Voter Guide 2012: A closer look at State ballot issues
Written by CB Staff   
Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Three proposed amendments to the state constitution

[  By Alissa Johnson  ]

Perhaps, esteemed voter, you are already in the know, but the candidacy for president is not limited to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney this year. In fact, you could select actress Rosanne Barr for president or one of 13 other candidates. Barr is running under the Peace and Freedom party and is just one of the surprises you could find on the ballot if you walk in to the voting booth uninformed.


News Generic

The League of Women Voters of the Gunnison Area (the League) hosted an informational meeting this week to give voters a closer look at the state ballot issues. The renewal of the Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Fund made the agenda, of course, with former County Commissioner Jim Starr outlining the reasons to vote for renewal and Mt. Crested Butte Mayor William Buck outlining economic arguments against renewal.
But voters will also be asked to weigh in on three state issues that haven’t gotten the local press already devoted to the Land Preservation Fund—including a hot little issue known as the legalization of marijuana. Ellen Harriman, liaison for the League, explained that there are two types of state issues on the ballot: referendums, which are introduced by the legislature; and initiatives, which are introduced by citizens.
“If it’s an initiative, it’s done by citizens who have gathered signatures and the number of signatures required is 5 percent of the previous number of ballots cast for the secretary of state’s office. This year that amounted to 86,105 signatures,” she said.
This year there are two citizen-led initiatives. One would allow for the use and regulation of marijuana by individuals 21 years old and older, and the other would send a symbolic message to the state Congress to start enacting campaign spending limits.
The third ballot issue is a referendum that would change hiring practices for the State Personnel System, affecting anyone applying for government jobs—locally, that could affect applicants at Western State Colorado University.
The League is not taking an official position on the ballot issues at a local, regional or state level. Members simply outlined each issue and the major arguments for and against each one.
Here, the Crested Butte News recaps the major points for each issue outlined in the meeting. For more detailed information, visit the League’s web site at or pick up a voter guide at the Elections Office in Gunnison.

Referendum: Amendment S, State Personnel System

The Colorado House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed these proposed changes to the State Personnel System. It would amend the state constitution to require a comparative analysis between candidates and not just a written test for merit-based appointments, and a limited number of positions could be removed from the system altogether.
Up to six candidates could be considered for a position instead of only three, and out-of-state residents within a 30-mile radius of a job could be hired under certain circumstances. Temporary employees could also be retained for nine months instead of six, and greater preference would be given to veterans. It also places term limits on members of the state personnel board.

Arguments for:
—There will be greater flexibility in the hiring process because more candidates can be considered, and employees can consider a wide range of criteria instead of being limited to a test.
—Using more temporary, seasonal employees and being able to hire out-of-state will save money.
—Veterans will be better served.
—Term limits will make state personnel board members more accountable.

Arguments against:
—Using a comparative analysis to hire employees will undermine the merit-base of using a competitive “test of competence.”
—The changes would allow the state personnel director more employee exemptions, giving that position too much political power.
—Increasing the number of job candidates increases the possibility that a less-qualified person is chosen for a job.

Initiative: Amendment 65, Use and Regulation of Marijuana

Under this initiative, the Colorado constitution would be amended to allow individuals 21 years of age and older could posses, use, display, purchase, transfer and transport one ounce or less of marijuana. They could also grow and possess up to six marijuana plants.
The initiative also allows for the operation of marijuana-related facilities that could cultivate, process, package, test, manufacture and sell marijuana or related accessories with a valid license. The Department of Revenue would be charged with developing and enforcing regulations, but local governments could still regulate operations within their jurisdiction as long as it didn’t conflict with state law.
A tax would be placed on marijuana sales, and the first $40 million raised would go in into the Public School Capital Construction Fund. The state legislature would also enact legislation regulating industrial hemp, which contains low levels of psychoactive compounds and is used in paper, clothing, construction materials and fuel.
It would still be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.

Arguments for:
—The provisions will provide regulation of a market that is currently uncontrolled and underground, and make it harder for teens to access marijuana.
—It will generate hundreds of millions of tax dollars in new revenues, including funds for public school construction.
—Regulating the industrial hemp market would create jobs and new business.
—Government studies suggest that the effects of marijuana are less harmful than the effects of alcohol.

Arguments against:
—Possession and use of marijuana would still violate federal law.
—It would increase the availability of marijuana to young people.
—Impaired driving would increase.

Amendment 65: Colorado Congressional Delegation to Support Campaign Finance Limits

This initiative would amend the constitution and state statutes to encourage Colorado lawmakers to establish campaign spending limits rather than encouraging voluntary spending limits. It would also revise statutes to instruct Congress to propose and support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would limit campaign spending.
The amendment would not have any legal force behind it—if it is passed it will primarily be symbolic.

Arguments for:
—The role of money in politics should be limited.
—The best way to change the campaign finance system is to amend the U.S. Constitution. This would be the first step to encourage Congress to take action.
—This would help correct the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that money is speech and cannot be restricted, therefore spending limits on campaigns are not allowed.

Arguments against:
—The proposed amendment is vague, and if passed, cannot be enforced.
—In practice, laws restricting political speech are written to make things more difficult for challengers.
—It is dangerous to give the government the power to outlaw people from spending money on speech that criticizes the government during the elections.