I’m done! This is the last one!
This measure will make it harder for citizens to place constitutional amendments on the Colorado ballot for voter approval, but easier to call a vote on state statutes. It will do this by increasing the signature requirement for constitutional amendments by more than 15,000, drop the signature requirement for placing a new state law on the ballot, add a distribution requirement (requiring at least 8% of petition signatures to be gathered in each congressional district), and establish an earlier deadline for filing initiatives.
Laws sometimes need to be updated to keep pace with a changing world. Referendum O encourages citizens to propose statutory rather than constitutional initiatives. Statutory initiatives preserve the citizens’ right to initiate laws, while giving the legislature flexibility to react when laws require clarification or when problems or unforeseen circumstances arise.
Because the requirements for proposing constitutional initiatives are no different than the requirements for proposing statutory initiatives, the constitution is susceptible to detailed provisions that cannot be changed without another election. Colorado has one of the easiest constitutions to amend through the initiative process. Placing detailed provisions in the constitution limits the ability of the legislature to address policy and fiscal matters. Requiring more signatures for constitutional initiatives makes it more difficult to initiate constitutional amendments, which may make the Colorado Constitution a more enduring framework for state government.
Requiring that signatures for constitutional initiatives be gathered from each congressional district ensures that citizens from across the state support measures before they are placed on the ballot. Due to the relative ease of collecting signatures in heavily populated urban areas compared to sparsely populated rural areas, rural citizens may have a limited voice in determining which issues appear on the ballot.
Allowing the public and state legislators to comment on an initiative at a public meeting early in the process makes the review process more open and helps citizens gain a better understanding of the measure. It also helps proponents identify potential problems, make sure that the measure clearly expresses their intent, and avoid unintended consequences.
Limiting the ability of the legislature to change initiated statutes strikes a balance between protecting initiated statutes and permitting the legislature to address problems that may arise. The two-thirds legislative approval requirement is stringent enough to protect voter intent, but still allows for non-controversial changes that clarify, correct, or improve a statute.
Referendum O makes it more difficult and expensive for citizens to exercise their right to initiate constitutional changes. Requiring more signatures to qualify for the ballot restricts the public’s ability to address issues that the legislature, courts, and executive branch have not addressed to the public’s satisfaction or in which government officials have a vested interest.
Look at this year’s ballot – we have 14 proposed amendments to our state constitution. This is nuts. This does two very important things. First it makes it easier to get state statues on the ballot which will encourage people, when they can use either the statue or amendment approach, to go with the statue. This is very important because if an initiative turns out to have some major problems, the legislature can amend it.
Second, it makes it a bit more difficult to get an amendment on the ballot. And with 14 proposed amendments this time, the need for that is very clear.