Policy Corner: 2018 Colorado Midterm Election Voting Guide

 

2018 Colorado Midterm Election Voting Guide

On top of state, congressional and governor’s races on the ballot this year, Coloradans will have to decide on 13 ballot initiatives on a wide range of topics. Some of the initiatives came from signature gathering across the state, while others were brought to the ballot by legislation from the state house. This election guide below includes a summary of each measure, a description of arguments on both sides, and the fiscal impact. At the bottom of the election guide you can read the full text of each measure as it will appear on the ballot. Feel free to share this information with coworkers, friends and family as we wind into the homestretch of the 2018 midterm elections. Remember, ballots are mailed on October 15 and must be returned by 7pm on Election Day November 6, where you can also vote in person. To register to vote, click here. To find a polling place or ballot drop off, click here. Finally, if you have any questions or need more information, please contact CRHC Policy Analyst Kelly Erb at ke@coruralhealth.org

Happy voting, CRHCers!

 

2018 Colorado Midterm Election Voting Guide—Ballot Initiatives

Amendment A: Prohibit Slavery and Involuntary Servitude in All Circumstances

Amendment A will remove language that currently allows slavery and involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for the conviction of a crime. The Amendment was brought from the current General Assembly by the passage of a bill in the 2018 session. The Colorado Constitution already prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment would clarify that slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited under any circumstances. Currently, courts have ruled that work requirements resulting from a conviction of a crime are allowable under the current provisions of the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions.

Supporters claim removing the language explicitly prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances and reflects Colorado’s commitment to equality and just treatment. Opponents claim removing the language in the constitution could have the unintended consequence of raising legal uncertainty around current offender work requirements.

The measure may minimally impact state and local government revenue, costs, and workload if court filings increase due to offenders filing lawsuits disputing work requirements.

Amendment V: Lower Age Requirement for Members of the State Legislature

Amendment V would lower the age requirements for members of the Colorado General Assembly from 25 to 21. The Amendment was brought from the current General Assembly by the passage of a bill in the 2018 session. Every state, with the exception of Vermont, has minimum age requirements ranging from 18 to 30 years old for members of the state legislature.

Proponents of the Amendment claim excluding 21-24 year olds is restrictive and unnecessary, and that 21 year olds are considered legal adults. Opponents claim the current age restrictions balance youth and experience, and that younger candidates may lack the maturity to hold state office.

This measure has no impact on state or local government revenue or spending.

Amendment W: Election Ballot Format for Judicial Retention Elections

Amendment W proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to change the ballot format for judicial retention elections to remove the requirement that a retention question be asked for each justice and judge. The Amendment was brought from the current General Assembly by the passage of a bill in the 2018 session. If the amendment passes, the Colorado election ballots will see a cosmetic change to the section listing judges who are running to retain their seat. The current ballot format for retention judges was approved by Colorado voters in 1966. The proposed changes are illustrated below:

Proponents of the Amendment claim it will make the ballot more streamlined and reader-friendly. Opponents claim the amendment will confuse voters and is risky.

Amendment W decreases county clerk and recorder workload by a minimal amount and may reduce ballot printing and mailing costs.

 

Amendment X: Industrial Hemp Definition

Amendment X would remove the definition of “industrial hemp” from the Colorado Constitution and, instead, use the definition in federal law or state statute. The Amendment was brought from the current General Assembly by the passage of a bill in the 2018 session. A definition of industrial hemp was added to the Colorado Constitution with the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized recreation marijuana in 2012. Amendment X removes the definition of industrial hemp from the state constitution and gives the term the same meaning as in federal law or state statute. In the event that federal law changes, Colorado would maintain compliance with federal regulation.

Supporters of the amendment note that Colorado is a leader hemp producer in the country, and that by aligning the state’s definition with the federal definition, Colorado industrial hemp farmers will remain competitive as the regulatory landscape of this issue evolves. Opponents claim Colorado voters approved the definition of industrial hemp with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, and any changes deviate from the original intent of the voters.

Removing the definition of industrial hemp from the Colorado Constitution has no impact on the revenue or expenditures of any state or local government agencies

 

Amendment Y: Congressional Redistricting & Amendment Z: Legislative Redistricting

Amendments Y & Z would change how redistricting is done in Colorado after the 2020 Census. Redistricting is the redrawing of boundaries for congressional and legislative districts every 10 years after the census is completed to reflect changes in population. Instead of line-drawing duties going to state legislators, two separate independent commissions will amend and approve new congressional and legislative districts. The newly created commissions will each consist of twelve members, including four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated voters. The Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court designates a panel of three of the most recently retired judges from the Colorado Supreme Court or Colorado Court of Appeals to facilitate the selection of commissioners.

Supporters of the amendments claim it limits the role of partisan politics in the congressional redistricting process by transferring the legislature’s role to an independent commission. Supporters also claim it makes the redistricting process more transparent. Opponents of the amendment claim takes accountability out of the redistricting process. Unlike state legislators who are subject to election and campaign finance requirements, unelected commissioners are not accountable to the voters of Colorado.

Beginning in FY 2020-21, Amendments Y & Z may minimally increase Secretary of State cash fund revenue from fines collected from lobbyists who fail to disclose the required information. Overall, Amendment Y increases state expenditures to fund the commission by $31,479 in FY 2020-21 and $642,745 in FY 2021-22 as compared with the expenses for the current process. Overall, Amendment Z increases state expenditures to fund the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission by $252,065 in FY 2020-21, and decreases state expenditures by $65,977 in FY 2021-22, as compared with the expenses for the current Reapportionment Commission.

Amendment 73: Funding for Public Schools

Amendment 73 increases funding for P-12 public education by raising the individual income tax rate for Coloradans who make more than $150,000 annually, increasing the corporate income tax rate, and setting new assessment rates for property taxes levied by school districts. The corporate income tax will be raised from 4.63% to 6%, generating $229.4 million in budget year 2019-2020. To see the impact the amendment will have on individual school districts, click here. The additional revenue is intended to increase base per-student funding, to pay for full-day kindergarten, and to put more money toward students with special needs, such as those learning English, those with disabilities, and those who are gifted and talented.

Supporters say despite the state’s robust economy and growth, Colorado is 28th in the nation for per-student funding, with individual school districts varying widely on that front. Half the state’s school districts operate four days a week to save money and Colorado needs a sustainable revenue stream to fund education equitably. Opponents say against the state should be able to find existing money in the budget to fund schools without raising taxes.

The measure increases state revenue by $750.9 million in budget year 2018-19 (half-year impact) and $1.6 billion in budget year 2019-20. This amount is from individual income taxes and corporate income taxes. The measure increases school district revenue by a minimum of $866 million and up to a net $1.5 billion in budget year 2019-20, the first full fiscal year the measure is implemented

Amendment 74: Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation

Amendment 74 requires the state or a local government to compensate a property owner if a law or regulation reduces the fair market value of his or her property. Both the Colorado Constitution and state law specify that a government may not take or damage private property without providing compensation to the owner. The amendment expands the circumstances under which the state or a local government is required to provide compensation to a property owner for a regulatory taking. A “regulatory taking” occurs when a government enacts a law or regulation that deprives a property owner of the use or value of their property, even though they usually maintain ownership of the property. Under this measure, a law or regulation that results in any decrease in the fair market value of a property, as opposed to the current standard of an almost total loss in value or use, becomes a regulatory taking. For example, if a government limits natural gas development, an owner of the mineral rights could file a claim for the reduced value of his or her property.

Supporters claim for many Coloradans, property is the most significant asset they own. If a law or regulation causes any loss of value, the property owner should be fairly compensated by the state or local government. Opponents claim taxpayers will be responsible for payments to property owners for any loss in property value resulting from a change in law or regulation, regardless of whether the property retains a profitable use.

The measure will increase state and local expenditures to compensate private property owners as a result of regulatory or legislative action.

Amendment 75: Campaign Finance

Currently in Colorado, the limit on how much individuals can donate to a candidate for office is $1,150. The national median is around $3,800. The amount a candidate can give to his or her own campaign, however, is unlimited. The amendment would change campaign finance laws so that if a candidate for office in Colorado puts more than $1 million of their own money into the race, all other candidates in that same election would be allowed to raise five times the limit for individual donations under the law.

Supporters claim wealthy candidates are at an unfair advantage because current law puts no limit in contributions to their own campaigns. They also say amendment encourages competitive elections by allowing less wealthy candidates to raise comparable campaign funds. Opponents of the measure claim allowing more money in campaigns will not fix an already broken campaign finance system, and that the amendment will encourage wealthy candidates to contribute even more of their own money to win elections.

Amendment 75 will result in a one-time cost of $15,000 in FY 2018-19 in the Department of State to make modifications to the state’s campaign finance tracking system.

Proposition 109: Authorize Bonds for Transportation Projects

The proposition would require the state to borrow up to $3.5 billion for up to 66 specific highway projects and limit the total amount to $5.2 billion over the next two decades. The funding would come through the sale of transportation and revenue bonds. The state government would have to come up with a source of money to repay the borrowed amount and could only do so without raising taxes or fees. The borrowed amount must be paid back within 20 years. Currently, maintenance and construction of state highways are funded through the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). CDOT receives most of its revenue from federal and state gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and from state vehicle registration fees. However, with fuel consumption decreasing while usage of Colorado roads increases, road maintenance and expansion is lacking in the state. A map of the proposed projects can be seen below.

Supporters of the proposition claim it will accelerate the construction of essential highway projects without raising taxes or fees. Opponents claim the proposition commits the state to repay up to $5.2 billion without creating a new source of revenue. This commitment diverts money from other programs, which may include education, health care, and routine transportation maintenance.

Proposition 110: Transportation Funding

The measure will raise funds for transportation projects and maintenance by increasing sales and use tax, which will allow the state to issue $6 billion in bonds to pay for the projects. The sales and use tax, currently at 2.9% will increase to 3.52% for the next 20 years. It would cost consumers and additional 62 cents on a $100 purchase. As stated in the summary for Proposition 109, maintenance and construction of state highways are currently funded through the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). CDOT receives most of its revenue from federal and state gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and from state vehicle registration fees. However, with fuel consumption decreasing while usage of Colorado roads increases, road maintenance and expansion is lacking in the state.

The Transportation Commission, an 11-member body appointed by the Governor to prioritize statewide transportation needs, will determine the use of these funds. The local share of the additional revenue will be distributed to every city and county for transportation projects based on an existing formula in state law. The additional tax revenue identified for multimodal transportation projects will mostly be spent by local governments. Multimodal transportation provides additional transportation options and includes bike paths, sidewalks, and public transit, such as buses, rail, and rides for the elderly and disabled.

Supporters of the measure claim Colorado’s roads are deteriorating and the state must invest in infrastructure. Supporters also claim the state cannot make a sizeable investment towards improving transportation without a source for funding, and this measure creates a sustainable Opponents disagree with raising the sales and use tax for projects that they claim should be funded through the state budget. Opponents also claim raising sales and use tax disproportionately impacts low income Coloradans who spend a larger share of their income on taxable items.

This measure increases sales and use tax revenue by $366.0 million (half-year impact) in state budget year 2018-19, and by $766.7 million in state budget year 2019-20. The sales and use tax revenue increase continues for 20 years. In addition, the measure authorizes CDOT to sell bonds, increasing revenue by up to $6.0 billion over three years. This measure will increase expenditures equal to the amount of revenue described above for construction and maintenance of transportation projects, and debt service. The measure commits up to $9.4 billion to the repayment of debt. Local government revenue and expenditures. The measure increases state distributions to local governments for transportation projects by $146.4 million (half-year impact) in state budget year 2018-19, and by $306.7 million in state budget year 2019-20. These increases continue for 20 years.

Proposition 111: Limitations on Payday Loans

Proposition 111 will reduce the total cost for a payday loan to a 36 percent annual percentage rate and expand what constitutes unfair or deceptive trade practices for payday lending. The measure will also eliminate finance charges and fees on payday loans. Currently, interest and fees can increase the cost of repayment up to 129% annually. Payday loans are small, easy-to-access short-term loans that do not require a credit check. In 2016, about 207,000 individuals in Colorado secured over 414,000 payday loans. These loans totaled over $166 million, and consumers paid an estimated $50 million in loan costs (any combination of fees and interest), with a default rate of 23%.   Most states have laws restricting payday loans, with more states increasingly regulating loan terms and usage terms to protect consumers. The table below illustrates the proposed changes to a $500 loan under Proposition 111.

Supporters of the measure claim current payday loan protocol is predatory and Coloradans are spending too much to borrow a small amount of money, leading to a continual cycle of debt. Opponents claim payday loans provide options for consumers who may not qualify for other types of loans, and the measure may eliminate payday lending services in the state.

If Proposition 111 results in payday lenders choosing not to renew their licenses, there will be a reduction in fee revenue to the Department of Law.

Proposition 112: Increased Setback Requirement for Oil and Natural Gas Development

Proposition 112 will require that new oil and natural gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures, water sources, and areas designated as vulnerable. Current state setback regulations stipulate that oil and gas developments must be at least 500 feet away from a home and 1,000 feet away from a school. The measure also allows the state or a local government to require a setback distance greater than 2,500 feet. If two or more local governments with overlapping boundaries establish different setbacks, Proposition 112 requires that the greater distance be used. The measure does not apply to federal land, which includes national forests and parks and comprises about 36% of the land in Colorado. In 2017, there were about 54,000 producing wells in Colorado, a 48% increase since 2007.

Supporters of the measure claim the increased setsback are necessary for the health and wellbeing of Coloradans and the environment. Some people living near these operations have reported negative health effects to the state health department, inluding sinus and respiratory conditions, as well as other symptoms such as headaches and nausea. Such developments also increases noise, traffic, dust, light, and odors. Opponents of the measure claim Proposition 112 eliminates new oil and natural gas activity on most non-federal land in Colorado. It’s estimated about 85% of Colorado’s non-federal land would be excluded from development with the required 2,500-foot setback. Oil and natural gas development is important to Colorado’s economy, generating an estimated $10.9 billion in production value in 2017 and supporting many other industries and jobs.

Proposition 112 is expected to decrease the amount of severance tax, royalty payments, and lease revenue that state government collects in the future. Proposition 112 is also anticipated to reduce future property tax revenue collected by local governments. Limitations on new drilling will reduce local property tax collections, since producing well sites have higher assessed value than inactive nonproducing areas.

 

Ballot Language

The final section of this voting guide includes the language for each measure as it will appear on the ballot.

Amendment A: Prohibit Slavery and Involuntary Servitude in All Circumstances

The language of the Amendment on the ballot will read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime and thereby prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances?”

Amendment V: Lower Age Requirement for Members of the State Legislature

The language of the Amendment on the ballot will read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a reduction in the age qualification for a member of the general assembly from twenty-five years to twenty-one years?”

Amendment W: Election Ballot Format for Judicial Retention Elections

The language of the Amendment on the ballot will read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a change in the format of the election ballot for judicial retention elections?”

Amendment X: Industrial Hemp Definition

The language of the Amendment on the ballot will read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning changing the industrial hemp definition from a constitutional definition to a statutory definition?”

Amendment X: Industrial Hemp Definition

The language of the Amendment on the ballot will read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning changing the industrial hemp definition from a constitutional definition to a statutory definition?”

Amendment Y: Congressional Redistricting & Amendment Z: Legislative Redistricting

The language of Amendment Y on the ballot will read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a change to the way that congressional districts are drawn, and, in connection therewith, taking the duty to draw congressional districts away from the state legislature and giving it to an independent commission, composed of twelve citizens who possess specified qualifications; prohibiting any one political party’s control of the commission by requiring that one-third of commissioners will not be affiliated with any political party, one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s largest political party, and one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s second largest political party; prohibiting certain persons, including professional lobbyists, federal campaign committee employees, and federal, state, and local elected officials, from serving on the commission; limiting judicial review of a map to a determination by the supreme court of whether the commission or its nonpartisan staff committed an abuse of discretion; requiring the commission to draw districts with a focus on communities of interest and political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, and then to maximize the number of competitive congressional seats to the extent possible; and prohibiting maps from being drawn to dilute the electoral influence of any racial or ethnic group or to protect any incumbent, any candidate, or any political party?”

The language of Amendment Z on the ballot will read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a change to the manner in which state senate and state house of representatives districts are drawn, and, in connection therewith, reforming the existing legislative reapportionment commission by expanding the commission to twelve members and authorizing the appointment of members who possess specified qualifications; prohibiting any one political party’s control of the commission by requiring that one-third of commissioners will not be affiliated with any political party, one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s largest political party, and one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s second largest political party; prohibiting certain persons, including professional lobbyists, federal campaign committee employees, and federal, state, and local elected officials, from serving on the commission; limiting judicial review of a map to a determination by the supreme court of whether the commission or its nonpartisan staff committed an abuse of discretion; requiring the commission to draw state legislative districts using communities of interest as well as political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, and then to maximize the number of competitive state legislative seats to the extent possible; and prohibiting maps from being drawn to dilute the electoral influence of any racial or ethnic group or to protect any incumbent, any political candidate, or any political party?”

 

Amendment 73: Funding for Public Schools

The language of amendment on the ballot will read: Shall state taxes be increased $1,600,000,000 annually by an amendment to the Colorado constitution and a change to the Colorado revised statutes Concerning funding relating to preschool through high school public Education, and, in connection therewith, creating an exception to the single Rate state income tax for revenue that is dedicated to the funding of public Schools; increasing income tax rates incrementally for individuals, trusts, and Estates using four tax brackets starting at .37% for income above $150,000 and Increasing to 3.62% for income above $500,000; increasing the corporate income Tax rate by 1.37%; for purposes of school district property taxes, reducing the Current residential assessment rate of 7.2% to 7.0% and the current Nonresidential assessment rate of 29%to 24%; requiring the revenue from the income tax increases to be deposited in a dedicated public education fund and Allowing the revenue collected to be retained and spent as voter-approved Revenue changes; requiring the legislature to annually appropriate money From the fund to school districts to support early childhood through high School public educational programs on an equitable basis throughout the State without decreasing general fund appropriations; directing the Legislature to enact, regularly review, and revise when necessary, a new public School finance law that meets specified criteria; until the legislature has Enacted a new public school finance law, requiring the money in the fund to be Annually appropriated for specified education programs and purposes; Requiring the money in the fund to be used to support only public schools; Requiring general fund appropriations for lic education to increase by Inflation, up to 5%, annually; and requiring the department of education to Commission a study of the use of the money in the fund within five years?

Amendment 74: Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation

The language of amendment on the ballot will read: Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution requiring the government to award just compensation to owners of private property when a government law or regulation reduces the fair market value of the property?

Amendment 75: Campaign Contributions

The language of amendment on the ballot will read: Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution providing that if any candidate in a primary or general election for state office directs more than one million dollars in support of his or her own election, then every candidate for that office in the same election may accept five times the amount of campaign contributions normally allowed?

Proposition 109: Authorize Bonds for Transportation Projects

The language of proposition on the ballot will read: Shall state debt be increased $3,500,000,000, with a maximum repayment cost of $5,200,000,000, without raising taxes or fees, by a change to the Colorado revised Statutes requiring the issuance of transportation revenue anticipation notes, And, in connection therewith, note proceeds shall be retained as a voter approved revenue change and used exclusively to fund specified road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance, and repair projects throughout the state?

Proposition 110: Transportation Funding

The language of proposition on the ballot will read: Shall state taxes be increased $766,700,000 annually for a twenty-year period, and State debt shall be increased $6,000,000,000 with a maximum repayment cost of $9,400,000,000, to pay for state and local transportation projects, and, in connection Therewith, changing the Colorado revised statutes to: 1) increase the state sales and use tax rate by 0.62% beginning January 1, 2019; requiring 45% of the new revenue to fund state transportation safety, maintenance, and congestion related projects, 40% to fund municipal and county transportation projects, and 15% to fund multimodal transportation projects, including bike, pedestrian, and transit Infrastructure; 2) authorize the issuance of additional transportation revenue anticipation notes to fund priority state transportation maintenance and construction projects, including multimodal capital projects; and 3) provide that all Revenue resulting from the tax rate increase and proceeds from issuance of revenue anticipation notes are voter-approved revenue changes exempt from any State or local revenue, spending, or other limitations in law?

Proposition 111: Limitations on Payday Loans

The language of proposition on the ballot will read: Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning limitations on payday lenders, and, in connection therewith, reducing allowable charges on payday loans to an annual percentage rate of no more than thirty-six percent?

Proposition 112: Increased Setback Requirement for Oil and Natural Gas Development

The language of proposition on the ballot will read: Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from any structure intended for human occupancy and any other area designated by the measure, the state, or a local government and authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?

 

Sources:

Denver Post

Colorado Independent

Colorado Secretary of State’s Office