It’s almost November 2022, which means it’s time for CGH’s Annual Ballot Measure Guide! At CGH, we intend to spend our careers fighting for justice. We understand that the fight for justice must take place beyond just the courtroom. When we formed our law firm, we agreed we would never shy away from political issues and would instead donate money and time fighting to improve the lives of ordinary people. To that end, these are our endorsements for the State of Colorado Ballot Measures and Constitutional Amendments along with the measures for the City and County of Denver.
Amendment D – VOTE YES! This bipartisan amendment to the Colorado Constitution is essential to the functioning of our government. Recently, the legislature created a new judicial district, the 23rd, to split off Arapahoe County from Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln Counties because of population growth. The law, however, did not and could not address how judges would be moved from the old district to the new district. This law clarifies that the Governor can move judges to the 23rd district who live in the 23rd judicial district but currently preside in the 18th judicial district. There is no opposition to this Amendment, but should it fail to pass, we would be in the throws of a constitutional crisis with no clear path forward. Vote yes!
Amendment E – VOTE YES! Current law provides a significant property tax break to homeowners who are veterans living with a service-connected disability rated 100% permanent by the federal government. Essentially, if you serve in the military and are injured badly enough that you are disabled for life, the state gives you a large property tax cut. This Amendment, which also passed on a bipartisan basis at the legislature, would expand that tax cut by letting the spouses of people who died while serving in the military or the spouses of veterans who died from injuries or diseases sustained while in combat also claim the credit. Those who fight and die for our freedom give the “last full measure of devotion.” The least the State of Colorado can do is allow their spouses to get a little tax relief when the worst happens to their loved ones. This is an easy yes!
Amendment F – VOTE YES! This is an amendment to fix a stupid law in Colorado that regulates bingo. Yes, you read that right, bingo. Non-profits in Colorado are allowed to run bingo games to raise money. However, current law requires non-profits to exist for 5 years prior to getting a bingo license and then only allows unpaid volunteers to run the bingo games. This amendment would drop the requirement from 5 to 3 years and would allow the people running the game to get paid up to minimum wage until 2024, and then allow them to get paid whatever the market requires. It is insane we regulate bingo this strictly. We would support allowing anyone, for any reason, to run a bingo game. Absent that, this is at least a step in the right direction. Vote yes!
Proposition FF – VOTE YES! Lunches for K-12 students are currently paid for by a combination of money from the federal government plus money from the students themselves. During COVID, the federal government changed the program to pay for 100% of student lunches regardless of income. That is now coming to an end. Prop FF would limit the amount of tax deductions families making over $300,000 per year can take on their state taxes. The money would be used to continue to pay for all student lunches. While we know that students with wealthy parents can afford to pay for their own lunches, we also know that receiving free lunch can be a source of deep shame for lower-income students, especially when that information gets out in the school. Having the school provide free lunch for everyone ends that shaming. Lunch is SO important to student learning. And, frankly, people making over $300,000 per year can afford a small reduction in their deductions. Vote yes and help students get some lunch.
Proposition GG – VOTE YES! As anyone who has ever voted in Colorado knows, any change to a tax in Colorado must be voted on by the people, and the wording of any tax ballot measure is specifically defined by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). But oftentimes this doesn’t include an easy-to-read table showing how much money a person will save or pay at different income levels. This change will require a table to appear in the “Blue Book” that shows how much money, on average, a person will save or pay at 8 different income levels. This, in turn, will let voters have more information. For example, they will get to decide if a $100 tax cut for them is worth giving millionaires a $50,000 tax cut. More information is better. Vote Yes!
Proposition 121 – VOTE NO! Speaking of tax cuts, this measure would lower Colorado’s State Income Tax from 4.55% to 4.4%. A Coloradoan making $50,000-$70,000 would save $63 a year. 75% of taxpayers would save $63 or less per year. But a millionaire would save, on average, $6,647. Over half of the tax savings would go to millionaires! Our income tax is already terrible, given that it’s just one rate for everyone instead of charging rich people more like the federal government does. The tax savings for 99% of Colorado will be meaningless, and those who get big savings don’t need it. Meanwhile, it will cost our government over $412 million! That’s money that could pay for healthcare, housing, or our troubled roads and transportation systems. Rich people don’t need a tax cut, especially at the expense of services essential to our state. Vote No!
Proposition 122 – VOTE YES! Prop 122 is the measure dealing with so-called magic or psychedelic mushrooms. The measure would (1) decriminalize the possession, growth, sharing (but not sale), and use of magic mushrooms along with DMT, mescaline, and ibogaine. It also would set up a system by 2024 where adults 21 and over could go to a state-licensed facility to purchase and use magic mushrooms while receiving therapy or other mental health treatment. We oppose the War on Drugs in all forms and recognize it as an abject failure. Any step to end it is a step worth taking. It makes no sense to criminalize the use of psychedelic drugs, including mushrooms, especially at a time when our own government is acknowledging they may be an incredibly effective treatment for depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Study after study has shown psychedelic mushrooms are not addictive and rarely lead to any long -term health issues, unlike tobacco and alcohol. Colorado led the nation in moving to rational marijuana policy, and while this program wouldn’t lead to full on dispensaries like with marijuana, we see no reason why Colorado shouldn’t lead the way again with psychedelics. Vote yes, and let’s end this insane, ineffective, and cruel drug war!
Proposition 123 – VOTE YES! Prop 123 would require that the legislature set aside 0.1% of its revenue each year to fund affordable housing programs. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, it would exempt that money from the state’s constitutional income limit set by TABOR. Essentially, it would force the state government to spend, at least, roughly $290 million per year on affordable housing and allow the state to keep an extra $290 million in revenue each year regardless of the TABOR cap. Affordable housing would include things like land banking, investments in affordable units, down payment assistance, and addressing homelessness. Affordable housing is a huge issue in Colorado. And while it is true that this measure won’t fix the real issue—zoning and NIMBYism generally—it certainly won’t hurt. Plus, it’s another cut into the terrible policy known as TABOR. If TABOR didn’t exist, we probably wouldn’t need this law. But it does, so we do. Vote yes!
Proposition 124 – We are neutral. Colorado, like most states, has really dumb liquor laws that have been on the books for generations. Historically, Colorado limited liquor stores to one location, which is why you see a lot of giant single-location liquor stores but no chains. It’s also why you only see one liquor store per chain of grocery stores. That recently changed, and now they can have up to 3 locations and will be allowed 4 locations starting in 2027. On the good side, more corporate liquor stores will probably lead to cheaper prices for consumers. Imagine if Argonaut’s or Hazel’s could have 10 locations statewide. On the bad side, this likely will put smaller mom-and-pop liquor stores out of business as big corporate chains buy them or force them to close. If we could start from scratch, we would 100% support no cap. But we aren’t. And we are concerned this will eventually put smaller stores out of business, which isn’t fair to them. So we are staying neutral on this law. If you want cheaper booze and more corporate liquor stores, vote yes. If you want to help mom and pops survive for a little while longer even if it means paying higher prices, vote no. We probably will vote no on this but respect either choice.
Proposition 125 – We are neutral. This change is similar to the one described in Prop 124 and is a result of Colorado’s dumb liquor laws. This law would allow grocery stores and gas stations to sell wine. Currently, those stores can only sell beer, forcing people who want wine to go to a liquor store. Like above, a yes vote is more consumer friendly and would allow people to pick up a bottle of wine at Safeway or Whole Foods, just like they can buy beer there now. This would also probably lead to slightly cheaper wine prices. But, like Prop 124, it would harm mom and pop liquor stores. They already took a large hit when we allowed grocery stores and gas stations to sell full strength beer. Allowing those stores to sell wine would probably put some smaller liquor stores out of business. But that may eventually happen anyway with how liquor laws are changing. Ultimately, we think the benefit to consumers here will lead us to vote yes but like Prop 124, we respect either choice.
Proposition 126 – VOTE YES! The last liquor-related ballot measure is one we can support without qualification. This change would (1) allow third-party companies like Door Dash and Grubhub to deliver alcohol from liquor stores, grocery stores, gas stations, bars, and restaurants. It would also make the recent COVID-related change to allow “take out” alcohol from bars and restaurants permanent. This is a no brainer. Alcohol delivery helps small businesses. Alcohol delivery may, at least to some extent, cut down on drunk driving. Alcohol delivery helps gig workers in the gig economy. And unlike Props 124 and 125, this wouldn’t harm anyone. Opponents argue that this will allow minors to get booze easier, but we see no evidence of that. A delivery driver can check an ID just as easily as a bartender or retail employee. This is a no-brainer in our view. Vote yes!
Initiative 305 – VOTE YES! This ballot measure would charge landlords $75 per property they own and use that money to fund a program providing lawyers for people facing eviction. While we understand that most landlords will just pass that $75 fee onto renters, we still think this program is worth it. It can be very difficult for people facing eviction to find lawyers given that lawyers cost money and those facing eviction usually have none. While many people may be evicted anyway if they didn’t pay rent, at least they will have a lawyer by their sides fighting for their rights. Our legal system functions best when both sides have competent legal representation. Of note, there is very little opposition to this measure, even from the big landlord groups. This is an easy yes vote in our view.
Initiative 306 – VOTE YES! Initiative 306 would require apartment buildings, condos, and businesses dealing with food to offer both composting and recycling. Business and apartments not dealing with food would just have to offer recycling. Under current state law, local governments are prohibited from collecting compost or recycling from large apartment buildings and businesses. As such, those businesses have to provide private bins and pay for private hauling if they want to offer recycling or composting. Some do, some don’t. This law would require them to do so. On the downside, this is another expense for businesses and apartment complexes. On the flip side, if done right, it could help the environment and reduce waste. On the whole, we think the benefits outweigh the costs and think you should vote yes!
Initiative 307 – VOTE YES! This initiative deals with sidewalks. Under current law, property owners own and are responsible for the sidewalks in front of their property even though the sidewalk must remain open for public use. This means if a sidewalk is in rough shape, the homeowner is required to pay to fix it even if it costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. The problem is that many homeowners simply cannot afford it, which is why you see really bad sidewalks in Denver, especially in poorer neighborhoods. To make matters worse, the City rarely enforces this law so you sometimes see bad sidewalks even in rich areas where homeowners could afford to fix them if they wanted to. This initiative would completely change the law and make the City of Denver responsible for all sidewalks. To pay for this new responsibility, the city would tax property owners based on how much sidewalk touches their property. Property owners with average sized homes would pay, on average, an extra $110 per year. People who own larger, corner lots in more suburban areas could pay close to $1,000 more per year. The City would take the money, issue bonds, and get to work right away. Proponents of the measure estimate that Denver could fix all the sidewalks in Denver and create a sustainable program to fix them going forward in roughly nine years. Denver says it will take much longer and could be roughly 27.5 years at worst. The measure also would give people in poor neighborhoods a 20% discount on their fees. Overall, a more walkable city is a better city as it can lead to less cars on the road and more access for our disabled neighbors. The current system was awful and led us to having terrible sidewalks all over Denver. We think this program is much better than the only real alternative—making individual homeowners pay thousands or tens of thousands to repair sidewalks even if they live paycheck to paycheck and literally have no money. We are a strong yes vote!
Question 2I – VOTE YES! Question 2I would raise property taxes on property owners by an average of $50 per year and use that money ($36 million a year) to fund libraries. Specifically, the money would help raise pay for librarians and staff, increase technology for support programs for those who lack internet access, expand job market resources at libraries, expand library hours, and expand book collections. At a time when school districts across the country are banning books, libraries have never been more important. This is especially true for lower-income people. While we are concerned about ever-rising property taxes and how that impacts affordability, the reality is Colorado property taxes remain very low compared to many states. This is a small increase for a big benefit. Vote yes!
Question 2J – VOTE YES! Two years ago, Denver voters approved a small tax increase to help fight climate change. That tax increase was projected to raise $40 million per year but actually raised $41.3 million. Under TABOR, Denver would be forced to give that $1.3 million back to taxpayers (roughly $1-2 per person). A yes vote would allow Denver to keep the $1.3 million this year and allow it to keep any extra money above $40 million it makes each year. Climate change is real, and we all have a responsibility to do our part. Denver can do a lot more good with an extra $1.3 million than each Denver taxpayer could do with $1 or $2. Vote yes!
Question 2K – VOTE YES! Question 2K is essentially the same as Question 2J, just with homelessness instead of climate change. Two years ago, Denver voters approved a small tax increase to fund the fight against homelessness. That tax increase was projected to raise $40 million per year but actually raised $41.3 million. Under TABOR, Denver would be forced to give that $1.3 million back to taxpayers (roughly $1-2 per person). A yes vote would allow Denver to keep the $1.3 million this year and allow it to keep any extra money above $40 million it makes each year. Homelessness is a major problem in Denver, and allowing Denver to keep an extra $1.3 million per year to address homelessness is more important than returning $1-2 to each taxpayer. Vote yes!
Question 2L – VOTE YES! This question would modernize Denver election procedures for ballot measures by limiting measures to one topic and making several other technical changes. It would also move the deadlines for filings, making it easier to validate signatures before the deadline to get ballots printed. There is very little opposition to this change, and we think it is an easy yes vote.
Ballot Issue 7A – VOTE YES! This ballot measure is only on a small number of ballots, mostly those living in Southwest Denver. It would allow the sanitation district to keep money it raised over the TABOR cap to fund sanitation programs. Like 2K and 2L, we are talking about an extremely small amount of money per voter if this money were returned. Sanitation is important, and this is an easy yes vote.