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RBC | With just a few days to the general election, there are 11 statewide initiatives on the ballot, and one local question. We’re addressing the initiatives to watch that are likely to have the most impact on RBC.
TERM LIMITS (COUNTY ONLY)
Locally, voters have been asked whether to support term limits for elected county officials. The initiative sprang from a request by constituent Mike Sizemore and was approved by the county commissioners. It’s not the first time the county has been asked about term limits. A statewide vote in 1994 that resulted in limiting state officials to two terms spurred similar initiatives at the county level across the state.
According to the National Association of Counties (NACO), “in 1994, the state of Colorado amended the State Constitution to impose term limits on all county officials, giving individual counties the option to vote to remove them later if they saw fit.” In 1999, Rio Blanco County voters opted to remove term limits for all elected county officials. “Rural counties found it necessary to consider repealing term limits because they discovered that there were not enough qualified candidates either running or willing to run for office.”
Voters can decide on each elected office individually, meaning some offices could be subject to term limits (not retroactively) and others could not.
CO Proposition 114 regarding the reintroduction and management of gray wolves to the state has been a sharp point of contention between hunting and agricultural interests and environmentalists. At the end of the day, it may be a moot point, as evidence of the presence of gray wolves in the far northwest corner of the state was discovered by hunters and verified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife within the last year. If wolves have already migrated into the state and established a presence, how they are managed will be different than if they are artificially introduced to the area.
COLORADO RIVER WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT
Ballot Issue 7A seeks to raise the mill levy that supports the Colorado river district by 0.5 mills. The district, which represents the entire Colorado River watershed, including the White, is charged to protect Colorado’s share of the Colorado River. The district serves 15 Western Slope counties, including Rio Blanco, and promises 86% of the additional funds will go toward partnerships with water users and communities within the District project identified by local communities and Basin Roundtables.
Proponents say funding the district is essential to protecting Western Slope water and water rights from increasing pressure from the Front Range and states to the west and southwest.
Opponents say plans for spending increased funds are “vague” and don’t guarantee protection of the watershed. Because of TABOR restrictions, the district has to have a vote of approval to raise the mill levy.
REPEAL THE GALLAGHER AMENDMENT (AMENDMENT B)
Younger voters have never known a Colorado without the Gallagher Amendment, added to the state constitution in 1982 to provide ongoing property tax relief to residential property owners by maintaining a 45-55% ratio between the amount of residential and non-residential property taxes. As residential property values have ballooned statewide, the Gallagher amendment has forced the state to reduce the residential property tax assessment repeatedly since 1982.
Currently, the residential rate is 7.15% (from 21% in 1982) and the non-residential rate is fixed at 29%. Because property taxes fund local government as well as essential services like fire departments, hospital districts and public schools, the reduced rate has forced many special districts to go back to voters repeatedly to request mill levy increases to make up for the property tax revenue they would have received without Gallagher in place. If the amendment is repealed, residential and non-residential tax rates would be frozen at their current rates for four years by statute.
TAX ON NICOTINE PRODUCTS
CO Proposition EE would tax the nicotine liquids used in e-cigarettes and other vaping products (currently not taxed), and would eventually increase the tobacco products tax by up to 22% of the manufacturers’ list price (MLP). The new total tobacco products tax which would be fully implemented by July 2027, would be 62% of the MLP (up from the current 42%).
Funding during the first three years would be directed to the state’s general fund and primarily used for K-12 education, rural schools, affordable housing development and eviction legal assistance. If passed, and if the funds are distributed as promised, the additional nicotine tax could help offset some of the so-called “negative factor” that limits rural school budgets.
Opponents say vaping is a way for smokers to quit using traditional cigarettes, and oppose taxes on products that are addictive.
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE PROGRAM
Proposition 118 would create a paid family and medical leave insurance program that would provide partial wage replacement for up to 12 weeks a year for eligible employees taking time off for medical reasons or to provide care to family members. Premiums would be split between employers and employees and would begin in 2023. The initial premium is equal to 0.90% of the employee’s wages in the previous two years.
Proponents say Prop. 118 would protect employee jobs in the event they have to take medical or caregiving leave, and would help small businesses compete with large corporations who offer similar benefits.
Opponents say the $1.3 billion tax increase required employees to pay into a program they may never need or use, and cite the addition of almost 200 employees and a politically appointed director as additional reasons to oppose the proposition.
NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE
Proposition 113 seeks voter approval to remain in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would take effect when states with enough electoral votes to form a majority have joined the Compact. The National Popular Vote guarantees the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and ensures one person equals one vote in every Presidential election.
Opponents say doing away with the Electoral College system would give greater political power in Presidential elections to states with the highest populations and large metropolitan area
Other initiatives on the ballot include requiring voter approval for new government enterprises expected to generate fee revenue of more than $100 million in the first five years, a proposed ban on late-term abortions (after 22 weeks gestation), local voter approval of casino betting limits and games, and qualifications of electors that would change the 2018 rule wherein voters who will be old enough to vote in a general election can vote in the primary that year.