Amendment 71, otherwise known as “Raise the Bar,” is a question that will be on your Colorado ballot that you will receive later this month. While Amendment 71 is being sold as common sense reforms to the ballot initiative process, in reality it’s nothing less than a power grab by the political and corporate elites and is almost entirely funded by the oil and gas industry because it would make it even harder to ever regulate or ban fracking.
Amendment 71 would erode Coloradans’ right to petition their government for change, as well as access to direct democracy through the ballot initiative process.
While there is a need for ballot reform in Colorado and plenty of reasonable approaches to do so without stripping away the rights of everyday Coloradans, Amendment 71 is not the solution.
Look no further than the powerful special interests that are funding this campaign to understand what this is all about: money and power. Nearly three quarters of the money funding the pro Amendment 71 effort, over $3 million, comes from the oil and gas industry. Amendment 71 would not only make it much harder to bring forward initiatives to regulate drilling and fracking, it would also detrimentally impact nearly all the issues that we progressives care about.
For example, I was proud to help put forth Amendment 41 in 2006, a successful ballot initiative that banned lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers and established an independent ethics commission to protect the public interest from political corruption. Under the changes proposed in Amendment 71, our effort to protect the public interest from corruption would likely not have been successful.
Amendment 23 in 2000, which I helped bring forward to better fund schools and has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of additional funding over the last decade, would also not have become law.
This year, a grassroots effort I supported narrowly failed to make the ballot that would have established local control over fracking. It wouldn’t have even been close to making the ballot if Amendment 71 had been in place, and future grassroots initiatives to allow local control of fracking or establish further offsets from home and schools would be dead in the water if it passes, which is the real reason the oil and gas industry is spending so much money to try to ram Amendment 71 through.
Amendment 71 changes the signature requirements for initiatives so that one state senate district can veto the rest of the state’s wishes. It’s not hard to imagine how this will play out in future elections: Imagine, a group of civic leaders, teachers, parents and grassroots organizers coming together to finally reform TABOR and provide adequate funding for Colorado schools. Now imagine the Koch brother’s vast network swoops in with a well-funded “decline to sign” campaign and intimidation in just one state senate district, say in El Paso County, that prevents the grassroots effort from ever getting the signatures now needed under Amendment 71 to access that ballot. Teachers, students and parents would lose, and dark-money Princes David and Charles Koch would win. This is unacceptable.
Let’s be clear: Amendment 71 dictates who is allowed to change the state constitution and who is not. Amendment 71 ensures that only corporations and the ultra wealthy will have the ability to change the laws, and it shuts the door on citizens and grassroots movements from doing the same. In an era where we already have a dangerous level of concentrated power with the elites and special interests, Amendment 71 would be the nail in the coffin for grassroots social change in Colorado through initiatives.
I encourage you to join Colorado educators, environmental protection advocates, Common Cause and me in opposing dangerous Amendment 71 and spreading the word to your friends and neighbors.