From My Window: This week we look at two amendments up for Nov. vote

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
Out my window I see some clear skies over Rio Blanco County, where there is nary a single opposed election for local office that will be seen on this year’s election in November.
But the clouds are on the horizon, bringing on one of the most negative —I could say despicable—campaigns I have ever witnessed in any one of several states. I have gone from being pretty excited about these state elections to hoping they all lose.

This is the saddest election year I have ever seen and I suspect it will get worse in the last three weeks with outright lies, false statements, incomplete out-of-context charges and just plain mudslinging. It is not a good year to look at truth, justice, outlines for a great future or hopes that all will be well with the federal or state governments.
If this election year in Colorado becomes typical, look for a dismal showing at the polls and the beginning, once again, of a national (or certainly statewide) attitude that no one wants to go to the bother of voting. Maybe it is a good thing that this year, once again, it will be a mail-in ballot.

Speaking of the Nov. 4 election, there are two constitutional amendments and two propositions. Let’s take a look at the two amendments today in the hopes that we can clarify for our voters what the issues are. Hoping not to further obfuscate the issues, one of the pluses is that voters might know a little more about these proposed additions to the state Constitution.
Amendment 67 amends the Colorado Constitution to specify that the terms “person” and “child” in the state Criminal Code and the state wrongful death statutes include “unborn human beings.”
The first problem with this measure is that there is no definition of “unborn human beings.”
The Criminal Code currently defines a “person,” when referring to victims of a homicide, as a human being who has been born and was alive at the time of the criminal act. The code excludes a human embryo, a fetus and an unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth.
The Criminal Code also does not uniformly define “child,” as the definitions vary, based on different offenses.
Colorado law defines an unlawful termination of a pregnancy as the termination of a pregnancy by any means other than birth or medical procedure with a woman’s consent. Under the law, it is a crime to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause an unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
Unlawful termination and offenses against a person are categorized in separate sections of the law and may carry different penalties. If a person commits an offense against a pregnant women that results in the loss of her pregnancy, the offender can be charged with at least two crimes – the offense against the woman and the unlawful termination of the pregnancy. The law exempts pregnant women and health care providers from criminal prosecution for acts related to a woman’s pregnancy.
State law allows a woman to seek compensation from any individual who intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes an unlawful termination of her pregnancy. State law also states that a woman is not liable for damages for acts she takes with respect to her own pregnancy, nor is a health care provider for providing services.
Additionally, the law excludes a human embryo, fetus and an unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth from the definition of “person.”
The issue’s ballot title is: Should there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining “person” and “child” in the state criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?
It would be nice if the measure left the abortion part of the measure out of it and retained the part about raising the criminal liability when an unborn’s death is caused by homicide, negligence and harmful acts. That is a good measure that most states have adopted without making it a pro-life or pro-choice issue.
But it doesn’t.
What this measure boils down to is making abortion illegal and making the mother and the medical staff susceptible to a charge of homicide regardless of the reason for the abortion.

Amendment 68 proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to permit casino gambling at horse racetracks in Arapahoe, Mesa and Pueblo counties, limited to one racetrack in each county; and to distribute new casino gambling tax revenue to K-12 public schools (districts, not the classrooms).
In its favor, the official state booklet states that, regarding the amendment, “the gambling tax revenues … are deposited in the newly created K-12 Education Fund and distributed on a per-pupil basis to public school districts and to a state agency that authorizes public charter schools. Funding from the new gambling tax revenue must be used to address local education issues and may not replace existing funding or public schools.”
That’s good news.
The bad news, and I have seen it happen in Arizona, New Mexico, California and even Nevada, is, according to a portion of the state election information booklet: “Existing legal gambling in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek depends on customers from the Front Range metropolitan areas. When mountain communities lose customers to the new casino in Arapahoe County, these mountain communities lose economic activity and pay less in gambling taxes. This existing tax revenue from the Limited Gaming Fund helps support historic preservation, community colleges, tourism promotion, economic development and other state state and local services. Amendment 68 places this funding at risk.”
Further, the booklet states, “Amendment 68 does not give local voters the option to decide if gambling should be authorized in their communities. In 1992, Colorado voters passed a constitutional requirement that local communities conduct a separate election. Large commercial attractions such as casino gambling can have negative impacts that increase pressure on government services in both the host and surrounding communities. These services include law enforcement, court services, traffic control and road repair. In addition, voter approval will not be required for the casino to expand its hours of operation. This measure may burden local communities with negative consequences without providing those communities the opportunity to decide the issue in a separate election.”
Backers promise $114 million in new revenues to go to the state’s school districts. Well … maybe. When that will be, who knows.
Arapahoe County has one existing horse racetrack – Arapahoe Park. That is the site we hear about all the time on the TV advertisements. One side says it will be the savior to our schools. The other side says it will be the savior to the casino’s Rhode Island developer.
The fact is, Arapahoe Park is the only existing horse racetrack that could be licensed for casino gambling in 2015. But because Mesa and Pueblo counties do not currently have an operational horse racetrack – and one can’t tell if there are any plans for such racetracks in the future – and because an established race track must exist for at least five years before it can be eligible for the casino license, the state booklet states that casino gambling in those counties could not begin until at least 2019.
It does smack of benefiting the Arapahoe County track owners, being the only casino in the entire Front Range for a minimum of five years.
There are also a number of other questions that have not been answered, but one of the foremost is how will the casinos be able to pay 34 percent of income and still remain operational.
Nevada casinos pay nowhere that much to the state, and they make profits of 3 to 4 percent profit on the year. With payouts, employees, construction, maintenance, etc., the question remains how the profits are figured.
It also appears that roughly $63 million in road construction alone will be paid by the county; not the developer.
Yes, the measure will bring more money into state schools. But it also comes, according to the state election booklet, with a heavy cost, by forecasting a loss of $14.6 million in 2015-16 and a loss of $29.5 million in 2016-17 to the Limited Gaming Fund, which currently helps fund historic preservation, community colleges, tourism promotion, economic development and other state and local services.
Another question is, why is it that very few—if any—school districts are endorsing this measure? They all need money, but it seems they don’t want to give in to a Rhode Island corporation making boatloads of cash (if their projections are correct) off the back of hard-working Coloradans.
Personally, I hate to see the existing casinos, which have been good neighbors in the triad of towns that currently hold gambling, lose out to an out-of-state corporation that will undoubtedly hurt those businesses.
This is, I believe, a real soul-searching issue, not a cut-and-dried benefit to the state’s school districts. This would have to be a voter’s judgment call —but, as the advertisements say on TV, I believe “There are too many unanswered questions.”
I hope that helps with these two state election amendments.
All I can add is that regardless of which way you vote, please do vote. You may want to find out more on these issues, and it is important to make an informed decision.
Meeker School Superintendent Mark Meyer said Tuesday morning that he was going to recommend that the Meeker School Board not back the measure, and he pointed out that he doesn’t know of any school district in the state nor any state education or educator’s entity that has endorsed Amendment 68.
As much as Colorado schools need money, if not one pro-education entity in the state is endorsing the measure, there certainly must be more than one or two little flaws.
But the one thing you really should do, is vote. And with all of the mail ballots having to be in the Rio Blanco County Clerk and Recorder’s Office by 7 p.m. on Nov. 4, begin your research now and get ready to cast your votes.

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