Here in Colorado we’ve passed the date where the state-wide ballot initiatives have been set and transmitted to the county clerks, who are responsible for preparing the actual ballots. There are seven such items this year (along with two amendments referred by the legislature). While initiatives are probably less important in some big-picture sense than voting for candidates, the initiatives are much more interesting. Maybe that’s just me, believing that direct policy questions are more interesting. Especially big policy questions, the kind that are dead on arrival at the statehouse. The following is a summary of the initiatives, and some remarks on how I think I’ll vote and why. Items titled “Amendment” are amendments to the state constitution. Those titled “Proposition” are statutory.
Amendment 69 would create a new state single-payer healthcare financing system. I’ve written about this before. It would create a pseudo-state agency that would sweep up revenue from a variety of sources, including new taxes, in order to pay for health care for a very large majority of Colorado citizens. I’ve decided to vote for it for multiple reasons: I know too many people who have been whipsawed by life changes forcing them to make drastic changes in their health care arrangements; some state ought to try single payer (or as close as a state can manage, given the existance of purely federal programs); and even if passed there is little chance of obtaining all the necessary federal waivers. It’s easy to make a protest vote for something that’s unlikely to be implemented.
(Full disclosure: By the time the system would go into effect in a few years, I would not be eligible because I would be covered by Medicare, so would not be liable for any of the taxes.)
Amendment 70 would increase the state’s minimum wage to $12/hr by January 2020, indexed for inflation after that. I haven’t made up my mind about this. In some parts of the Denver suburbs, “minimum wage” jobs like fast food cook or counter work already pay upwards of $10.50/hr to start. Given current trends, those positions are likely to pay nearly $12/hr by 2020 anyway. For the rural parts of the state, things are quite different. The Front Range already has the rural areas asserting that we’ve declared war on them. I’m not sure that minimum wage is the next thing I want to impose out there. (And yes, I do think the Front Range is going to go on imposing on the rural areas.)
Amendment 71 would require petitions for future constitutional amendments to be signed by at least two percent of registered voters who reside in each state senate district. I’ll be voting against this one. While I believe Colorado’s initiative process would benefit from making it somewhat more difficult to get amendments on the ballot, this isn’t the right way to do it. The most likely outcome of this change would be to provide a rural veto on proposed amendments. While I’m sympathetic to some rural claims, Colorado’s future is along the Front Range and I’m not about to hand over an actual veto on urban/suburban needs. The Denver Post is more polite about how they say “rural veto”.
Amendment 72 would raise cigarette taxes by $1.75 per pack. I’ll be voting against this. While Colorado taxes cigarettes at a lower rate than many states, we’re among the ten states with the lowest smoking rates. We’ve banned smoking from workplaces, restaurants, and bars. It’s a regressive tax in practice. At some point, enough. This despite the fact that health complications from smoking took my father before I was ready for him to go, and past statements on my part about wanting to make some points — with a two-by-four — to the person or persons who gave my 16-year-old daughter enough cigarettes to get her hooked.
Proposition 106 would make assisted death legal for patients with a sufficiently terminal illness. I’ll be voting for this. Death with dignity, and all that. Also, the medical bills for the final six months of life in many terminal cases can be staggering, to little benefit.
Proposition 107 would restore Presidential primary elections, to be held before the end of March, and make them open primaries. I’ll be voting for this. In 2003, Colorado switched from Presidential primaries to caucuses in order to save $2.2M every four years. In 2003, Colorado was also suffering through the hangover from all of the 2002-03 general recession, the dot-com bust, and the telecom implosion. Besides, I’m disgruntled about some of the choices the Colorado Republicans have made at their caucuses in recent years.
Proposition 108 would allow unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections without declaring an affiliation with that political party. Colorado already has closed primary elections for everything except President, although held much later in the year than the Presidential primary in Prop 107. This is a separate proposition because of the state’s single-subject rule. I’ll be voting for this for the same reason I’ll vote for Prop 107.
What’s interesting on your ballot this year?