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Voters will see 9 statewide issues on November ballot

DENVER – Colorado voters this November will face seven citizen-initiated statewide ballot measures and two other issues referred by the Colorado Legislature.

The ballot picture came into focus Monday after the secretary of state’s office announced that two anti-fracking initiatives would not make the ballot.

With that announcement, the signature review process was complete.

The three most recent initiatives approved came last week.

Primary elections

Two proposals were cleared to create a primary elections system in Colorado.

One would allow all voters to participate in state and local primary elections, including unaffiliated voters.

The second question would address only presidential elections, moving the state away from a caucus system to an open presidential primary.

“Colorado voters value independence and want elections that encourage participation,” said Kent Thiry, chairman of the Let Colorado Vote campaign. “Only 5 percent of voters participated in the March caucuses, which is not a sign of a healthy democracy.

“Our initiatives will fix that and allow more than 1 million unaffiliated voters to participate in elections that they currently pay for, but thus far have been excluded from.”

Cigarette tax

Also approved last week was a measure that would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.75, moving from 84 cents to $2.59 per pack.

The question also would increase the tax on other tobacco products, such as cigars and chewing tobacco, by 22 percent.

Funds would be directed to an array of services, including cancer, heart and lung disease research; programs for veterans; mental and behavioral health; rural health care, and tobacco education.

Amending the constitution

Another effort would make it more difficult to amend the state constitution.

Under the Raise the Bar proposal, signatures would need to be collected from at least 2 percent of the registered voters in each of the 35 state Senate districts before an issue could qualify for the ballot. 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Existing provisions in the constitution could be repealed by the same simple majority.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 proposition process for state statutes.

The current process requires only 98,492 valid signatures to make the ballot, and then a simple majority vote.

Medical aid-in-dying

Colorado voters will be asked to approve allowing terminally ill patients to request access to life-ending medication.

The ballot question applies only to terminally ill adult patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Two physicians would need to confirm the prognosis, patients would need to be mentally capable, the medication would need to be self-administered, two oral requests separated by 15 days and a third written request would be needed, and patients would have the right to rescind the request at any time.

Colorado would join five states with medical aid-in-dying laws.

Minimum wage

Voters will see a proposal to raise the wage to $12 an hour by 2020. The current minimum wage is $8.31 per hour.

There is an outstanding concern, however, as a section on petitions was flagged by the secretary of state’s office for having potentially forged signatures. The issue was turned over to the attorney general’s office.

Observers say even if a handful of signatures are deemed fraudulent, the issue would likely remain on the ballot. Proponents submitted a whopping 189,419 signatures, and had a projected validation rate of close to 117 percent, so they have a cushion.

Single-payer health care

An initiative that would create a single-payer health care system in Colorado was the first approved for the ballot, earning its place last year.

The measure would eliminate private insurance for a 10 percent premium tax so that the state can cover health expenses. It would amount to a $25 billion tax increase.

Under the initiative, employers would share employees’ costs.

Removing ‘slavery’ from state law

The Legislature this year referred a measure to voters that would eliminate archaic language in the state constitution that allows for slavery in some cases.

The ballot question would strike language that allows for slavery as punishment for crimes.

The language is 140 years old and was never used, but it carries with it symbolism.

Exempt certain property taxes

A final issue referred to voters by the Legislature would exempt a possessory interest from property taxation in some cases. A possessory interest is created when an individual or business uses government-owned land or equipment for private purposes.

The ballot question would eliminate property taxes for individuals or businesses that use government-owned property for a private benefit worth $6,000 or less in market value.

It would also adjust the $6,000 exemption threshold to account for inflation.

The proposal would exempt approximately 5,100 of the 7,000 possessory interests in the state. In total, the interests pay about $125,000 in property taxes annually, or about $24 each on average.


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