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Here are my current positions on the initiatives and referenda on the Colorado ballot this year. Since I don't have a TV and haven't dug through the web on these issues, most of my information comes from the blue book. If you think there are considerations I've overlooked, please comment. If I learn something that changes my mind, I'll update this post. If you don't have time to read this post, please just vote NO on 48, the "personhood" amendment.

Note that amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 have been retracted in a deal to oppose amendments 47, 49, and 54. Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 will be on the ballot, but votes won't be counted. 47, 49, and 54 will be counted, but "business" has joined with "labor" in opposing them.

Amendment 46 (constitution): Discrimination and Preferential Treatment by Governments
Summary: Essentially, this is an anti-affirmative action measure. Position: While I think society should provide opportunities for everyone to succeed regardless of innate group association, I will vote NO on this measure. Sometimes, the best way to provide equal opportunity is through programs which focus on a specific group. For instance, I think CU's Minority Engineering Program is great. It provides scholarships and a supportive social structure for minorities to study engineering. Not only do minority communities by having engineers and other professionals, the engineering profession benefits when we have coworkers from diverse backgrounds. It's my impression that the MEP would become illegal under this measure, but it's hard to be certain because, as the blue book notes, the terms "discrimination" and "preferential treatment" are not defined in the measure. Even if you oppose affirmative action, you should hold out for an initiative that defines what it prevents.
Amendment 47 (constitution): Prohibitions on Mandatory Labor Union Membership and Dues
Summary: Would let employees choose not to pay union dues. Position: This would create a free rider problem. Unions represent workers in collective bargaining processes. Even employees who didn't pay dues would benefit fro successful union action. But if everyone can benefit without paying costs, people will stop paying and then the union won't be able to afford to work on workers' behalf. I will vote NO on this measure. Everyone in a union shop must pay union dues in the same way that everyone who lives in the state pays state taxes.
Amendment 48 (constitution): Definition of Person
Summary: Defines "person" to include a fertilized human egg. Position: This is an attempt to make abortion illegal through lawyers arguing about terminology. Position: This is an absolutely terrible idea. If you think abortion should be against the law, support an initiative which does exactly that. Don't try to end abortion by writing a counterintuitive meaning of an English word into the constitution. My support for abortion rights is far from the only factor that led me to decide that I will vote NO on this measure. Fertilized eggs would be covered by the section of the constitution which grants (according to the blue book) "the right to defend against threats to safety, the freedom to make independent decisions, the right to work and obtain economic goods, and the right to survive." Without the capability of volitional action, a fetus is incapable of acting on these rights. Our society believes in all sorts of fundamental rights which are only applied to certain classes of people. Voting is a fundamental right, but you have to be 18 to exercise it. We believe people should be able to decide their own actions and the course of their lives, but people declared legally insane have these rights restricted. Even if we want to call a fetus a person, we still need to decide what rights it should or shouldn't have. The measure also applies to the section of the constitution granting equal access to courts. How can you assemble a jury of a fetus's peers? The measure applies due process to fetuses. There must be a fair hearing before detaining a person. So if a pregnant woman is arrested, does the hearing need to charge the fetus with a crime too?

48 makes "person" mean "any human being from the moment of fertilization." It does not, however, define "human being." The way I use "human being," it does not include fertilized eggs. In my lexicon, human beings are different from human fetuses and human corpses. Fuzzy cases include newborns and stroke patients in a permanent vegetative state since they aren't engaged in the existential process of authentic being. Philosophy aside, here are some counterintuitive conclusions this amendment could engender:

  • A fetus gets an inalienable right to property. What does it mean for four cells to own something? What happens to the property if there's a miscarriage?
  • A fetus gets an inalienable right to happiness. How do you tell if a fetus is happy?
  • A pregnant mom gets in a car in Ft. Collins, CO. There are now two people in the vehicle. She drives less than an hour north to Laramie, WY. Now there's only one person in the car. She drives an hour south and all of a sudden there are two people in the car!
  • A woman has sex right before her period. The sperm fertilizes the egg, but it doesn't embed in the wall of the uterus before it's expunged through her vagina. The woman is now guilty of involuntary manslaughter!
  • A pregnant woman is injured in a car crash and the trauma causes a miscarriage. She's guilty of involuntary manslaughter!
  • If any woman of child-bearing age is killed, the murder trial must attempt to find out if she had sex in the several weeks before the incident and whether a microscopic group of cells was growing in her uterus.
  • A business charges "$5 per person." Is it allowed to ask any woman of child-bearing age if she's pregnant and charge $10 if she says "yes?"
  • Is a pregnant woman allowed to attend an "18 and older" concert?
  • An unmarried couple conceive a child. While pregnant, the woman shoots the man in a domestic dispute. As his closest relative, the fetus inherits the man's property. The fetus later dies in a miscarriage and the woman inherits its property. Legal fun for all!
Amendment 49 (constitution): Allowable Government Paycheck Deductions
Summary: Restricts allowable paycheck deductions for local government employees, including union dues. Position: I think government employees should be paid in a way similar to private-sector employees. I will vote NO on this measure. If a group of local government employees agree to be part of a union, deducting union dues from their paycheck is an easy and natural way to make that happen.
Amendment 50 (constitution): Limited Gaming in Central Creek, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek
Summary: Lets gambling towns vote to increase hours, bettig limits, and allowed games. Also requires statewide approval for increases in gambling taxes. Also directs new tax revenue from increased gambling to community colleges and gambling towns. Position: I have mixed feelings about gambling. It can be addictive, hurting people who are already in a bad economic situation. But plenty of Coloradans who don't have a gambling problem enjoy spending an occasional evening playing poker or blackjack and having a tasty dinner at the casino buffet. Since this amendment lets the gambling towns vote to make the changes (I assume they will approve it), I am leaning towards a YES vote, but I need to do more research. Please comment if you have a good argument on either side of this measure.
Amendment 51 (statutes): State Sales Tax Increase for Services for People with Developmental Disabilities
Summary: Increase sales tax from 2.9% to 3.1% to pay for increased services to people with developmental disabilities. Position: I support state services for the developmentally disabled, but I'm not sure this big of a tax increase is the way to do it. If it were a constitutional amendment, I would vote against it. Since it would amend statute, I'm more inclined to vote for it because the legislature could vote to change it if it proved a problem down the road. I am undecided on this measure and need to do more research. Please comment if you have a good argument one way or the other.
Amendment 52: Use of Severance Tax Revenue for Highways
Summary: Require increases in state tax revenue be spent on I-70 and other highway projects. Position: Percentage-wise, this would reduce (percentage-wise) the amount spent on water projects, mining regulation, low-income energy assistance, and wildlife conservation. It's also potentially in conflict with amendment 56, which I like more. I will vote NO on this measure. If it amended statute, I would consider supporting it.
Amendment 53 (statute): Criminal Accountability of Business Executives
Summary: Withdrawn by the submitters, this would have made businesses and CEOs legally accountable for the actions of their companies. Position: In principle, I could support something like this, but if it was sloppy it would be disastrous. I would probably vote no on this measure if it mattered.
Amendment 54: Campaign Contributions from Certain Government Contractors
Summary: Prevent certain government contractors from making political contributions. Position: While I think it's a good idea to prevent contractors (single-source or not) from donating to the campaigns of officials who employ them, this measure goes too far. If someone does work for the Montezuma County Coroner, they shouldn't be prevented from donating to a candidate for Colorado Governor. I will vote NO on this measure.
Amendment 55 (constitution): Allowable Reasons for Employee Discharge or Suspension
Summary: Enumerate the allowable reasons to fire someone, making Colorado no longer an at-will employment state. Position: It's already illegal to fire someone for reasons like race and sex. As I understand it, this would have prevented a company from firing employees during a reorganization for efficiency or change of business focus. I would vote no if it weren't rescinded.
Amendment 56 (statute): Employer Responsibility for Health Insurance
Summary: Require employers provide health insurance to employees and their dependents. Position: My thoughts about health care deserve a separate post, but I think having heath care tied to employment is a dumb idea. This measure might have extended coverage to some people who currently don't have it, but I think Barack Obama has a better plan for doing that. I would vote no on this measure if it weren't rescinded.
Amendment 57 (statute): Additional Remedies for Injured Employees
Summary: This measure would go above and beyond federal worker's compensation requirements. Position: I don't see a reason Colorado should have different workers comp rules than the rest of the country. I would vote no if it weren't rescinded.
Amendment 58 (statute): Severance Taxes on the Oil and Natural Gas Industry
Summary: Reduce state tax credits on oil, gas, and mining and spend the money on college scholarships, wildlife, renewable energy, transportation, and water projects. Position: I think companies which extract nonrenewable resources from Colorado should make significant payments to cover that loss to future state residents. I think spending oil and gas taxes on renewable energy projects so that when the oil is gone we'll be ready to handle it. I also like that this measure amends state statute so the legislature can adjust it if it proves a problem in the future. I will vote YES on this measure. Even if oil and gas companies were put off on current extraction by these taxes, I wouldn't mind. These are finite resources which only exist in certain places, so at some point the commodity price will make the projects profitable even with higher taxes.
Amendment 59 (constitution): Education Funding and TABOR Rebates
Summary: Aims to resolve the conflict between TABOR's restrictions on increased government spending with the constitutional requirement to increase spending on education each year. Position: TABOR restricts the freedom of the voters' representatives in government to address issues through the budgeting process. This measure should ensure education is well funded without requiring budget crisis negotiations when the state goes into a recession. I will vote YES on this measure.
Referendum L (constitution): Qualifications for Serving in the State Legislature
Summary: Reduces age limit for serving in the State House and Senate from 25 to 21. Position: If this measure helps just one smart and energetic person go straight from doing awesome stuff on a college campus to doing awesome stuff in the legislature, I think it'd be worth it. I will vote YES on this measure. Youth engagement in the political process is a good thing. If anyone's worried that 21-year-olds aren't mature enough for such a position, rest assured that there are plenty of checks and balances which minimize damage by a single legislature's immaturity. And Douglas Bruce has demonstrated that one can be well over 25 and still be an immature legislator.
Referendum M (constitution): Obsolete Constitutional Provision Relating to Land Value Increases
Summary: Remove an old tax exemption for property value increases due to planting trees and shrubbery. Position: Reading through the constitution is hard enough when all the text is relevant. This law doesn't fit with the way property appraisal and assessment is currently done and currently has no effect. I will vote YES on this measure.
Referendum N (constitution): Obsolete Constitutional Provisions Relating to Alcohol Beverages
Summary: Remove an alcohol law now covered by federal regulation and also repeal some obsolete laws from when Colorado was a hotbed of temperance. Position: The one possible practical outcome is that the state could amend the law to allow bars to serve just alcohol, no food. (That, apparently, is what distinguishes a bar from a saloon.) I will vote YES on this measure.
Referendum O (constitution): Citizen-Initiated State Laws
Summary: The goal is to make it harder to amend the constitution and therefore encourage initiatives to amend state statutes which can be further amended by the legislature if wording was unclear or situations change. It also makes it harder for the legislature to immediately change citizen-initiated laws. Position: I voted for the anti-lobbyist initiative two years ago, but it turned out to be worded with major unintended consequences. If it changed state statute, the legislature could amend it to more accurately reflect the spirit of the law. I will vote YES on this measure. When constitutional amendments make specific requirements about tax and spending, the state can get into serious budget problems when economic situations change rapidly. This happened to Colorado a few years ago. It also seems to happen to California every year. Let's keep the basics in the constitution and leave the details to state statute. This will also make it harder for Colorado Springs fundies to propose constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, define a single cell as a person, and so on.

Quick Reference:

  • 46: No
  • 47: No
  • 48: No
  • 49: No
  • 50: Probably yes
  • 51: Unsure
  • 52: No
  • 54: No
  • 58: Yes
  • 59: Yes
  • L: Yes
  • M: Yes
  • N: Yes
  • O: Yes
Take that, longest ballot in the country!

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