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Effort seeks to make it more difficult to amend Colorado Constitution

State ballot campaign stops in Durango on Thursday
Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne offers support for Raise the Bar Protect our Constitution, a campaign backing a ballot initiative that would make it harder to amend the Colorado Constitution, on Thursday during a news conference at the Durango Public Library.

DENVER – Proponents behind a ballot effort to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution stopped in Durango on Thursday as part of a statewide kickoff event.

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a Democrat, joined local leaders, including Republican La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake, at the Durango Public Library.

The Raise the Bar, Protect Our Constitution campaign stop follows an official kickoff event in Aurora on Wednesday, where Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, expressed his support for the initiative.

Proponents must collect enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

“Coloradans have always valued consensus over conflict, and I think on this specific constitutional reform we are finding consensus among political leaders who are often or sometimes in conflict,” Hickenlooper said Wednesday. “This ballot initiative is going to ensure that our constitution is not held captive by the whims of the day.”

The bipartisan effort grew out of a statewide listening tour last year, in which voters were asked their thoughts on budget and elections issues. Making it more difficult to amend the state constitution was one issue voters rallied around.

The proposal has brought the political parties together, including Republicans such as Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango and Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, a Democrat, who is spearheading the effort along with former state Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican from Wray.

Conflicts in the Colorado Constitution have been attributed to how easy it is to amend.

Only 98,492 signatures are required to make the ballot, with a simple majority to pass an initiative.

Under the proposed ballot question, signatures would need to be collected in all 35 state Senate districts before an issue can qualify for the ballot.

Signatures would need to come from at least 2 percent of registered voters in each district. Provisions would need 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Existing provisions in the constitution could be repealed by the same simple majority.

The ballot question would not alter the statutory proposition process. Statutory changes are easier to amend because language is not locked into the state constitution.

“We’re launching this campaign in communities like Durango, Grand Junction, Craig and Alamosa because these communities have been largely voiceless on questions of whether and how to amend our constitution,” Gibbs said. “When this measure is the law of the land, this will change to the benefit of rural Colorado and the entire state.”

Opponents, however, say the constitutional amendment route is what gives voters a voice on the ballot.

Odd bedfellows, such as the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute and left-leaning Common Cause, are expected to join to fight the proposal, as has been the case when similar proposals have come up in the past. Voters rejected an effort in 2008.

“The proposal will put the initiative process off limits to the people of Colorado while giving more power to wealthy special interests,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. “The measure won’t strengthen the initiative process, just make it more difficult and expensive.”


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