November’s ballot is about much more than Clinton and Trump. A number of measures on the Colorado ballot require serious consideration from voters. Several, if passed, will fundamentally alter our state.
Each has its pros and cons, but one is clear cut: Amendment 71.
“Raise the Bar” changes requirements to amend the state constitution in two fundamental ways. It requires that a minimum of signatures be collected from each senate district across the state, and it requires a larger majority (55%) to pass an amendment.
There are a few issues to unpack here.
A distinction must be made between the state constitution and the collection of statutes that govern the day-to-day running of the state. A constitution is a document that defines fundamental laws and principles of an entity. It is not a policy book, nor should it be.
Two proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot are just that: policies. Amendment 69 proposes a total change in how Colorado provides healthcare. Amendment 70 proposes changes to the minimum wage.
Each of these amendments has its pros and cons and certainly must be debated, but should either of these policy decisions become part of the state constitution? No!
Should a rise in minimum wage be embedded in the constitution? Who knows where the market will be in one year, let alone in 10? We are not prophets. The constitution isn’t, either. What if Colorado experiences deflation — as opposed to the inflation Amendment 70 is predicated upon? Employers will be tied in to raising wages, even as prices come down. One never knows. That is why it is dangerous to cement a market response into the rigidity of a constitutional amendment.
Prohibition was a policy experiment — unfit for the US constitution.
Policy is not static; a constitution, to a large degree, is. An amendment, once in the constitution, is very difficult to amend or remove. It requires a whole new amendment to be voted on. In the potential case of deflation, how many employees might be let go in the years it would take to amend or reverse the amendment on minimum wage? How many small businesses might be forced to cease operations?
Right now, a simple majority of 50.1% is the way to amend the state’s constitution. It’s not the right way. A change to the foundational document of our society requires far more consensus that one person over 50%. Look to the United Kingdom, currently in the chaotic throes of the after effects of Brexit. The leave campaign’s majority of 51.9% means that nearly half of the country wanted to remain. The result is a country deeply divided. “First past the post” fails to take into account disgruntled minorities and long-term impact.
The result of the Brexit vote highlighted another weak spot of a simple majority, one addressed somewhat by Amendment 71. A simple majority is not necessarily representative. Had Brexit required, in addition to a simple majority, a majority of its constituent parts — England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland — Brexit would have failed.
Amendment 71 wisely proposes that for a potential amendment to reach the ballot, signatures must be gathered from each senate district in the state, ensuring that there is desire across the breadth of the state for this constitutional change.
In our opinion, Amendment 71 doesn’t go far enough. If it passes, it will stiffen the requirements to get a constitutional amendment before the voters. But it will not stiffen the requirements to pass the amendment itself. We believe the bar to pass a constitutional amendment also should be raised.
There should be a larger than 50.1% vote to amend the constitution, and this higher bar should need to be met in a majority of Colorado’s regions (say, its senate or congressional districts, or its counties). After all, constitutional changes affect every single citizen in the state, regardless of their abode in the state.
Other countries, including Canada, Switzerland and Australia, require a double majority for major decisions.
Supporters of Amendments 69 and 70 must remember that there is already an appropriate avenue for their policy changes: Statutes, which adapt to changing policy needs and desires.
Colorado’s is one of the country’s easiest constitutions to amend, requiring the same process for initiatives to change both state laws or the constitution.
The constitution should be crafted by those with the knowledge and wisdom to make those decisions, which is why the amendments of many state constitutions, and the US constitution, require some measure of approval by the legislature.
Amendment 71 is the only amendment on the ballot that relates to one of the constitution’s integral purposes: How laws are made, rather than the details of the laws themselves.
We urge you to seriously consider voting in favor of Amendment 71.
Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News