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Amendment 58 tops list of important 2008 Colorado ballot initiatives
Drilling for natural gas has become big business - and big politics - in Colorado, especially near the pristine Roan Plateau (pictured).

Amendment 58 tops list of important 2008 Colorado ballot initiatives

By Tom Boyd

October 5, 2008 —  Many of you have already decided on who you’ll vote for in the 2008 presidential election – but what about all those referendums and amendments being proposed?

I take a look at these questions vote-by-vote below.

Like most people, I’m likely to vote no on proposed amendments to the Colorado constitution which come along almost every November. I just don’t think it’s worth re-writing our state constitution for these nit-picking little political issues.

This year Coloradoans are inundated with more ballot questions than at any time since 1912 (according to the Rocky Mountain News). Tucked among them are a few which deserve a yes vote because they are good for Colorado, and there are also a few which should be passed because they are simply legal housekeeping. Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 may be on your ballot but have been withdrawn and will not be enacted if passed.

The most important, by far, is Amendment 58, which I discuss below.

As someone who votes just left of center, I thought it would be fair to include my views on the Amendments and also the views of conservative Denver talk show host Mike Rosen, who wrote a similar column for the Rocky Mountain News, is planning on voting.

The description of the ballot issues comes from the State of Colorado Legislative Council’s “Blue Book” voting guide.

Referendum L: Lowers the age to serve in the state legislature from 25 to 21. Boyd: No. Rosen: No.

Referendums M and N: Eliminates obsolete language in the state constitution. Boyd: Yes. Rosen: Yes.

Amendment 46: Prohibits Colorado governments from discriminating against people based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national orgin in public employment, public education, or public contracting. Comments: I’m amazed that this one isn’t on the books already. Boyd: Yes. Rosen: Yes. Editor's Note: Boyd has since realized his original folly on Amendment 46. Please visit BAMBOOZLED BY AMENDMENT 46 to read a more detailed description of this misleading bill.

Amendment 47: Prohibits requiring an employee to join and pay any dues or fees to a labor union as a condition of employment and creates a misdemeanor penalty for violation of this law. Comments: This amendment allows for greater freedom of choice among workers and employers. Boyd: Yes. Rosen: Yes.

Amendment 48: Defines the term “person” to include any human being from the moment of fertilization, and gives the fertilized egg the same rights as a human being. Comments: Personhood could possibly be granted at the time of viability, but claiming that a fertilized egg is the same as a human being is absurd. Boyd: No. Rosen: No.

Amendment 49: Prohibits any public employee paycheck deduction except for tax withholdings, court-ordered liens and garnishments, health benefits and other insurance deductions, savings, investments, retirements plans, and other common deductions. Comments: This is reasonable and it keeps outside organizations from using the government to collect fees and dues from government employees. Boyd: Yes. Rosen: Yes.

Amendment 50: Amends constitution to allow Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to hold votes which would allow them to raise gambling limits. Comments: We don’t need Colorado to turn into another Vegas, and we don’t need to amend our constitution to allow gambling greed a bigger slice of our state’s revenue pie. Boyd: No. Rosen: Yes.

Amendment 58 tops list of important 2008 Colorado ballot initiatives
The Colorado voter's information booklet informed the descriptions of the ballot questions discussed in this article.

Amendment 51: Increases sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.0 percent on July 1, 2009, with new money to be used to pay for services for people with developmental disabilities and to help eliminate the waiting lists for services. Comments: Although I’m all for helping the disabled, now is not the time. This issue could be resolved without raising taxes. Boyd: No. Rosen: No.

Amendment 52: Amends the constitution to require the state legislature to spend a portion of state severance tax collections on highway projects. Comments: This is a bad idea in all ways. I-70 needs upgrades, but this won’t completely solve the problem and it will handcuff our legislature. We elect representatives to the legislature to make these decisions – we don’t need to make these decisions for them. This issue doesn’t belong on the ballot. Boyd: No. Rosen: Yes.

Amendment 54: Prohibits those who receive government contracts from contributing to a political party or a candidate for two years after the expiration of the contract. It also limits the amount the government can give for no-bid contracts. Comments: A few might suffer from this Amendment, which would prohibit a few blue collar folks from fully participating in the money side of the democratic process. The good it would do, however, oughtweighs the bad. Boyd: Yes. Rosen: Yes.

Amendment 58: Eliminates an existing state sales tax credit currently on the books for oil and natural gas companies, allocates increased tax to college scholarships for state residents, wildlife habitat, renewable energy projects, transportation projects and water treatment grants. Comments: Opponents of this bill want Coloradoans to think this is a tax hike, when in fact it’s the elimination of an existing tax credit. Oil and gas drilling will not stop or be hindered by this bill. Coloradoans will finally receive just benefit from the exploitation of our state’s natural resources. This is a no-brainer – the fact that oil and gas have pumped $10.3 million – the most ever raised – into a campaign fighting this bill shows exactly how much they’re willing to spend to avoid sharing profits with the people of Colorado. Boyd: Yes. Rosen: No.

Amendment 59: Eliminates rebates that taxpayers receive when the state collects more money than it is allowed, and the money is instead spent on P-12th grade education. Comments: The problem with our education system isn’t funding, and taking away TABOR rebates to pump more money into a failing education system isn’t the way to solve this problem. Boyd: No. Rosen: No.

Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 may appear on the ballot, but have been withdrawn and will not be enacted even if they pass.

Read Mike Rosen’s column at



Comment on article  17 Comments on "Amendment 58 tops list of important 2008 Colorado ballot initiatives"


Dianne — October 5, 2008

I would beg to differ with your analysis of Amendment 51. Your view on ending the waiting lists for people with developmental disabilities as being a "luxury" is short-sighted. It has been documented that if 1/3 of the children under age 5 who are on the waiting list receive services, they will not need special education services when they are school age. Pay now or pay later. Of those who are on the adult waiting lists for services, the longer they wait, the skills they learned in school will have to be relearned at more cost to taxpayers. Pay now or pay later. And for those adults who do not have supports and are still living at home, parents often have no option but to retire early or to leave the workforce to take care of their adult children. Taking productive workers out of the workforce costs the state in lost taxpayers. Not to mention the fact that if there were funds to pay for services for these real people with real needs, a market would be created for service providers. More jobs would be created. And finally, a number of people who do not have services end up in the prison system. Pay now or pay later. There is no safety for these people. This is not a luxury. Two cents on $10 is a small price to pay for those who, through no fault of their own, need society's support for vital services.


Tom Boyd — October 5, 2008

Thanks for your comments everyone.
My question for Dianne would be: if Amendment 51 actually saves money then why does it involve a tax increase? Why not simply remove the waiting list and keep the taxes the same?
It takes more for me to want to increase taxes as part of an amendment to the state constitution.


Mike Yates — October 5, 2008

Your take on Amendment 54 is right on the money. I am tired of the corruption, lies and deception. I demand transparency on where my is being spent. I encourage everyone to vote YES on 54.


humorist2be — October 6, 2008

Mr. Boyd -- With all due respect Amendment 51 is NOT A CONSTITUTIONAL BALLOT MEASURE it is a STATUTORY MEASURE.


Denny — October 6, 2008

Man, if you can't read the Blue Book or whatever to know that Amendment 51 is a STATUTORY amendment and NOT a CONSTITUTIONAL amendment, I now understand your inability to comprehend the rest of the amendment!


Tom Boyd — October 6, 2008

My apologies for the mis-statement on 51, which is of course a statutory amendment.

My point, however, remains strong. Reducing the wait lists could be accomplished without raising taxes, and Amendment 51 permanently raises taxes that won't necessarily be effective.

Amendment 51 has good intentions, I just disagree with the methods.


Denny — October 6, 2008

OK, let's further analyze your statement, now that you know this is a STATUTORY amendment.

Amendment 51: Comments: "Although Iím all for helping the disables, itís a luxury our people canít afford during these difficult times."

It is NOT a luxury. There are parents in their 70's and 80's struggling with providing services to individuals with 25 hour care needs.

There are wait lists of up to 20 years for services.

"This issue should be raised again in more prosperous times."

This is always the "excuse" provided, yet it is never the right time, for one reason or another.

Sometimes you just have to grab the bull by the horns and go with it. 1 cent on every $5.00 for non-food, non-gas, non-prescription items will hurt no one, but will benefit many who are in dire straits.



Deb — October 6, 2008

Also, to Mr Boyd's comment about going to the State Legislature for funding the waitlists...we've been there and done that. Because of Tabor, this Amendment is following Tabor rules of going to the Voter. I support Amendment 51 and hope the readers will do the same. It's the right thing to do for people who critically need our help.


Delores Huerta — October 6, 2008

There is a great Youtube video on Amendment 49


Diana Hsieh — October 6, 2008

Thank you for your opposition to Amendment 48!

You might be interested to read an issue paper published by the Coalition for Secular Government: "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person" by Ari Armstrong and myself. It's available at:

We discuss some of the serious implications of this proposed amendment, including its effects on the legality of abortion, birth control, and in vitro fertilization. And we offer a strong defense of abortion rights based on the biological facts of pregnancy.

Diana Hsieh
Founder, Coalition for Secular Government


Denny — October 6, 2008

From the Denver Post today, written by Bob Gardner and Frances Owens (both conversative Republicans):

guest commentary
Those with developmental disabilities need help now

By State Rep. Bob Gardner and Frances Owens
Article Last Updated: 10/05/2008 08:08:37 PM MDT

As long-term advocates for people with developmental disabilities, we strongly disagree with The Post's recent editorial on Amendment 51 ("Disabled are deserving, but Colo. can't afford a tax hike," Sept. 26).

The time to help Coloradans with mental retardation, Down Syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities is now. They have waited for basic services for far too long.

Amendment 51 helps people who need it most. When passed, it will create a critically needed safety net for 12,400 eligible children and adults with developmental disabilities who need, but do not receive, care. It provides new funds through a modest sales tax increase of two-tenths of 1 percent, or two pennies on $10, excluding tax on essential items such as gasoline, groceries and prescription medications.

This statutory (not constitutional) proposal helps people like Russell and his mom. Russell is a 63-year-old man with mental retardation who lives with his 85-year-old mother because he needs help to eat, dress, bathe, and use the bathroom. His mother put him on the waiting list more than 15 years ago. Because of age and failing health, she worries constantly about who will care for Russell when she dies.

Amendment 51 helps children like Sam, a 4-year-old with autism and multiple physical disabilities, who could learn to walk, talk, feed himself, and play with other children if he was not waiting at the bottom of the list for services.

For Sam, Russell and his mother, and thousands more Coloradans, there is absolutely no safety net for the vital services they need. They have already waited far too long. The time to help is now.

Under Amendment 51, the spare change in our pockets, the pennies on the sidewalk we often just step over, will add up to more than $186 million each year. For most of us, it is an unnoticeable amount, but those pennies will help more than 12,000 children and adults who, through no fault of their own, face tremendous burdens every day just getting by.

Regardless of political affiliation, people generally agree that government has some basic responsibilities to our most vulnerable citizens. In this regard, our state is failing. At 46th in the nation, Colorado is near the bottom of the list in fiscal support for people with developmental disabilities. Given that fact, it is no surprise that admissions at the Pueblo Regional Center and similar facilities in Wheat Ridge and Grand Junction have been frozen. There is not even space for known emergency cases.

Because of a lack of funds, thousands of Coloradans with developmental disabilities have been waiting 10 years or longer for critical services to allow them to live dignified and healthy lives: daily living support, 2 4/7 supervision, employment training, nursing services, or transportation. Many of their family caregivers can no longer help due to age or illness. Many caregivers will die before their sons or daughters receive the services they need. In fact, more than 9,000 Coloradans with developmental disabilities are being cared for by parents 60 years or older.

Some may question why two fiscally conservative Republicans like us support Amendment 51. We are not alone. The constraints on our state budget prohibit any other way to provide the necessary funds to tackle a problem of this magnitude. We know the developmental disability levee is about to break, and there is no realistic alternative available to address this growing crisis. Unless we do something now, there will be no end to this wait for people with mental retardation, Down Syndrome, or cerebral palsy.

For us, this is a tax that matters. As a state, we owe it to our families, friends and neighbors with developmental disabilities to consider this measure. As voters, we have the right to remedy this situation. The wait for people with developmental disabilities and their families has lasted far too long.

Now is the time to help those who need it most. Vote "yes" on 51.

State Rep. Bob Gardner is a member of the 2007 Interim Committee on Develop- mental Disabilities. Frances Owens is a former first lady of Colorado.


richard myers — October 7, 2008

As "someone who votes just left of center," i'm rather astonished that you are following right winger Mike Rosen in advocating passage of all three anti-worker amendments on the 2008 ballot. Amendments 47, 49, and 54 are aimed directly at taking away what little workplace voice, and political power that working people currently possess. Consider that even many of Colorado's business leaders believe that these amendments are unnecessary, and (in an agreement with labor and other community organizations) are planning to spend millions to see these defeated. Which leads me to inquire: what is the real reason someone "just left of center" would support extreme rightwing attacks on unions?


J Holderman — October 22, 2008

You are one of the few people in Colorado who I have heard say that they vote NO because it means a change to our state CONSTITUTION. I support some of the ideas these amendments aim to change. BUT NOT AS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. That's not the way to go. I was in wavering in that decision until I read your blog. Now I know I'm right and I'm not alone. Everyone should be think twice about these amendments changes, because of what they are. Voters need to be just as aware of what an amendment to our state constitution means, as well as what the amendment change is going to do. Thank you again.


Sarah — October 22, 2008

Vote No on Amendment 46. This amendment is billed as a civil rights bill, but would actually hurt women and minorities. Read the fine print. This is plain backwards.


Sarah — October 22, 2008

Vote No on Amendment 46. This amendment is billed as a civil rights bill, but would actually hurt women and minorities. Read the fine print. This is plain backwards.


Isaac — October 23, 2008

I would suggest you do some more research on 46. It is extremely misleading and is basically the opposite of what it claims to be. Amendement 46 ends programs that combat the effect of discrimination. It will end affirmative action in all forms. Although I look forward to the day when affirmative action will no longer be necessary, now is not the time. Vote NO on 46. Tom, for someone who claims to be left of center and usually against constitutional amendments, I am awed on how you would vote yes on this amendment. Also, look at how the passing of this type of amendment has hurt minorities and minority run businesses in the states of Michigan, California, and Washington. Amendment 46 sounds good, but in actuality is a farce.


richard myers — October 27, 2008

Passing along this link to a site with information about Amendment 47:

And, a site with info about Amendments 47, 49, and 54:



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