Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sprucing Up an Old Constitution -- Colorado 2008 Referendum M and Referendum N

Seems like every election cycle there's a proposal from the state legislature to eliminate obsolete stuff in the Colorado state constitution. This year, there are actually two.

Referendum M would get rid of a provision that was in the original document in 1876 to allow the state legislature to defer property tax increases on land that result from planting trees and hedges. This provision was actually used several times up until the early part of last century, but has not been exercised in recent memory. So passing this measure would take away a minor ability of the state legislature that has not been used for decades and that nobody is contemplating using.

I suppose at some point in the future the state legislature could decide that it is important to encourage tree planting, and passing this measure would limit their ability to use this tool to do so without another vote of the people. Maybe climate change would even be a good reason to do something like that. I guess I'm not convinced that the provision being targeted is truly "obsolete", but rather not currently relevant. In that sense, I think this is being mismarketed. It's probably not a big deal, but I'm going to vote against this one, on the grounds that they either need to prove it is obsolete or give us the true rationale for killing this provision.

Referendum N would repeal two sections in the state constitution. The first section prohibits the manufacture, sale, or importation of "spurious, poisonous, or drugged" liquors. This was part of the original constitution, and is no longer needed because the federal government regulates the quality of alcoholic beverages. The second section to be removed was added at the end of prohibition, and allowed the state legislature to regulate the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcoholic drinks in the state (but disallowed the authorization of saloons by the legislature). I'm not sure why this second section is no longer needed, but perhaps the legislature just assumes they have the power to regulate alcohol without explicit approval in the constitution. Or, maybe, someone in the state legislature has a business plan to start a saloon and wants to lobby for a saloon license from the legislature after leaving office. Term limits, you know.

In any case, seems like this one really should have been split into two measures (as much as I hate ballot growth). If this measure has been submitted as a citizen initiative, it would have been required to meet the single-topic rule. Why doesn't the state legislature hold itself to this same standard?

I don't see a problem with the first half of this one, but I'm not 100% convinced on the second half. So, I'm not supporting this one either.

But the real question is, what is the process whereby each ballot has one (or two) of these issues? Is there someone in the state house who has nothing better to do than read through the state constitution and try to figure out the things that aren't relevant anymore? If so, why don't they give us the full list now, rather than nickle and diming us one or two at a time?

Or, why don't they go off and hold a constitutional convention to rewrite this thing from scratch? They could take out all the junk that doesn't belong in a constitution and make sure it is all covered in the state statutory code. One big, contentious election later, we'd have something more on the lines of the concise document that has served the U.S. federal government well for 221 years with only a few minor additions.

In summary:

Vote NO on Referendum M.
Vote NO on Referendum N.

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