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Some Think It’s Too Easy To Amend The Colorado Constitution And It Needs To Change

By Shaun Boyd

February 17, 2016

DENVER (CBS4)– The November ballot in Colorado could be very crowded. The proposed initiatives this year hit on issues including assisted suicide, a fracking ban and single payer health care. All the proposals would require amending the state constitution, and some think that should change.

Colorado is the only state in the country where it’s as easy for voters to change the constitution as it is to change a law.

From regulation of hogs to qualifications of a county coroner, legalizing marijuana to outlawing gay marriage, Coloradans have proposed all kinds of changes to the state constitution, amending it 145 times since 1880. That’s compared to the U.S. Constitution, which has been amended just 27 times.

“It’s supposed to be really hard to change it,” former state Sen. Greg Brophy said.

Brophy says in Colorado it’s too easy to change, and the changes are fixed.

“Let’s say you’re 90 percent right with your proposal but it needs a 10 percent tweak; if it’s in the constitution we can’t do that for at least two years, and that is really hard, and it’s expensive,” Brophy said.

It takes about 98,500 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot this year, and 51 percent to pass it, which means much of Colorado doesn’t get a say, according to Brophy.

“We don’t want folks getting all off their signatures right down here on the 16th Street Mall for a question that affects people maybe only on the hinterlands,” Brophy said. “I’m always worried that a constitutional measure will pass supported by the people that live on the Front Range but opposed by people that it affects who live out in Wray or Yuma or Holyoke.”

That’s why Brophy is pushing for an amendment that would make it more difficult to amend the constitution. It would require signatures from 2 percent of voters in all 35 Senate districts to get on the ballot, and 55 percent voter approval to pass.

“If you’re going to run a ballot initiative that has a negative impact on someone in Wray or in Cortez, you ought to at least have to go there and get signatures in those communities to put it on the ballot,” Brophy said.

Under a 55 percent threshold to pass, some notable amendments would have failed in Colorado, including the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), medical marijuana and increased school funding for preschool. Legalized recreational marijuana would have still passed.

The proposed ballot measure has backing from both Democrats and Republicans.

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