Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, you know that we are right in the middle of election season. And you know what that 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 time and money 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. We will be doing our endorsements for the City and County of Denver Ballot Measures shortly, so stay tuned for those!
Amendment B: Vote YES! Amendment B is a constitutional amendment that would repeal an earlier amendment known as the Gallagher Amendment. The Gallagher Amendment (named after its author) deals with property tax rates. Specifically, it requires that 45% of the total property tax revenue in Colorado come from residences and 55% come from businesses or commercial properties. That revenue funds local government services like fire and police, hospitals, transportation, and, probably most importantly, K-12 education. Here is the problem: every year, residential property values in Colorado have grown much faster than nonresidential property values. As such, in Colorado, residences currently make up 80% of the property values but only pay 45% of the taxes.
If we fail to pass Amendment B, local governments (including many in rural areas) will have to make massive cuts to education, hospitals, and fire departments. Wealthy people with expensive homes will see a tax cut next year at the expense of needed revenue. We can prevent all of that by passing Amendment B.
Importantly, Colorado already has some of the lowest property tax rates in the nation, and Amendment B will NOT raise property taxes for anyone. It simply will prevent them from being lowered even further thanks to an outdated amendment that has led to lots of unintended consequences. But don’t take our word for it, Amendment B was placed on the ballot through a bipartisan vote at the legislature. We urge you, as do Colorado legislators on both sides of the aisle, to vote YES.
Amendment C: Vote YES! Amendment C is all about bingo. Yes, bingo. Currently in Colorado, non-profits that have been around for 5 or more years can use bingo and raffles to raise money, but everyone involved must be an unpaid volunteer. This Amendment would decrease the years a non-profit has to exist from 5 to 3 and eliminate the unpaid volunteer requirement. Basically, rather than having to run a bingo or raffle on their own, they could hire a company that specializes in it to basically run it for them. Think it’s pretty crazy that we literally have to amend the Colorado Constitution for this to happen? Us too! Personally, we would just let anyone run a bingo game at any time for any reason. But while we work towards that end, voting yes on Amendment C is an easy choice that will benefit Colorado charities.
Amendment 76: Vote NO! Amendment 76 would amend the Colorado Constitution to require that only US Citizens over the age of 18 can vote in all Colorado elections. This is a solution in search of a problem. Under current law, U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who have lived in Colorado for 22 days prior to the election may vote. However, the Colorado Constitution does not specifically prohibit the legislature from one day extending the right to vote to people under 18 or people who are not U.S. citizens. For example, we allow 17 year old individuals to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by election day. If Amendment 76 passes, those 17 year old people would no longer be able to vote in primary elections. But let’s be clear about what this amendment is really about—racism. The entire point of the amendment is to prohibit immigrants, whether they are undocumented or legally here but not yet citizens, from voting. While that is the current law anyway, we hope one day for a more just and open Colorado. These are folks who work here, pay taxes, contribute to their communities, and live under the policies enacted as a consequence of our elections. We support the rights of all of our neighbors to participate in our democracy. Hate should have no place in our constitution. Vote no on Amendment 76!
Amendment 77: Vote YES! Amendment 77 deals with gambling in the three towns where it is legal in Colorado: Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. Currently, those towns are limited in what games they may offer, and they cannot accept a bet of over $100 in any game except sports betting. At a black jack table or in a poker game, for example, the most you can wager in any one bet is $100. Contrast that with Las Vegas, where “no limit” games are routine. The only limits are how much a person wants to wager and how much the casino wants to risk. Here is the reality—gambling happens every single day in Colorado. It happens legally at casinos, and it happens illegally with bookies, underground casinos, and home games. There are no limits on the black market. Our position is simple. If gambling is going to occur in Colorado, it should be taxed and regulated. 78% of the tax money paid by casinos funds community colleges with the rest going to the counties and towns where the casinos are located. Why should that money go to the black market instead of community colleges? Put simply, it shouldn’t. Vote YES.
Proposition EE: Vote YES! (but with reservations) Proposition EE increases taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products while also creating a new tax on alternative nicotine products like vaping products and e-cigs. Currently, the tax on a pack of cigarettes is $0.84 per pack. The tax would increase slowly to eventually be $2.64 per pack by 2027. For nicotine products like vapes, which are currently untaxed, the tax would start at 30% and would increase slowly to 62% by 2027. All of the money would go preschool programs, K-12 education, rural schools, affordable housing, eviction assistance, health care, and tobacco education. While we strongly support the idea behind this measure, we have real concerns about the impact this tax will have on the poor. Nicotine products are much more likely to be used by poor people and therefore this tax will be paid mostly by people of modest means. We wish there was a way we could raise this revenue without hitting the poor. But TABOR makes that practically impossible. So while we urge a yes vote on Prop. EE, we understand if you want to vote no.
Proposition 113: Vote YES! Proposition 113 is a rare referendum petition meaning that the legislature passed a law, some people didn’t like it, and they got enough signatures on the ballot to let the people decide. Prop. 113 is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which is an idea that essentially tries to work around the Electoral College. The idea is that if (and that is a big if) we ever get enough states to sign on to the Compact to where those states’ votes alone could win the electoral college, then those states would agree to vote for whoever won the national popular vote (making the winner of the national popular vote the winner in the Electoral College). Right now, whoever a majority of Colorado voters choose for president gets Colorado’s electoral votes. If this Compact ever became active, Colorado’s votes would go to whoever won the national popular vote. Essentially, we would end the power of the Electoral College without having to amend the U.S. Constitution, which would be an almost impossible task. And, to be clear, the Compact only becomes “active” if enough states sign on to it to such that they can deliver a majority of votes in the Electoral College. Until that happens, Colorado would continue voting for the president as usual even after Proposition 113 passes. At CGH, we believe in one person one vote. We oppose the Electoral College and the unfair amount of power it gives to rural states at the expense of cities and populated areas. Most likely, the Compact will never actually become active because we won’t get enough states to sign on. But if it does, we would happily support it. Vote yes!
Proposition 114: We are not taking a position on this ballot measure, as we think there are strong arguments on both sides. Prop. 114 would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to reintroduce gray wolves into Colorado, something that it has refused to do in the past. The idea would be to place them in western Colorado. On the one hand, wolves historically were in Colorado, and they play a very important role in thinning deer and elk herds. Environmentally, having wolves is a benefit to the earth and the ecosystem. But, on the other hand, wolves kill livestock and can threaten humans and pets. And we would be remiss not to consider that most of the people that want wolves in Colorado live in Denver and Boulder and will never actually have to see them nor deal with them threatening their property, animals, or family. Additionally, wolves from Wyoming (where they were introduced years ago) have slowly been making their way down to Colorado. As such, there is an argument we don’t need to bring in more because they will reproduce and grow here in time. Long story short, this is a really tough issue and we respect voters on both sides.
Proposition 115: Vote NO! We must be living in Groundhog Day because this measure keeps repeating itself. Time and time again, radical pro-life activists have run ballot measures trying to limit access to abortion in Colorado. Time and time again, Colorado voters keep saying “NO.” But here we are again, with a proposal to make it a crime to perform an abortion after 22 weeks of gestational age of the fetus. The measure includes no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception would be a very narrow life-of-the-mother rule. Such a proposal is far too extreme. We understand abortion is a sensitive topic, with strong views held by well-intentioned people on both sides. But at CGH, our views are clear. We believe reproductive health choices are best left to women, their doctors, and their religious counselors if they so choose. These are tough, emotional decisions, and government has no business getting in the way. Vote no!
Proposition 116: Vote NO! Prop. 116 would reduce Colorado’s state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%. This change would save the average Colorado family only $50 per year. To make matters worse, 50% of the total savings would go to families making more than $500,000.00. The last thing Colorado needs while dealing with massive budget cuts from COVID is to give a tax cut to millionaires. If anything, we need to raise taxes on the wealthy so we don’t have to make massive cuts to education, road construction, and health care in Colorado. We also need to consider moving from a flat tax where everyone pays the same regardless of income to a progressive tax system where the more you make the higher your tax rate is, just like federal taxes. There is no world where cutting taxes for rich people in the middle of a recession makes sense. Vote no!
Proposition 117: Vote NO! Prop. 117 only really exists because of TABOR which prohibits the government from raising taxes without a vote of the people. To get around TABOR, Colorado routinely basically forms what are essentially government-owned businesses which, in turn, can charge fees for things. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that fees do not require a vote of the people like taxes. Prop. 117 would change that and require votes of the people any time a new enterprise was created if it would generate more than $100 million. Some examples of these enterprises are tuition at universities, lottery and scratch-off tickets, and hunting and fishing licenses. It makes no sense to require a vote every time the government wants to create a lottery or create a new type of hunting license. This bill is radical and would cause all kinds of problems in Colorado. Vote no!
Proposition 118: Vote YES! Prop. 118 creates a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado. To be eligible, an employee would have to work for an employer for 180 days. Then, for a serious medical condition for themselves or a family member, or for the birth of a child, employees could take up to 12 weeks leave. They would be paid up to 90% of their normal wages but there would be a cap at $1,100 per week. The program would be paid for by employees and employers. Employees would pay 0.45% of their wages and employers would also pay 0.45% of their payroll costs. For example, an employee making $52,000 a year would pay roughly $234 into the program per year, with their employer also paying $234 per year. If an employer already offers paid leave, neither the employee or the employer would pay any additional taxes and they would not be able to use the program. If an employer had 9 or less employees, that employer also would not pay anything into the program. We would prefer a single, statewide program funded by normal income taxes so that all employees could access benefits, but this bill is a heck of a lot better than the status quo. We strongly urge you to vote yes!
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