Amendments: Part 1

As I mentioned last week, Colorado voters have their work cut out for them this election cycle. There are 18 amendments and referenda on this year’s ballot. Here are my thoughts on the first six.
Amendment 46
While trickily worded, Amendment 46 asks citizens to amend the state constitution to prohibit it from providing programming on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity or national origin. That might sound good on the surface, but it’s a way to prohibit affirmative action, those programs used to leveling the playing field for women and minority groups. The change would affect everything from college admissions to contracts for government projects.
The action is being pushed in Colorado by the Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Institute, which is headed up by Ward Connelly. The organization has pushed through similar affirmative action-banning measures in California, Washington, and Michigan.
If passed, state programs that help girls with math and science skills, and recruitment of women and minority members into business could be cut. Of course, we all wish the playing field is level in 2008. But it’s not and these programs are still needed for the time being. I urge a No vote on Amendment 46.
Amendments 47, 49, 54
Amendments 47, 49 and 54 are a trio of anti-labor amendments.
The first asks voters to change the state constitution to ban the practice of requiring workers to participate in labor organizations as a condition of employment and requiring the payment of dues to unions. The second would forbid automatic deductions of union dues from government employee paychecks. The third prohibits unions who have collective bargaining agreements with the state—such as teacher, firefighter and police unions—from donating to political candidates and ballot issues campaigns.
The last two amendments seem to be in reaction to an executive order issued by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter in November 2007 that allowed state employees to be represented by employee labor organizations for the first time in Colorado history. Republican critics lodge that Ritter’s decision gives unions too much power over the state’s budget. However, Ritter has been clear that all negotiations are non-binding and most be approved by the governor and legislature. State workers are also prohibited from going on strike.
In researching these amendments, I read some wishful thinking that business and labor interests would have simply withdrawn these amendments, along with two labor-backed amendments, 53 and 54. Those amendments would hold executives personally liable for corporate fraud and bar employers from firing workers without explaining why they’re doing so. Alas, we’re not so lucky.
In any case, the first three amendments should be voted down. Under federal law, no one is forced to join a union, although they may have to pay fees if they’re a beneficiary of collective bargaining. Government employees currently have a choice whether to have their union dues automatically deducted and there’s no reason to eliminate that. And I believe firefighters, police and teacher unions have a place in the political process and should not be barred from participating.  
Vote No on Amendments 47, 49 and 54.
Amendment 48
Amendment 48 is the “definition of personhood” measure.
Amendment author Kristi Burton argues that modern medical science has proven that humans have characteristics at the moment of conception and therefore, a fertilized egg should be recognized as a “person.”  Burton says that this amendment would provide a basis for judges and legislators to make other decisions. Those decisions can run the gamut from whether emergency contraception would be legal in the state to limiting the actions of doctors to protect the lives of mothers. In short, the change to Colorado’s constitution would affect thousands of current laws and endanger a woman’s right to choose in Colorado.
This amendment has no place in Colorado’s constitution and I urge a No vote.
Amendment 50
This amendment would allow casinos operating in Blackhawk, Cripple Creek and Central City to ask local voters to approve measures to increase individual bet limits from $5 to $100, extend casino hours to 24 hours per day and add craps and roulette games. Increased tax revenues would be directed toward student financial aid at community colleges and towns nearby the casinos.
Proponents of the measure, under the name Coloradans for Community Colleges, say that Colorado has the lowest stakes limit in the United States and increased tax revenues would go toward colleges. They argue colleges could receive $200 million to $300 million within five years.
On the principle of adding unnecessary items to the state’s constitution, I’d like to urge the no vote. However, this amendment seems to have several things going for it—it would help fund beleaguered community colleges, it puts power into the hands of local voters and it affects areas that are already gambling havens. Therefore, vote Yes on Amendment 50.
Tune in next week for the next six amendments.
-Aleesha Towns

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