AMENDMENT T – No Exception to Involuntary Servitude Prohibition
An amendment to article II, section 26 of the Colorado Constitution which would remove the exception that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude when used as a punishment for persons convicted of a crime.
Eliminates the exception which allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for the conviction of a crime.
The language of article II, section 26 is consistent with the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution passed in 1865. It also prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime for which a person was found guilty. Twenty-five states do not have this slavery language in their constitutions.
Court decisions have approved work requirements as part of criminal sentences for incarceration in prison, community service and probation, based on provisions of the US and Colorado Constitutions.
The Colorado Correctional Industries currently employs more than 1800 inmates. Colorado Department of Corrections work programs are not compulsory, but an inmate’s refusal to work may impact eligibility for prison privileges and parole.
The Colorado Legislature’s resolution referring this measure to the voters expressly provides that the Legislature does not intend to withdraw legitimate work opportunities from convicted persons, but only to prevent compulsory labor by such persons.
Those in favor say:
The language to be eliminated is archaic. It was written in the 19th Century, when not all people were treated with human dignity or even considered human. Freedom and equality are fundamental human values which should be reflected in the Colorado Constitution.
Those opposed say:
Work programs have a legitimate place in the correctional system. Prison work programs build skills and help reduce recidivism, and provide a structure and purpose for offenders. Community service and probation work requirements engage offenders in a positive way with the community and help offenders make amends for their criminal conduct. Legal challenges under Amendment T could jeopardize these beneficial work practices.
AMENDMENT U — Exempt Certain Possessory Interests from Property Tax
A referred amendment to article X, section 3 of the Colorado Constitution to eliminate property taxes for individuals and businesses who derive a benefit worth not more than $6,000 a year from government-owned real property.
—Eliminates property tax for businesses and individuals who derive a benefit worth $6,000 or less from the use of government-owned real property; and –—Adjusts the exemption amount every two years to keep up with inflation.
Colorado does not tax real property owned by government entities (national, state and local). The Constitution, however, does impose a property tax on individuals and businesses that rent, lease or have other rights to use government property (a “possessory interest”). That property tax is based on the actual value of the possessory interest.
A possessory interest allows an entity to occupy, use, or control a plot of land but does not include ownership of the land. Common examples of possessory interests are ranchers who lease grazing rights on government land and rafting companies who use public waterways.
This proposal creates a new exemption from property tax for individuals and businesses who receive a benefit of no more than $6,000 or less from their possessory interests in government land. If approved, the exemption would go into effect for property tax years beginning January 1, 2018. After that, the exemption threshold of $6,000 can be increased in odd-numbered years to reflect changes in inflation. Projections indicate that the amendment would result in a total reduction of property taxes of up to $125,000 per year from all possessory interests in the state.
Those in favor say:
Colorado counties pay more to collect and administer property taxes on possessory interests below the $6000 threshold than they receive from those taxes. For example, a lease valued at $5,000 to graze cattle on federal land may result in a property tax of $25 (depending on local tax rates). The county tax authority must pay administrative costs to collect, maintain tax rolls, and enforce the tax. The proposed amendment recognizes that it does not make economic sense to pay more to collect a tax than the tax amount received.
Those opposed say:
The proposal is contrary to the Colorado Constitution requirement that taxes be charged uniformly for all taxpayers. The proposed exemption for small property tax amounts opens the door to more exemptions in the future. It also unfairly benefits those individuals and businesses whose possessory interests in government property are below the $6000 threshold. The reduction in property tax revenue to each county – even though small, will unfairly shift the tax burden to all other property taxpayers.
AMENDMENT 69 — Statewide Healthcare System
Adds article XXX to the Colorado Constitution to provide health care to the residents of the state.
—Provides access to affordable health care to all residents of Colorado;
—Establishes a governing board, first appointed and later elected, to administer Colorado health care;
—Creates a taxing system to finance ColoradoCare;
—Allows waivers to be obtained from the insurance exchange program to create a unique Colorado health care system.
At this time, most Coloradans get their health care from private insurance companies or federal insurance programs. The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) requires most people to have health insurance or face a tax penalty. While many Coloradans get their insurance through their employer, some people purchase private insurance through an insurance agent, the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange or directly from an insurance company. This proposal would create ColoradoCare as a unique Colorado health care system. It is a political subdivision of the state which is not under control of any department or agency in the state.
The board that will administer the health care system in Colorado will initially be appointed by the president of the Senate, the minority leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the minority leader of the House, and the governor, each of whom shall appoint three trustees. The appointments will occur within 60 days after the effective date of the article. It allows the interim board to establish by-laws, procedures and rules of operation, to adopt a budget, to hire employees, to seek a waiver to suspend the operation of the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, and to divide the state into seven compact, contiguous and relatively equal districts.
The interim board shall schedule an election of the 21-member permanent board within three years of the date the proposal takes effect. Three trustees will be elected for four year terms from residents in each of the seven districts. The election will be non-partisan, each trustee may serve only two consecutive terms and trustees are not subject to recall. Once elected, the board will hire a CEO, a CFO, and a Chief Medical Officer. The board will establish a central purchasing authority, separate ombudsmen offices for providers and beneficiaries, and an office for prevention of fraud. The board will work to ensure financial stability and determine rules for independent annual performance and financial audits.
Health care benefits:
The board will contract with providers to provide primary, specialty, hospital, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, behavioral health treatment, emergency and urgent care services, rehabilitation services, pediatric care, laboratory services, maternity and newborn care, and palliative and end-of-life care. Workers’ Compensation, Medicaid, and the Children’s Basic Health Plan funds will be administered by ColoradoCare. Medicare, military and veteran’s health care programs and other federal health care programs will continue to exist. ColoradoCare will offer supplemental coverage for these plans. The program will not charge beneficiaries deductibles, copayments for preventative and primary care services, and will allow beneficiaries to choose their own primary care providers.
Funding: Financing of ColoradoCare shall begin on July 1 of the year following the date this provision takes effect. The payments initially will be lower, transitional payments and then 30 days prior to ColoradoCare assuming responsibility for health care payments, the Colorado Department of Revenue will begin collecting higher, permanent payments. The permanent health care payments will consist of 6.67% of the total payroll of employers, 3.33% of payroll income of each employee, and 10% of all non-payroll income from all beneficiaries. If the board determines higher premiums are necessary, the premium taxes can be raised only once a year after approval by a majority of the members of ColoradoCare. ColoradoCare would be exempt from TABOR requirements (article X, section 20). An individual must pay the health care premium regardless of whether they use ColoradoCare insurance.
The Legislature, in the first regular session after the adoption of this article, shall pass legislation to allow the Department of Revenue to levy taxes to fund ColoradoCare, to suspend operations of the Colorado Health Benefit Exchanges, to transfer responsibility for administering Medicaid and the Children’s Basic Health Plan to Colorado Care, to repeal the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado, and any other legislation necessary to implement this proposal.
Any part of the act that is declared unconstitutional shall be severed from the remainder of the proposal. ColoradoCare can be shut down if waivers and agreements from the federal government are not sufficient to make its operation fiscally sound.
Those in favor say;
- ColoradoCare will cover everyone. This proposal will make sure that all Colorado residents will have affordable, lifetime health care, including mental and behavioral health care. Residents will no longer have confusing yearly enrollment dates for their insurance plans. This proposal will allow Coloradans to choose their primary care providers and if they wish, keep the insurance that they currently have, however they will have to pay the tax. Those who have Medicare, federal insurance plans, military and veterans plans can use ColoradoCare for supplemental care.
- ColoradoCare will expand access and improve the quality of health benefits that residents receive. Children will receive dental, vision, and hearing coverage. The proposal will provide health care to all residents regardless of their financial circumstances. Residents will no longer have to worry about declaring bankruptcy to take care of high medical bills.
- ColoradoCare will save money for most residents. Out-of-pocket expenses will be reduced because there will be no deductibles or copayments for primary and preventative care visits. This measure allows ColoradoCare members to control tax increases because future increases must be approved by a majority vote of ColoradoCare members. This health care plan will cut administrative costs, and eliminate bureaucracy and fraud. Coloradans who currently have no insurance will no longer have to use expensive emergency rooms for their health care needs.
Those opposed say:
- ColoradoCare would raise $25 billion in new taxes to fund a state-level, government health care system. This would give Colorado the highest income tax rate in the country. For context, the entire state budget is about $27 billion. All Coloradans would pay this new tax, whether ColoradoCare is their primary source of health care or not. This hurts seniors, members of the military, small business, jobs and our economy. And it would inevitably hamper the state’s ability to make investments in other vital priorities such as education and transportation.
- ColoradoCare will be run by an unaccountable board of 21 politicians with no guarantee of content area expertise, political balance or diversity. It would be the only group of elected officials in the state not subject to public recall. That board would have the authority to decide what treatments and medications are covered, what you pay out-of-pocket for those benefits, and how much providers are paid. It provides virtually no state oversight, jeopardizing patient protection. By creating so much flux and uncertainty, ColoradoCare could drive the best and the brightest doctors out of Colorado and put local clinics and hospitals out of business. Decisions about our health care are too important to leave to inexperienced, unaccountable politicians
- This first-of-its-kind health care system will be locked into the state’s constitution making it nearly impossible to fix, or even update it in the future. It is irresponsible to put another complex policy into our state’s constitution.
AMENDMENT 70 — State Minimum Wage
An initiated amendment to section 15 of article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution that would adjust the current state minimum wage.
—Increases the state minimum wage from $8.31 to $9.30 per hour beginning January 1, 2017;
—Expands the minimum wage annually by $.90 per hour beginning January 1, 2018, until it reaches $12.00 per hour on January 1, 2020;
—Adjusts the minimum wage each year after January 1, 2021 based on cost- of- living increases.
The federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 per hour for most workers and $2.13 for workers who receive tips. It was last increased in 2009. Colorado’s current minimum wage provision was adopted in 2006. The minimum wage was set at $6.85 on January 1, 2007 for most workers and $3.83 for those who receive tips. Only $3.02 of tip income may be used to offset the minimum wage of employees who regularly receive tips. The law requires that the minimum wage be adjusted each year up or down for changes in inflation. It is currently set at $8.31 for most workers. The workers most likely to be paid the minimum wage include retail salespersons, food service workers, child care workers, janitors, and home health aides.
Those in favor say:
- Low-wage workers are falling farther behind in Colorado. Full-time minimum wage workers currently earn $17,000 annually, which is under $300 a week after taxes. The minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living, especially housing. The majority of Colorado workers who make less than $12 an hour are women and 86 percent are over the age of 20, many supporting families. It isn’t enough to live on and raising the minimum wage would help people make ends meet.
- When people have more money in their pockets, they spend it on Main Street and our communities thrive. Research consistently shows that raising the minimum wage gradually over time, as this proposal does, has little or no effect on jobs or prices, even in sectors most likely to hire minimum wage workers. Low and middle income workers are more likely to spend pay increases in the community helping local Colorado businesses and the economy.
Those opposed say:
- Small businesses will be hit hardest by a 44% increase in the minimum wage, leaving them little choice but to let go or reduce the hours of low-wage workers, cut hours of operation, increase prices, or even close. Colorado’s minimum wage has gone up 61% in the last 10 years and will continue to rise with inflation every year, but another 44% goes too far for small and family-owned businesses.
- This proposal is unfair for rural Colorado, where the cost of living is different from large metro areas. Small businesses in rural Colorado simply can’t afford to pay as much as stores in urban areas of the state. This will hurt many of the very same people it is meant to help. A recent economic study found that a 44% increase in the Colorado minimum wage could eliminate 90,000 jobs and reduce wages by $3.9 billion per year by 2022.
AMENDMENT 71 — Requirements for Initiated Constitutional Amendments
An amendment to section 1, article V which amends and adds a new section to make it harder to amend the Colorado Constitution.
—Makes it more difficult to amend the Colorado Constitution by requiring that at least 2% of the voters in each state senate district sign the petition;
—Calls for at least a 55% yes vote cast by Colorado voters to become part of the Colorado Constitution;
—Determines that the 55% yes vote requirement shall not apply to an initiated constitutional amendment that would repeal a current provision of the Colorado Constitution. The requirement for repealing an existing provision in the constitution would continue to be a 50% majority vote.
An initiative process to change the Colorado Constitution and Colorado statutory law passed by popular vote in 1910 and was first available to the voting public in 1912. Since that year, 70 total initiatives have been adopted by the voting public: 44 that amended the state constitution and 26 that have changed or added to statutory law. By contrast, the United States Constitution has been amended only 27 times.
Currently in Colorado, the initiative process is the same whether the result is an amendment to the constitution or a change to state statutes. The same number of signatures is required and the same approval by a simple majority vote. This proposal would require a 55% vote for any new constitutional amendments. Any provision currently in the constitution could be repealed by a 50% majority vote.
Those in favor say:
- It should be more difficult to amend the state constitution than to change state law. The constitution is a foundational document where changes made are nearly impossible to reverse. Requiring 55% of the vote for passage of a new constitutional amendment ensures broad public support for what is likely a permanent addition to the state constitution.
- The current lack of a geographic requirement for petition signatures allows the most populous metropolitan communities to dictate access to the ballot for constitutional amendments to the exclusion of the rest of the state. Requiring signatures from each state senate district will ensure citizens across the state a voice in determining which measures reach the ballot.
Those opposed say
1. If a proposal is needed to correct an existing constitutional provision, the correction or “fix” will be more difficult to place on the ballot because of new more stringent signature requirements. Creating two thresholds to approve constitutional changes, a simple majority (50%) for the repeal of existing provisions, but a super majority (55%) to pass a new constitutional amendment may confuse voters and raise legal problems leading to litigation.
2. Requiring 2% of petition signatures from each senate district in the state will make the process more expensive, more difficult and could discourage citizen grassroots participation. It could allow one part of the state to block proposals with strong support everywhere else in the state.
AMENDMENT 72 — Increase in Cigarette Tax
An initiated amendment to section 21 of the Colorado Constitution to increase cigarette and tobacco taxes.
—Raises the state tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.84 to $2.59;
—Increases the state tax on other tobacco products from 40 percent to 62 percent of the manufacturer’s retail price;
—Distributes the new tax money for medical research, tobacco-use prevention, doctors and clinics in rural or low-income areas, veterans’ services, and other health-related programs;
—Exempts revenue from this from the state’s constitutional revenue limit.
Every pack of cigarettes sold in Colorado includes $1.01 federal and $.84 state taxes. Colorado’s excise tax on cigarettes is ranked number 33 out of the 50 states. The highest state tobacco tax is $4.35 a pack in New York. The lowest is $.17 per pack in Missouri.
In 2015, $197.9 million in cigarette and tobacco taxes were collected in Colorado. The proposal would increase the amount to $315 million per year. The money raised would increase health services for those affected by tobacco use and raise funds for research and smoking cessation programs. Of the $.84 state tax on a pack of cigarettes, $.64 is required to be spent on health-related programs as identified in the state constitution, as well as on disease prevention and treatment.
Since 1973, no local government has collected taxes on cigarettes but they have collected taxes on other tobacco products. These products, such as cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, dip, and chewing tobacco are taxed by Colorado at 40% of the manufacturer’s retail price. Half of this amount is spent on the same health programs as the cigarette tax while the other half is spent on other state government programs. E-cigarettes are not taxed.
Those in favor say:
- Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in Colorado, killing more than 5,000 Coloradans and adding $1.9 billion in health care costs a year. Smoking reduction has occurred but there are still over 650,000 adults and almost 24,000 high school students who smoke. The current 84-cent tax is lower than most states and in today’s economy it does not make a significant impact on reducing smoking.Nearly every state in the country has passed cigarette tax increases, resulting in lower smoking rates, especially among kids, and increased funding for important health programs.
- The proposed $1.75/pack increase in Colorado will prevent more than 34,000 kids from becoming smokers, save over 20,000 lives and prevent $1.4 billion in future health care costs. This is the most effective way to fight this deadly problem and stop more kids from getting addicted.
Those opposed say:
- This proposal will raise the Colorado tax far above the national average, and any new taxes are not necessary. Unless a new amendment is passed, this tax cannot be changed if the need for funds exceeds revenues. There will be a decreased revenue stream if consumption declines and state program spending may not be ready for this decrease. This is a regressive tax because the fixed amount of tax on a pack of cigarettes represents a larger share of the income of low-income smokers than of the wealthy and because low-income individuals are more likely to smoke.
- High excise taxes may increase smuggling from neighboring states with lower taxes; this activity may encourage corruption among public officials and trigger violence against people, property and police, as well as increase law enforcement needs.
PROPOSITION 106 — Medical Aid in Dying
An initiated proposition adding a new section of article 48 to title 25 of the Colorado Revised Statutes to allow an adult resident of Colorado to request and receive from a physician a prescription for a medical aid-in-dying medication for self-administration.
—Allows an individual who is a Colorado resident, 18 years old, mentally competent, and who is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and has a prognosis of six months or less to live, to request an aid-in-dying medication for self-administration from the attending physician;
—Provides that the individual must request the medication twice orally and then once in writing in front of two witnesses, who can attest that the request is voluntary and that the individual is mentally competent;
—Requires the attending physician, after determining the patient is mentally competent and the request is voluntary, to refer the patient to a consulting physician;
—Requires the consulting physician to confirm the diagnosis and prognosis and to confirm mental competence and that the request is voluntary;
—Determines the patient must be aware of alternative treatments and the risks of aid-in-dying medication;
—Refers those determined to be suffering a mental disorder to a competent mental health professional for counseling;
—Establishes criminal penalties for causing an individual’s death by forgery, coercion, undue influence, or destroying or hiding a cancellation of a request for aid-in-dying medication;
—Provides that when a death has occurred by self-administration of an aid-in-dying medication, the physician signing the death certificate must list the underlying terminal illness as the cause of death.
Prior to World War II, although euthanasia had been widely discussed, no state allowed a physician to assist a person in ending his/her life. However, as improved medical care allowed the extension of life even though the patient was unconscious, and as anxiety over extending life through highly technical means increased, concern over the rights of patients to control their own treatment and their right to refuse treatment and die also increased. Soon, the discussion also included the concept of allowing a terminally ill patient to self- administer an aid-in-dying medication with some restrictions. (Restrictions for this proposal are outlined in the major provisions above.)
In 1994, Oregon passed a Death with Dignity law. In Colorado, similar legislation was introduced in the Legislature in 1995, 1996, 2015, and 2016 but failed to pass. Initiatives or legislation allowing physicians to prescribe aid-in-dying medication for self-administration have passed in Washington, Montana, Vermont and California and have been considered in several other states.
Those in favor say:
- The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act would allow terminally ill, mentally capable adult Colorado residents access to medication that would allow them to shorten the dying process if suffering becomes unbearable. For most people with a terminal illness, hospice and palliative care are the right fit. But sometimes even the best care cannot relieve pain and suffering, and people in that situation should have a range of options.
- The measure would take government out of personal end-of-life decisions and allow patients to make their own choices about their health care with input from their families, their doctors and their faith. Medical aid in dying is now authorized in five states and the Colorado proposal is modeled after the successful Oregon law that has been in effect for nearly two decades.
Those opposed say:
- Passage of this proposal could lead health professionals, family members, or others to advise, encourage, or exert subtle pressure on vulnerable persons to request doctor-prescribed suicide. Insurance companies could also use this as a way to cut costs by denying payment for more expensive treatments while approving payment for less costly lethal prescriptions. Health care facilities that do not permit end-of-life options may not be able to prevent doctor prescribed suicides from taking place on their premises.
- A family member could engage in “doctor-shopping” until compliant physicians were found. A consulting physician may be a colleague or employee of the attending physician. Once a prescription is filled, there are no safeguards to ensure that the drug has been voluntarily taken. Also, the cause of death would not be accurately reflected on the death certificate.
PROPOSITION 107 — Presidential Primary Elections
Amend the Colorado Revised Statues to establish a presidential primary to be held in March of each presidential election year.
—Establishes a presidential primary election in Colorado;
—Allows unaffiliated voters to participate in the presidential primary without affiliating with a political party.
Presidential nominees for major political parties are chosen by state delegates at each party’s national convention. In Colorado state delegates for the national party conventions have been selected in different ways over the years. In 1992, 1996 and 2000 delegates were selected by a presidential primary election. Since that time, political parties in Colorado have chosen delegates for their national conventions using a caucus/convention system. Only party members can participate in that party’s caucus or convention. Caucuses and conventions are paid for by the political parties.
Under this proposal, a presidential primary election will be held no later than the third Tuesday in March. The presidential primary election will be the only issue on the ballot. This election will be funded by state and local taxpayers. The winner of a party’s presidential primary will receive all of that party’s delegates to the national convention. Delegates will be bound to vote for that candidate at the party’s national convention.
This proposal does not change the existing primary election in Colorado held in June for other state, federal and local offices. Neither does the proposition prevent political parties from holding caucuses. However, parties will no longer use caucuses to determine the party’s choice for presidential nominee.
Voters who wish to be independent of political parties will not be required to affiliate with a political party to vote in the presidential primary election.
Those in favor say:
- This year only 13% of Democrats and 6% of Republicans attended Colorado caucuses. Unaffiliated voters had no voice in nominating presidential candidates. A presidential primary election open to all voters will increase public participation in the selection process.
- The caucus system in Colorado has resulted in the selection of extreme from each party. If all voters are engaged in the selection process, more centrist, pragmatic candidates will be selected. Without a presidential primary, Colorado is largely candidates ignored by the major party candidates.
Those opposed say:
- The political parties fund caucuses, which are intimate political gatherings that foster close relationships and inspire grass roots activism. The presidential primary will cost the state’s taxpayers $5.4 million in the 2019-20 election cycle.
- Since the purpose of the primary election is to select political party candidates, only members of the parties should vote in these elections.
PROPOSITION 108 — Non-Presidential Primary Elections
Amend the Colorado Revised Statutes to allow an unaffiliated voter to vote in a primary election.
—Allows voters who are not affiliated with a political party to vote in a nonpresidential primary election;
—Requires unaffiliated voters to vote in the primary for only one political party;
—Allows political parties to opt out of holding an open primary election and, instead, nominate candidates either by assembly or convention.
Colorado holds primary elections that select party nominees for state, county and national offices, other than President, on the last Tuesday in June of even-numbered years. County election officials run these primary elections. Primary elections are paid for by taxpayers. Presently, Colorado primaries are closed which means a voter must be affiliated with a political party before voting in a primary election. If an unaffiliated voter wants to vote in a primary election, that voter may affiliate with a party at any time including on Election Day.
Under this measure, voters who wish to be independent of the political parties will no longer be required to affiliate with a political party before voting in a nonpresidential primary election. Unaffiliated voters would be allowed to vote in a primary election for only one political party.
The proposal also allows political parties to choose not to hold an open primary election. Instead, the parties could select candidates at an assembly or convention. Unaffiliated voters would not be able to participate. This process would be funded by the political parties.
Those in favor say:
- Turnout in primaries in Colorado is low. Just 1 in 5 Colorado voters in 2016 picked candidates to run in November. Winners of closed primaries tend to appeal to the extremes of each party. We need more people involved if we want the best candidate options.
- More than a third (37%) of Colorado voters are unaffiliated and nearly 50% of voters age 40 and under are unaffiliated. It’s not right to exclude more than 1.3 million Coloradans from primary elections.
- This is about fairness. Because all taxpayers pay for elections, no one should be excluded from the primary election. Everyone, including unaffiliated voters, should have the right to have their voices heard.
Those opposed say:
- Since the purpose of the primary election is to select political party candidates, only members of the parties should vote in these elections. Colorado voters already have the option of declaring a party so they can vote in a primary election. They can change their status back to unaffiliated after the election.
- Opening primaries to unaffiliated voters will cost local and state taxpayers additional money. The state will have to produce and print separate ballots for unaffiliated voters. This may be a difficult financial burden on smaller and more rural counties.
BALLOT ISSUE 4B — Denver Metropolitan Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD)
This proposal will appear on ballots in the following counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Boulder, Denver, Douglas (except in towns of Castle Rock & Larkspur), and Jefferson.
An amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes to reauthorize the collection of the 0.1% sales and use tax and to modify provisions for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.
—Extends the current 0.1% sales and use tax for 12 years to June 30, 2030;
—Outlines administrative procedures for the SCFD district;
—Adjusts the formula for distribution of the 0.1% tax revenues to participating organizations as follows: Tier I – 0.064%, Tier II – 0.022%, and Tier III – 0.014%.
In 1988, voters in the Denver Metro area created the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) to provide a consistent source of funding to scientific, cultural and arts organizations. Voters approved funding for the district by approving a tax of one-cent on every $10 spent within the district. The tax was renewed in 1994 and again in 2004.
The recipients of district funds are divided into three groups or tiers. Tier I consists of the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Zoo and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA). Their share of the funds is determined by statute. Tier II includes other significant local and regional institutions. Tier III recipients are smaller local organizations with cultural and scientific missions. Each county receives funds in proportion to the tax collected there, and the county cultural council recommends which organizations will receive funds.
The district is comprised of the seven-county Denver Metro area of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson Counties.
Those in favor say:
- For the last 28 years, the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District has been an essential element in the increasingly vibrant arts, science and cultural scene across the metro area. Today, an average of 15 million visitors a year gain access to a broad array of offerings, making it a national model of public funding for the arts.
- The $54 million generated from a modest one-penny sales tax on every ten dollar purchase allows over 4 million students the opportunity to experience educational and cultural programming at more than 300 diverse SCFD funded organizations. Because of the SCFD, more than 100 free days are available at our regional institutions each year.
- The SCFD boosts our region’s economy and provides a huge return on investment throughout the seven counties that support the district. SCFD funded facilities deliver a $1.85 billion annual boost to the metro region’s economy by generating jobs, tourism and audience spending.
Those opposed say:
- The government taxes everyone to pay for the SCFD, regardless of whether individuals support the district, or can afford the tax. Many of those taxed for the district do not use the facilities supported by the district. Those who patronize the cultural facilities are, in general, able to pay for them without taxpayer subsidy.
- The SCFD distribution formula favors the five largest organizations (Tier I: Zoo, DCPA, Botanic Gardens, Art and Nature and Science Museums) and automatic payments to these organizations will increase exponentially. At the same time, the Tier II mid-size organizations will divide their quota of the tax money between a growing-number of mid-sized organizations, thus shrinking their “slice of the pie.” Likewise, smaller organizations in Tier III will be penalized because the increasing number of these organizations causes a further division of funds and provides smaller grants to each individual organization.
LOCAL BALLOT ISSUES
INITIATED ORDINANCE 300 — Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program
Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt an ordinance that creates a cannabis consumption pilot program where: the City and County of Denver (the “City”) may permit a business or a person with evidence of support of an eligible neighborhood association or business improvement district to allow the consumption of marijuana (“cannabis”) in a designated consumption area; such associations or districts may set forth conditions on the operation of a designated consumption area, including permitting or restricting concurrent uses, consumptions, or services offered, if any; the designated consumption area is limited to those over the age of twenty-one, must comply with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, may overlap with any other type of business or licensed premise, and cannot be located within 1000 feet of a school; a designated consumption area that is located outside cannot be visible from a public right-of-way or a place where children congregate; the City shall create a task force to study the impacts of cannabis consumption permits on the city; the City may enact additional regulations and ordinances to further regulate designated consumption areas that are not in conflict with this ordinance; and the cannabis consumption pilot program expires on December 31, 2020 or earlier if the City passes comprehensive regulations governing cannabis consumption?
In November 2012, voters in Colorado approved Amendment 64 by 55.32%. It allows people 21 years old and older to use recreational marijuana. Commercial sales of recreational marijuana began January 1, 2014. The City and County of Denver has enacted rules that forbid consumption of marijuana in public areas.
In 2015, a measure to allow consumption of marijuana at certain restaurants, bars and businesses (similar to the current proposal) was introduced. At the last minute (September 3, 2015), the measure was withdrawn because the campaign leaders were optimistic that City Council was planning to consider a similar measure. The City Council did not bring this proposal forward in 2016, prompting the supporters to reintroduce it. This cannabis initiative is a way to allow consumption of marijuana in designated areas, approved by the City and County of Denver, with evidence of support of an eligible neighborhood association or business improvement district.
—Businesses or persons would obtain a cannabis consumption permit from the city for that business or for an event.
—The Director of Excise and Licenses will issue the permit and determine whether there is community support from a recognized neighborhood organization at least two years old.
—Permitted locations are required to be 1,000 feet from a school
—Hours of operation do not allow consumption of cannabis between 2:00 AM and 7:00 AM. The neighborhood organization may impose more restrictive hours.
—Permit holders will submit a responsible operations plan to the Director of Excise and Licenses.
—Permits will be valid for one year (or less if the community requires a shorter period).
—Application fee will be $1,000 and annual permit fee will be $1,000.
—City Council will create a Cannabis Consumption Task Force to study the impacts of the consumption permits on the city.
—This article will be repealed December 31, 2020 or when City Council passes regulations governing cannabis consumption, whichever comes first.
Those in favor say:
1. In Denver, we’ve legalized the purchase and possession of cannabis for adults but have not provided them with a safe and discreet place to consume it away from city sidewalks, parks and places where children congregate. This Pilot Program is a responsible approach to solving this problem that won’t remedy itself.
2. Many residents of Denver live in HOA or landlord-controlled properties that disallow cannabis use on the premises, while more than 70 million tourists come to Colorado each year, also with no place to consume cannabis. This has led to a 500% increase in public consumption tickets issued in Denver since the passing of Amendment 64 in Colorado, with African-Americans being arrested at a rate 2.6 times higher than whites.
3. The Pilot Program will provide designated spaces in certain City-permitted business establishments where adults 21 and over can consume cannabis in accordance with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act and out of view of the public.
4. The Pilot Program is designed to mutually serve the interests of both cannabis consumers and Denver neighborhoods by requiring a prospective permit holder to garner formal support from an eligible neighborhood organization prior to applying with the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses.
5. To allow neighborhoods the ability to slowly step into this new territory, the proposed permits could be issued for a short duration of time, such as for a single event, allowing for a phased integration of this program that adjusts to current unknowns as they are realized and best practices are developed.
6. Neighborhood organizations will have the ability to mandate certain restrictions on the businesses to ensure they operate in a manner that is most appropriate for the neighborhoods in which they operate, empowering neighborhoods to be part of the process and set high standards of responsibility for cannabis consumers and cannabis consumption permit holders.
7. Ultimately this is a pilot program that will sunset in 2020 if not extended by city council or an additional voter initiative.
Those opposed say:
1. It sends the wrong message to children that marijuana is harmless
2. It would directly undermine what Coloradoans approved in approving Amendment 64 in 2012 by allowing consumption to be conducted openly and publically
3. It will inevitably lead to a dangerous increase in drugged driving
4. This initiative will allow individuals to hold events where marijuana would be consumed – even in non-business locations
5. This initiative, if passed, will replace conflicting provisions in the current Revised Municipal Code of Marijuana ordinances in Denver, such as protecting distances from childcare centers, alcohol and drug treatment facilities and any residential neighborhood.
6.The initiative doesn’t allow for any testimony to permit by neighborhoods in a hearing for “Needs and Desires” (Formal process for alcohol licensing) nor negative letters from individuals or organizations.
REFERRED QUESTION 2A — Denver Preschool Program
May the City and County of Denver retain and spend all 2015 revenues derived from the three on-hundredths of one percent (.03%) sales and use tax rate increase in support of the Denver Preschool Program as originally approved by the voters on November 4, 2014, and continue to impose and collect the tax to the full extent permitted by the original voter approval through December 31, 2026?
In 2006, Denver voters approved a 0.12 percent sales tax to fund a preschool program for the City’s 4-year olds. The program was launched in 2006 with a sunset date of 2016. In November 2014, Denver voters approved Measure 2A: Extending and Expanding the Denver Preschool Program. Measure 2A raised the sales and use tax in support of the Program to 0.15% of 1% in order to reinstate summer preschool programs, meet demand for full- and extended-day preschool options and keep up with rising tuition costs.
In 2015, the estimate of the City’s overall Fiscal Year spending required by TABOR was exceeded by actual collections. Because 2015 was the first year of the sales tax increase for the Denver Preschool Program, the city of Denver is required by TABOR to refund all of the incremental 2015 DPP tax collections unless Denver voters approve retention of the tax increment collected in 2015.
The Denver Preschool Program features a sliding tuition credit scale to make preschool accessible for all Denver families of 4-year olds and has a strong emphasis on quality and quality improvement. The program is administered by the Denver Preschool Program (DPP), a non-profit corporation, under a contract with the City and County of Denver. It has served nearly 41,000 4-year olds since its inception, and provides funding through tuition credits to more than 250 early childhood centers. During the 2014-2015 school year, the average tuition credit was $303 per month for a student attending a full-day program. By ordinance, administrative costs are limited to 7% of the sales tax revenue.
REFERRED QUESTION 2B — Permanent Independent Monitor
Shall the Charter of the City and County of Denver be amended concerning the office of independent monitor and the citizen oversight board, as previously created by ordinance, for the purposes of monitoring investigations of uniformed personnel in the Denver Department of Safety, in order to formalize the existence of the monitor and the board in the charter, and to adopt in the charter the basic powers and duties of the monitor and the board?
The office was established in 2004 as a civilian watchdog to ensure accountability, effectiveness, and transparency in the Denver Police and Sheriff Department’s disciplinary processes. The office monitors law enforcement investigations, provides its recommendations to the city’s manager of safety and conducts outreach programs to Denver communities.
Currently, the mayor appoints the independent monitor with City Council approval but funding for the office is not assured. Placing the office within the city charter would strengthen it.
Creates an Office of Independent Monitor composed of a full-time monitor with appropriate professional and support staff. The monitor will actively monitor and participate in investigations of uniformed personnel and make recommendations to the Manager of Safety regarding administrative action, including possible discipline. The monitor will also make recommendations regarding policy issues; and address any other issues of concern to the community, the members of the citizen oversight board, the manager of safety, the chief of police, or the sheriff.
The monitor will establish standards of professional conduct and a comprehensive training program for its own staff in order to evaluate whether internal investigations have been properly conducted and to make recommendations as to the sustaining of rule violations, the imposition of disciplinary sanctions, and changes in policy and training.
A citizen oversight board will be established to assess the effectiveness of the monitor’s office and address issues of concern to the community, board members, the monitor, the manager of safety, the chief of police, the sheriff, or the fire chief.
Those who support the issue say:
1. The Office of the Independent Monitor is an important tool in public safety and transparency. Codifying the office will make civilian oversight more permanent and an everyday part of Denver’s government.
2. Currently, however, the office can be eliminated or changed in scope and authority at the whim of City Council. By putting this office in the Charter, the office can be dissolved only by a vote of the people.
3. This will give the Monitor status equal to those of other department heads in the City and County of Denver, including those departments he is tasked with monitoring.
Those who oppose the issue say:
1. Adding authorization to the city charter for the Office of the Independent Monitor isn’t necessary since it is already in the city ordinances.
2. During economic downturns when financial resources are scarce, the city would be required to fund the Office of the Independent Monitor, potentially taking funding away from higher priorities.
3A — Denver Public Schools Mill Levy Override
Shall Denver Public Schools (School District No. 1) taxes be increased by $56.6 million in 2016 for collection in 2017 and annually thereafter by the amount that, when combined with other taxes approved by Denver voters for the district’s general fund, equals the amount permitted by state law, by the levy of property taxes at a rate that will produce such amounts for educational purposes, including, but not limited to:
1. Expanding early childhood reading programs;
2. Providing more mental health professionals, school counselors, and other wrap-around services to support students;
3. Expanding technology access to more students;
4. Providing better support, training, and leadership opportunities for teachers;
5. Recruiting a strong, diverse pool of teachers;
6. Expanding college and career programs such as apprenticeships, work experience, high school classes that earn college credit, and career focused curriculum?
The Colorado School Finance Act limits how much money can be spent per pupil unless voters approve an additional mill levy to be spent per pupil. Funding for a school district’s Total Program is calculated starting with a base per-pupil amount and making adjustments that reflect specific characteristics of the district. Local revenue sources from property taxes and specific ownership taxes (paid as part of vehicle registration fees) provide the local share of Total Program.
Where the local sources are insufficient, state money (primarily from state income tax, and sales and use taxes) makes up the difference. State funding was reduced in 2009 in response to the recession. The reduction in education spending continues to impact DPS by nearly $92 million a year. A school district that desires to spend more revenues than its Total Program amount must seek voter approval for “override” revenues which come from increased property tax via an additional mill levy. The approval of override revenues does not affect the state share funding that the district receives. If 3A is approved, the owner of a Denver home valued at $329,000 in 2017 would pay about $110 annually in additional property taxes.
The $56.6 million operating increase would provide:
—$6.8 million in strategic investments in DPS’ Early Literacy Strategy which is based on research and best practice from around the nation;
—$8.07 million to support real-world college and career readiness opportunities;
—$6.6 million in classroom technology to ensure students have the tools to prepare them for the 21st century economy;
—$14.5 million to attract, develop and retain strong values-based, high quality teachers and leaders across the district;
—$15.0 million in funding whole child support programs and expanded learning opportunities;
—$4.88 million to keep DPS’ 15.2M square feet of learning environments cleaner and more comfortable for our students and teachers;
—$400 thousand to increase transportation options for high school students;
—$480 thousand in bond investments that require coordinated mill investments.
Those in favor say:
1. The Mill Levy would expand investments in early childhood reading programs and supports such as one-on-one tutoring and improved classroom technology.
2. Professional education for teachers, new trainings, and added collaboration and planning times, will help teachers use proven methods for teaching young students how to read.
3. The Mill increases funding for teacher leadership positions to provide teachers with more support, training, and collaboration opportunities.
4. Hire additional mental health professionals and counselors to assist children with mental health supports and allow teachers to better focus on teaching.
5. Funding from the Mill will help prevent future cuts and classroom sizes from increasing.
6. The Mill Levy would cost the average property owner less than $10 per month.
Source: For Denver Kids
No organized opposition was found as of this printing.
3B — Denver Public Schools Bond Issue
Shall Denver Public Schools (School District No. 1) debt be increased $572 million, with a maximum repayment cost of $1,100 million, shall district taxes be increased by a maximum of $61 million annually by the levy of property taxes, (but with no increase in the district’s current bond fund mill levy rate based on the district’s current assessed value and tax collection rate), and shall the proceeds of such debt be used for purposes permitted by state law, including:
—Extending the life of existing schools by replacing leaking roofs, making critical repairs, and repairing structural problems;
—Expanding technology to more students and upgrading science and computer labs;
—Adding new schools and classrooms and making improvements to existing schools to address overcrowding and class size;
—Providing cooling systems to high temperature classrooms that lack air conditioning;
—Improving student safety by providing security cameras and updated alarm systems;
—Expanding early childhood programs;
by the issuance and payment of general obligation bonds, which shall bear interest, mature, be subject to redemption, with or without premium, and be issued, dated and sold at such time or times, at such prices (at, above or below par) and in such manner and containing such terms, not inconsistent herewith, as the district may determine; and shall ad valorem property taxes be levied in any year, without limitation as to rate or amount, to pay the principal of, premium, if any, and interest on such bonds and any bonds issued to refinance such bonds and to fund any reserves for the payment thereof?
The history of bond issues raising capital funds for school improvements, with voter agreement, gives a background to this request: in 1990 voters approved a $199.6 million bond issue; in 1998 a $305 million bond issue; in 2003 a $310.8 million bond issue; and in 2008 a $454 million bond issue; and in 2012 a $466 bond issue, which is still being implemented. In 2012 the Denver Public Schools population was approximately 83,820. In 2015, the enrollment was 91,429, an increase of 9% in three years. The projected enrollment for 2016-2017 is 92,280. The program and projects which would be funded under 3B were developed and recommended by a group of citizens and business leaders who analyzed the district’s capital needs, enrollment projections, facility requirements and funding sources. If 3B is approved, the owner of a Denver home would not see a rise in the bond mill levy tax rate, with reasonable expectations of future market conditions.
Denver Public Schools is asking voters to approve $572 million in general obligation bonds. The sale of these bonds would raise money for capital investment to address critical facility needs, add new capacity and increase technology in our classrooms. The school board has allocated the distribution of this bond fund as follows:
—$252 million to address critical maintenance needs in aging school buildings, including replacing galvanized pipes, adding cooling systems, roof repair/replacement, repair failing brick, mortar and exterior doors, and increase energy efficiency of all school buildings.
—$142 million for new capacity in areas of Denver with the greatest population growth, expanding overcrowded campuses, creating an early childhood education center, providing funds to address special education program moves and expansions, and renovation of the older Denver Health Centers.
—$108 million for quality learning environments, including funding to address priority building deficiencies which negatively impact school programs and the learning environment, innovative classroom upgrades, focused investments in secondary facilities that have received minimal updates or remodels in recent decades, including investments in classrooms or STEM labs, updates to gyms, libraries or auditoriums, common space renovations, including hallways, bathrooms or front offices.
—$70 million for technology and safety to address technology needs identified across DPS, supporting an anytime/anywhere learning, increasing equity of information access and the tools needed for 21st century learning, ensuring funding for key department needs (safety, operations, infrastructure), and to compliment a $6.6 Mill Levy request.
Those in favor say:
1. With DPS schools becoming increasingly crowded, the Bond will allow DPS to build and expand schools to keep classroom sizes down and accommodate future student growth.
2. The bond would allow for investment in existing facility maintenance, capacity upgrades, and quality learning environments.
3. Funds will also be used to improve classroom technology, gyms and other facilities, security at schools, and cooling solutions to the hottest schools in DPS that can reach over 90 degrees.
4. The Bond would allow for critical investments in maintenance for existing schools, such as repairing falling brick work, failing mortar, and updating exterior doors and roofs.
5. The bond will also be used to provide better access to modern classroom technology, investing in educational technology such as digital curriculum, online professional development tools, and eBooks.
Source: For Denver Kids
No organized opposition was found as of this printing.
Reprinted by permission from League of Women Voters of Colorado and League of Women Voters of Denver.