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Your quick guide to Colorado’s 2020 ballot issues

Colorado voters get to study 11 statewide ballot issues this election season. The topics range from wolves to abortion to health care, so pull up a seat because you’re going to need all the notes you can get. 

Constitutional amendments

Amendment 76 and Amendment C require a 55% approval vote and Amendment 77 and Amendment B need a simple majority vote to pass. 

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Amendment 76: Citizenship qualification of electors

This measure aims to specify that “only a citizen of the United States” may vote in elections, replacing the current state constitution language that “every citizen of the United States” is qualified to vote. It is part of a multistate campaign led by Citizen Voters, Inc., a Florida-based organization, to have states explicitly exclude noncitizens from voting.

Federal law already bans noncitizens from voting. Colorado law does too, but according to Colorado Public Radio, cities could theoretically use home rule to permit noncitizens to vote in their local elections. That has not happened in Colorado, and Amendment 76 would not necessarily prevent it if passed.

Amendment 77: Strike gambling game limits

If approved, this initiative would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek to revise local limits on gaming without the following restrictions currently mandated in the state constitution:

  • $100 limit on single bets
  • Game types limited to slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette and craps

Amendment B: Repeal the Gallagher Amendment

The Gallagher Amendment impacts assessment rates or the portion of property value subject to taxation. 

Under Gallagher, commercial property taxes must account for 55% of taxable value statewide while residential property covers the remaining 45%. However, Gallagher also locks commercial assessment rates at 29% of their assessed value. So, when home values grow faster than business values, residential assessment rates must fall to keep the 55-45 split.

Since voters adopted Gallagher in 1982, it has pushed residential assessment rates downward to now 7.15%, one of the lowest in the country, according to 9News. Under this law, it would likely keep falling in 2021. This comes at a cost of lack of tax funds for rural and suburban localities, which is why state lawmakers put Gallagher’s repeal on the ballot.

Amendment C: Charitable bingo and raffles

In Colorado, charitable gaming regulation covers events like bingo and raffles hosted by nonprofit organizations who must first obtain a license to do so, according to Leaffer Law Group.

Amendment C alters the current regulations so a charitable organization only has to have existed for three years instead of five before obtaining a license, and rather than limiting game management to organization employees, anyone can be hired so long as they are paid no more than minimum wage. 

Statutory Initiatives

Proposition 113: National popular vote compact

Back in 2019, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill committing Colorado to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

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The compact pledges the signed states to send their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote, essentially sidestepping the electoral college. It would go into effect once enough states sign on to be worth 270 electoral votes, the winning number. It currently has 196, so it will not affect the 2020 election. 

Citizens, however, took the issue to the ballot via referendum petition to see if Colorado voters agree with their legislators’ decision.

Proposition 114: Reintroducing gray wolves

Approval of this initiative means Colorado will develop a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves in the state, with reintroduction starting at the end of 2023. The state would also compensate any livestock losses caused by gray wolves. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been angling to take gray wolves off the endangered species list by the end of 2020, according to CBS News. That would give Colorado free reign to assume management responsibility without need for federal approval.

Proposition 115: 22-week abortion ban

If approved, this initiative would prohibit performing abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, as measured from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. This “gestational age” would be determined by the physician performing the abortion. 

If a physician were to violate this law, they would be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor — the most serious level with a fine between $500-$5,000 — and have their medical licenses suspended by the Colorado Medical Board for at least three years. They cannot receive jail time. 

A person receiving an abortion could not be charged with a crime under the initiative. They can also lawfully receive an abortion if the physician believes it is otherwise life-threatening. 

Proposition 116: Reduce the state income tax

Colorado’s income tax has been a flat 4.63% since 2000. Proposition 116 seeks to reduce the state income tax rate down to 4.55%, starting in tax year 2020. 

The draft ballot analysis estimates the average taxpayer will pay $37 less and reduce the state general fund by $203 million next year if the measure passes. This will affect the general fund revenue, which funds primary state government operations and services such as health care, education and human services. 

Proposition 117: TABOR and State Enterprises

Proposition 117 would require voters to approve the status of state enterprises if their revenue from fees exceeds or is expected to exceed $100 million within its first five years. 

Enterprises are basically government-owned businesses, which receive 10% or less of their annual revenue from state and local governments — for example, the Colorado Lottery — and the revenue they bring in is exempt from Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

One of the things TABOR does is limit the amount of revenue any government agency can earn; money collected above the TABOR limit is refunded to taxpayers unless voters allow them to keep it.

If a state enterprise loses its status, its revenue will become subject to TABOR

Proposition 118: Establish paid family leave

Approval of Proposition 118 will create the mandatory Paid Family and Medical Leave Program funded through a payroll tax paid at least half by employers.

It would grant a maximum of 12 weeks for family and medical issues, with an additional four weeks for pregnancy or childbirth complications, while guaranteeing up to $1,100 per week in wages for the first year and no loss in job benefits. Beginning 2023, 0.9% of an employee’s wages would go toward the program premiums and the program benefits would start in 2024.

Employers with under 10 employees or who already offer a private paid family and medical leave plan are exempt.

Proposition EE: Taxes on nicotine products

Proposition EE would do the following:

  • Incrementally increase the state statutory tax on cigarettes from 20 cents per pack to $2.64 per pack by 2027.
  • Incrementally increase the percent of price tax on tobacco products each year, going from 40% now to 62% by 2027.
  • Create a tax on nicotine products such as e-cigarettes, which are currently not taxed. The tax would increase incrementally until it is also 62% of price by 2027.

Revenues would go to various health and education programs.

Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.

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