Legislative Council approves Blue Book language

By Marianne Goodland
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

The language that will inform voters of the nine ballot measures on the November ballot was approved Wednesday by the Legislative Council, with only a few changes.

The language was drafted by the staff of the Legislative Council over the past several months, and will be incorporated into the so-called Blue Book that will be printed on Oct.1 and mailed out to registered voters.

Wednesday’s session was a little wistful for two legislators: it marked the last official actions taken by Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, and House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker. Both are term-limited.

The nine measures on the November ballot include three referred measures from the General Assembly:
• Amendment P on regulation of games of chance;
• Amendment Q on a temporary location for the state seat of government during a declared disaster emergency; and
• Amendment R on exempt possessory interest in real property.

There are two initiatives and propositions on the ballot:
• Initiative 92, also known as proposition 102, criteria for release to pretrial services programs;
• Proposition 101, on income vehicle and telecommunication taxes and fees.

Finally, the ballot will have four constitutional amendments:
• Amendment 60, on property taxes;
• Amendment 61, on limits on state and local government borrowing; and
• Amendment 62, on application of the term “person” and
• Amendment 63, on health care choice.

In total, the committee acted on a dozen motions to make changes to the Blue Book, with all but three rejected by the committee. Changes to the Blue Book require a two-thirds affirmative vote from the 18-member council, which is made up of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Most of Wednesday’s discussion focused on the more controversial amendments on the ballot: amendments 60, 61 and proposition 101; and amendment 62.

Doug Campbell, one of the main backers of the three ballot measures regarding taxes, told the committee the explanation that all of the measures go into effect on Jan. 1 was “distortion” and not a true representation of the impacts. “These measures are all phased in — they do not take place on Jan. 1 if passed,” he said, and added that the legislative council staff had inaccurately reflected the text as written. “There will be 20 years of revenue growth to offset the small tax cuts,” Campbell told the committee. Campbell and other campaign proponents for the three measures submitted nine pages of comments regarding the Blue Book language, asking that much of the information to be included in the blue book regarding the impacts be stricken because the staff analyses was false or based on attempts to emotionally manipulate voters.

The most substantial changes made by the committee on Wednesday dealt with the three ballot measures on taxes (60, 61 and 101). The committee voted to delete one sentence from the proponents’ arguments in favor of Amendment 61, which said that borrowing by the state and its enterprises had nearly tripled in the past ten years, and that interest payments had doubled in that time. That motion was offered by Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood.

The committee also voted to remove language in the Blue Book on Amendment 61 that referenced urban renewal authorities and business improvement districts, based on an acknowledgement that the impact of the amendment on those entities was unclear.

Supporters of Amendment 62, the so-called Personhood Amendment, asked that the council support changing the Blue Book’s use of the words “human life” to “human being.” Gualberto Garcia-Jones, director of Personhood Colorado, said that human life could be confused with human cells, which would not necessarily constitute the entire person. It could be construed as something as simple as fingernails, Garcia-Jones said.

The Legislative Council staff explained that the use of the term “human life” arose initially from the language used in Amendment 48 in 2008. Council staffer Elizabeth Burger said the proponents of the 2010 measure did not object to that language in the first two drafts of the blue book and asked for the changes after the third draft was released on July 14.

Garcia-Jones, who presented comments from Leslie Hanks of Right to Life Colorado, also complained about what they called inaccurate information presented in the Blue Book regarding scientific and medical facts, and use of the term “fertilized egg” in the arguments against the amendment. An egg is something found on the breakfast table, Hanks wrote in her comments. Once fertilized, it becomes a human single-cell organism.

Two motions from Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, to incorporate the changes requested by the proponents failed, with Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, voting with the majority Democrats.

Garcia-Jones said after the hearing that the committee’s refusal to use the language they requested was “indicative of the opposite side position that people already have taken. The majority believed that we shouldn’t have the ability to shape our own arguments,” he said. “It’s a waste of our time.”

The committee also rejected a suggestion from Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, that the Blue Book add an argument in favor for Amendment 63 regarding the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Balmer said the measure is a statement for the 10th Amendment that protects states’ rights and individual rights. “Any challenge to Amendment 63 will end up having as a critical part of that debate the concept of the 10th Amendment,” Balmer argued. “Our founders really fought over putting this in the constitution,” he said; “they were into protecting the rights of states and individuals and against an overreaching federal government.”

Before Balmer could even make the motion, Carroll was ready to say “no. I have discomfort with mentioning the 10th Amendment in the way you’re doing it,” he told Balmer. “The Supreme Court has explicitly rejected [that argument].” And once the motion was made, the council voted it down.

A separate motion from May also was ruled out of order — May jokingly suggested that wherever the amendment referred to federal health care, the word “Obamacare” should be substituted.

Marianne@coloradostatesman.com