times staff.
Editor’s note: This is the first of four endorsement editorials this week for state and local issues and races. Coming Wednesday, we will break down our picks for some of the state’s major races.
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