Amendment 71 is a power grab by special interests

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

I am voting no on Amendment 71, otherwise known as “Raise the Bar,” a question that will be on your Colorado ballot that you will receive later this month. While Amendment 71 is being sold as a common sense reform package to the ballot initiative process, in reality, it’s nothing less than a power grab by the political and corporate elites and almost entirely funded by the oil and gas industry.

Amendment 71 would erode Coloradans’ right to petition their government for change, as well as reduce access to direct democracy through the ballot initiative process.

While there is a need for ballot reform in Colorado, there are plenty of reasonable approaches to do so without stripping away the rights of everyday Coloradans. Amendment 71 is not the solution.

Look no further than the powerful special interests that are funding this campaign to understand what this is all about: money and power. Nearly 75 percent of the money funding the pro-Amendment 71 effort, over three million dollars, comes from the oil and gas industry. Amendment 71 would not only make it much harder to bring forward initiatives to regulate drilling and fracking, it would also detrimentally impact nearly all the issues that we progressives care about.

For example, I was proud to help put forth Amendment 41 in 2006, a successful ballot initiative that banned lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers and established an independent ethics commission to protect the public interest from political corruption. Under the changes proposed in Amendment 71, our effort to protect the public interest from corruption would not have been successful.

Amendment 23 in 2000, which I helped bring forward to better fund schools, would also not have become law.

Amendment 71 changes the signature requirements for initiatives so that one State Senate District can veto the rest of the state’s wishes. It’s not hard to imagine how this will play out in future elections: Imagine, a group of civic leaders, teachers, parents and grassroots organizers come together to finally reform TABOR and provide adequate funding for Colorado schools. Now imagine the Koch brother’s vast network swoops in with a well-funded “decline to sign” campaign in just one State Senate District, say in El Paso county or Eastern Colorado, that prevents the grassroots effort from ever getting the signatures now needed under Amendment 71 to access that ballot. Teachers, students, and parents would lose, and dark-money Princes David and Charles Koch would win. This is unacceptable.

Let’s be clear, Amendment 71 dictates who is allowed to change the state constitution and who is not. Amendment 71 ensures that only corporations and the ultra wealthy will have the ability change the laws, and it shuts the door on citizens and grassroots movements from doing the same. In an era where we already have a dangerous level of concentrated power with the elites and special interests, Amendment 71 would be the nail in the coffin for grassroots social change in Colorado through initiatives.

I encourage you to join Colorado educators, Common Cause, and me in opposing dangerous Amendment 71 and spreading the word to your friends and neighbors.

60 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Budded says:

    As soon as I saw the commercials, I knew it was some Koch-funded or promoted garbage. Even if it's not them, it reeks of their ilk. It seems to me they're scared of Colorado progressing even more into comfortable blue and they're doing all they can to preserve the Constitution as it is now, making it harder to update in the future.

    NO on 71.

  2. Pseudonymous says:

    Thanks, Rep. Polis, for pointing out that this amendment is aimed at more than just tidying up the housekeeping for our constitution.

    If the right of the people to amend the constitution is to have any meaning, it must remain available to those whose only resources are their voice and toil, and not be reserved to the deep pockets of monied interests of any persuasion. 

    • mamajama55 says:

      Yup. and on 71: Nope.

      For those who naively claim that 64 or the renewable energy mandate could have just as easily been put in place by statute: You are ignoring the political realities of a partisan statehouse, and unlimited- dark-money issue committees.

      Nobody wants to take big policy risks post -recall of Morse and Giron, and Hudak's resignation.  Nobody wants to pay the price that those courageous souls paid.

      In addition, if there are significant associated start up costs with the legislation, which would require funds outside of the current budget, I beleive that TABOR blocks that. So people-powered ballot initiatives are the only way important stuff gets done anymore.

      • MichaelBowman says:

        Long-forgotten, but there were attempts to put a renewable standard in statute for three sessions prior to the passage of Amemdment 37. Even with public support at the time for such an idea at levels nearing super-majority, the power of the fossil fuel industry and our Republican dominated legislature (and Gov) made sure the standard never saw the light of day.  Regarding A64 and ending Prohibition, even a Progressive legislature and Governor wouldn't touch that idea with a ten-foot pole. It took a public finally fed-up with our failed War on Drugs to bring Prohibition to an end. 

  3. Davie says:

    Hmm, Congressman Polis, you almost had me until you reminded me of your misbegotten Amendment 41 — the poorly conceived and written wart on our Constitution that has caused a lot of consternation over trivial "gifts" and to innocent bystanders (college grants and scholarships to children of government employees, if I recall).

    While I have no sympathy for the O&G industry, and recognize they are trying to head off any more anti-fracking amendments, the ease with which we currently are able to muck up our constitution is just too much to ignore.

    I'm voting Yes on 71 because we still have the same ability to propose and pass citizen initiatives without locking them into the constitution.

    • BlueCat says:

      Me too. For the same reasons. Keep it all out of the constitution. Even with big bucks this is gonna make amendments tough hill to climb .

    • Jared Polis says:

      Actually problems with "college grants and scholarships to children of government employees" was just a red herring raised by the opposition. If you look closely you'll see it's been more than a decade and it simply hasn't occurred.

    • DaftPunk says:

      The problem is not "raising the bar" to amend the constitution per se, of which I am in favor, but how that happens.

      If it were a simple supermajority requirement to amend I'd be fine with it, but it requires signature gathering in all 35 senate districts, which requires geographic diversity as well as a higher percentage vote.

      • BlueCat says:

        Geographic diversity and higher percentage vote are among the reasons I'm for it.

        • FrankUnderwood says:

          The geographic diversity requirement is a two-edged sword which might be what we need. Sure, the folks in God's Little Kingdom of El Paso County, the Tea Baggers from Douglas County, and folks on the eastern plains and western slope can veto anything progressive (e.g., school funding under Amendment 23) but Boulder, Denver, and some of the burbs can stop some of the right wing nut crap coming out of God's Little Kingdom (e.g., a Religious Freedom a/k/a Homophobia Protection Amendment and the perennial Protect the Egg amendments). 

          Stalemate…..I like it!

          • MichaelBowman says:

            I'll be a no vote. With the past as prologue, amendments such as 37 (renewable energy mandate) and 64 (ending Prohibition on marijuana and industrial hemp) would likely have never seen the light of day. The former has now caused something north of $6 billion in wind farm investments; the latter has set the stage for both new opportunities for our farmers and a state budget that doesn't mimic the disaster next for in Kansas.

            The upside to 71 passing would be hare-brained ideas like secession would also never see the light of day. Frankly I wouldn't mind tolerating ideas like Dumphuckistan as long as I also have the opportunity to push progressive policies on energy, etc. 

            I hear Gertie's comment – but the illusion that most of these policies fought by rural Coloradoa are an 'affront on our rural values' (because they are promoted by Democrats) is as false as the idea there is an actual war on rural Colorado.

            We have become our own worst enemy. 

            • Voyageur says:

              Actually, michael, you could have done thesegood things as statutes.   They still go inand out by simple majorities.  71 just means our constitution is no longer the plaything of special interests.

              • Duke Cox says:

                 71 just means our constitution is no longer the plaything of special interests. 

                I am still astonished that anyone with an education can look at this and not see the outcome of this ballot initiative will mean that wealthy corporate interests will be unaffected, while grass roots citizens groups will be put at a serious disadvantage.

                I guess you and the rest of the folks who have been duped here don't mind having your constitution changed by powerful corporate lobbies…and no one else.

                Too bad your neighbors get fucked…

                c'est la vie…

          • Craig says:

            Dumb.  This has nothing to do with politics.  It has to do with making the process unavailable to people without tons of money.  The geographic argument is BULL SHIT.  Doesn't matter who signs, only who votes and other areas have as much of a say as anyone else.  How would the rural folks like it if they couldn't get something on the ballot because the liberal, farming hating, hippy, vegans in one district in Denver refused to sign????????????   This thing is stupid.  What it does is practically prevent any initiative getting on the ballot.  And THAT is what I expect is intended.  VOTE NO.  As my sainted mother said when she was running an initiative campaign long ago, "It's a sugar-coated lemon."

  4. Canines says:

    It's not Raise the Bar, it's Move the Goalposts.

  5. JohnInDenver says:

    If the proposal had only an increased number of signatures or a higher level for the vote, I'd might be for it. Or if I liked the Constitution the way it is, I might go for it.

    But there are a number of things currently in the Constitution that will need change in the years to come, and making the change MORE difficult by insisting on 2% in every Senate District and 55% on any citizen initiated change decreases the chance to effectively repeal TABOR or tweak the school funding process.

    I'll be voting no.

    • BlueCat says:

      Since there isn't much chance at present of getting bad amendments repealed under the rules in place now I'd just as soon start working on not adding to them. 

    • Voyageur says:

      You are wrong, john.  Anything in the constitution now can be removed by the old rules.  Indeed, anything new added to the constitution can still be removed by the old rules.  The new rules merely limit new stuff in the constitution.  And statutes can still be passed by the old roles. 

      • DaftPunk says:

        That's really not true.  TABOR was passed before single subject, and contains multiple subjects, so it can't be repealed wholesale.

        • Davie says:

          Maybe we should start over with a constitutional convention…  Digging that one out of the constitution is impossible by almost any means.

          We tried with A-59 a few years ago.

          • FrankUnderwood says:

            The problem with that is that the right wing will try to put all sorts of pet items in it. RMGO would want the Second Amendment 2.0. The anti-choice people would criminalize all abortions and confer civil rights protections on zygotes. There is no guarantee that the center-left would be able to keep things under control.


        • Pseudonymous says:

          I've actually wondered about that.  I believe that "Shall Article X, Section 20 be struck from the Colorado constitution in its entirety and replaced with the phrase ‘Dougie was here!’" meets the requirement of the single subject provision in the constitution, which generally requires that the title convey everything the measure purports to accomplish.

          Article V, Section 1 (5.5):

          No measure shall be proposed by petition containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title; but if any subject shall be embraced in any measure which shall not be expressed in the title, such measure shall be void only as to so much thereof as shall not be so expressed. If a measure contains more than one subject, such that a ballot title cannot be fixed that clearly expresses a single subject, no title shall be set and the measure shall not be submitted to the people for adoption or rejection at the polls. In such circumstance […]

        • notaskinnycook says:

          Now, you're right about that, Daft. But it's the single subject amendment (passed in the same election) that makes TABOR a tangled web to sort out. Bruce was counting on single-subject to pass when he was shilling for TABOR. He knew it was then or never to push that ugly thing through. He sold it with the idea of voting on every tax and told the good people not to worry about that fine print. 

        • Voyageur says:

          Single subject rule has nothing todo with 71, daft.  It's existing law.  But all you have to do is tell thecolorado supreme court that repealing tabor is a single subject.  They make the final decisions.  

    • BlueCat says:

      Yes, John. Whatever happened to statutes? We don't put detailed federal programs into our national Constitution. We shouldn't do so in out our state constitution either.

    • Davie says:

      JiD — the old bad amendments can be repealed by the old, less stringent rules.  Raising the Bar only applies to anything to come, not the mistakes of the past.

  6. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    The Colorado Constitution is a mess. I'm a YES vote.

  7. BlueCat says:

    Interesting. This apparently isn't a left/right issue, at least not on this left leaning blog.

  8. Genghis says:

    I will proudly vote to return Rep. Polis to the U.S. House of Representatives, and equally proudly vote yes on 71. I'm tired of having overtly discriminatory nonsense elevated to the level of organic law  every time the wingnut wind blows.

  9. ElliotFladen says:

    I think one's stance on this issue ultimately turns on how one feels about direct vs. representative democracy.  

    • mamajama55 says:

      Representative democracy should work, but often doesn't. When the gears are gummed up with ALEC-written bills and untraceable contributions, It's stuck in the stalemate we see now.

      My millennial daughter went on a rant the other day: "Why do we need government? Replace it with an ap! Want to know what the people think? Instant voting, with your ap! They can make it secure – they can make it so nobody gets to vote unless they pass this screen and that screen and are informed of the pros and cons – it's all doable. Forget government – there's an ap for that!"

      Perhaps we should consider instant, direct, "ap" voting for certain things. The ancient Greeks gave up on direct democracy because they couldn't fit everyone into the frigging coliseum and it was too logistically cumbersome. Technology now has made direct democracy possible. It remains to be seen if it will be used, and to whose advantage. 

      • Voyageur says:

        Direct democracy is great — if you're hitler.  Kill the jews just pass 51-49 so majoriity rules.  Fuddy duddy that I am, Ill stick to a republican form of government.

        As for the greeks, mitiline taught them the folly of direct democracy.  Look it up sometime.  

      • BlueCat says:

        This is an idea I could understand making sense to an ignorant child but to you, mama, seriously?  You do know that government isn't just voting? After everyone texts their decision about stuff they know nothing about, you do realize those decisions would still have to be implemented by actual people via actual mechanisms of some kind? And that we would no longer be the United States of America as created by our Constitution? And…. oh I give up. Where does one even start? And you a teacher?

        I'm floored.

        • mamajama55 says:

          Oh, Bluecat. Breathe. Do you get the difference between presenting an idea and promoting it?  Between exploring possibilities and advocating for the most radical? I offered my daughter's idea as a response to Elliot's "direct vs. representative" democracy comment.Of course I had this conversation with my daughter raising these (and other ) objections to her "government as an ap" stream of consciousness rant.

          Me, I like representative government – professionals who take years becoming familiar with issues and laws, who discuss and debate and compromise before legislating, who work within in a system of checks and balances. I'm also wary of the influence of corporate money on this system – sometimes reps represent their donors, and not the interest of their constituents.

          I do think that the possibilities technology offers for instant, direct voter input on some issues should be explored. I could see direct, secured, electronic voter input being very useful on certain things – as I wrote in my initial comment. Which things?  Instant runoff  primary voting, or ballot initiative voting in off years. Universal automatic voter registration. Local ordinances where the professional legislators have narrowed the choices down to 2 or 3 credible choices. It could be a way to at least get quick, cheap voter input on important issues – then use that input to guide the conversations of lawmakers.

          I offered my daughter's ideas to show that the newest generation of voters is not necessarily accepting of the limitations of representative democracy. They're really not happy with corporations buying laws and politicians. They're pretty cynical and savvy about political advertising. They're exploring the possibilities of more direct voter participation, which technology offers.. We as the "been around" crowd should explore these ideas, as well, not necessarily dismiss them out of hand.

  10. Craig says:

    I have never so whole-heartedly supported anything you have ever said.  Bravo!  Is there a campaign?  People don't know about this and they need to.  Frankly, it's not only the oil & gas industry, the elected officials and formers (all the living former governors, John Suthers, Wellington Webb, etc.) who are just trying to keep power in the hands of the elite elected officials.  It's an end run around the people to try to keep them from "interfering" with what elected officials know is right.  Gag me.


    Is there a campaign?  How can I donate?  Can I make a commercial for them?

    • mamajama55 says:


      Was this addressed to me? If so, I don't know of any "movement" for more direct electronic voter participation, except for the general modernization and automatic voter registration "movement", which Colorado pioneered in 2013.  The Brennan Center has a good rundown on which states are modernizing elections and moving to automatic voter registration. In every case, voter participation increased, and costs decreased. If you're looking for a place to donate $$ or publicity, I'd go with the Brennan Center.

      Sorry, Vger, there is as of yet no indication that modernizing elections to allow for more voter participation has brought on the fourth reich. Quite the opposite. More voter participation tends to liberalize jurisdictions. Whoda thunk it?

      A few countries, and jurisdictions within countries,  are experimenting with direct internet voting. Internet voting is defined as direct vote transmission via the internet, without a paper ballot or electronic voting machine. Voting on an electronic machine is the most common method in the US, and is called  DRE voting, as it uses Direct Recording Electronic machines. DREs are certainly vulnerable to hacking and manipulation, as the Bradblog famously exposed.

      Canada and the UK are among those looking at internet voting.  Of course, security and vulnerability to hacking are concerns. But internet voting has increased participation among young, connected voters  in those countries – hence the connection to my daughter's "There's an ap for that" rant. One has to  listen to young folks, and glean the useful from the silly. I happen to believe that there are useful possibilities in the idea.

      What I think: (pre-empting  Vger and Bluecat's hair-on-fire exposes of and attacks on what they think I think about this):

      *We need to standardize and bulwark the American voting experience across all states, allowing all voters easy registration and change of registration, portability of registration, and verifiable votes which leave a paper trail (paper ballots for all, as Colorado does), or some method of verifiable secure electronic voting which I don't have the expertise to imagine.

      *We need to elect a Democratic President who will nominate Supreme Court justices to restore federal oversight of the Voting Rights Act.

      *However, if e-commerce is secure, for the most part, and reliable, it would seem that voting could also be made so. I know some polsters rely on e-commerce and  know more about internet security than I.

      *So equalizing the American voting experience, and making voting accessible for all, is a prerequisite to experimenting with internet voting (with exceptions for deployed troops – Colorado also does that, much to the chagrin of various Republican Secretaries of State).

      *If we do standardize American voting, then I think we could begin to look at direct internet voting for the cases I mentioned in my original post: instant runoff primary voting, ballot initiatives in off years, some local ordinances for which professional legislators have weeded out the non-feasible choices.

      If your comment was not addressed to me, Craig, then I have at least explored my ideas on direct voter participation, and will possibly use them in a future diary on voting.




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