Sunday, January 1

The case for ballot initiatives, and improving them

Here in Colorado, since 1994, ballot initiatives notably gave us the country's first -along with Washington state- legalized marijuana  (Amendment 64), the country's strongest ban on lobbyists giving politicians "gifts" (41), the country's first Renewable Energy Mandate (37),  campaign finance reform (27), increased K-12 funding (23),  Background Checks for buyers at Gun Shows (22), Medical Marijuana (20),  cleaner hog farms (Amentment 14), banning leghold traps (Initiative 14) Term Limits (12) and banning the spring bear hunt. (Initiative 10)

Media, not just in Colorado, have focused on the few problematic ballot initiatives like Colorado's 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights Amendment 1, which voters gave a 5 year time out in 2005, by voting for Referendum C. Rather than act to finally fix TABOR, the Colorado Legislature keeps trying to make the initiative process harder, including with 2008's defeated Referendum O. This would make the process even more expensive for regular people, without inconveniencing wealthy users of the ballot initiative process.

Oregon has instead improved its ballot initiative process with Citizen Initiative Review. By having randomly-selected "citizen juries" deliberate each initiative, problems like TABOR's "racheting down provision," hidden in its back pages unnoticed, would have been exposed before we voted on it.

The initiative & referendum process is the origin of most reforms, from women's suffrage to sunshine laws to medical marijuana to term limits. See for references and more examples.

We call on the Colorado Legislature to improve the initiative process, starting with Citizen Initiative Review, and to abandon its attempts to hobble citizen initiatives.

"On most major issues we've dealt with in the past 50 years, the public was more likely to be right...based on the judgment of history...than the legislatures or Congress." -George Gallup, Sr.