With their first effort at ballot reform stuck in an unfriendly legislative committee, Colorado business leaders have launched a second, more seismic initiative — one that would require voter approval at two separate elections for any proposed state constitutional amendments.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 — introduced late Wednesday by Sens. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Pat Steadman, D-Denver — would require a majority of voters in a statewide general election to approve any proposed constitutional amendment before it is then resubmitted on a statewide ballot the next year.
It also would require that state officials conduct public hearings about any proposed amendments in each of the state’s seven congressional districts before the second round of voting on the question.
Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce leaders have made ballot reform a major push in recent years, saying they are tired of raising millions of dollars to fight myriad constitutional amendments that citizens can get onto the ballot in Colorado more easily than they can submit questions in other states.
Business-led coalitions crushed a number of amendments that would have cut tax revenue significantly in 2010, and chamber leaders were set to head the campaign against a pair of measures increasing oil and gas regulations last year before Congressman Jared Polis, the primary funder of those efforts, agreed to pull them from the ballot.
SCR 2 comes after a number a previous efforts to change the citizen-initiative process have failed, including a 2008 measure that would have made it more difficult to get a constitutional amendment onto the statewide ballot, but would have eased requirements to get a citizen-initiated statutory change to a vote of the people.
Another effort to require the nonpartisan Colorado Legislative Council to determine the fiscal impact of any citizen-generated ballot initiative before citizens collect signatures on it remains in limbo in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee after the committee chairwoman delayed a vote following a March 25 hearing and has yet to bring it back up.
Leaders from the Denver Chamber and Colorado Concern referred to the effort as a way to stop special-interest initiatives from cluttering the state ballot.
“Providing Colorado voters with access to the ballot-initiative system and protecting Colorado’s constitution can co-exist,” said Tamra Ward, president and CEO of Colorado Concern. “SCR 2 simply provides for additional time and education for proposals which would be enshrined, for all time, in our state’s founding document. We believe the constitution deserves that kind of respect.“
SCR 2 has a tough road ahead of it, however. To be referred onto the ballot by the Legislature, it must receive the support of two-thirds of the members of both the House and the Senate.
Both conservative and liberal organizations have decried past efforts at making it harder to amend the constitution as an attempt by the state government to snuff out the citizens’ right to petition it.
Author: Ed Sealover – Reporter, Denver Business Journal
Ed Sealover covers government, health care, tourism, airlines, hospitality and restaurants for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the “Capitol Business” blog. Phone: 303-803-9229.