Update Oct. 12: Looking for the CPR News Voter's Guide to the 2020 Election? Just click right here.
Colorado voters this November will make decisions on nearly a dozen proposed changes to the state’s laws and constitution. It’s one of the longest statewide ballots in recent history, with three measures referred by state lawmakers, seven proposals from citizen groups and one effort to repeal a recently-passed state law.
The decisions voters make on these questions will affect Colorado’s tax rates, government budgets, ecology and more. Many of these measures are supported and opposed by a range of organizations. CPR News is including those listed on the Secretary of State’s website or who are actively campaigning.
Proposition 113 - Adopt Agreement To Elect U.S. Presidents By National Popular Vote
Colorado voters can choose to affirm or reject the legislature’s 2019 decision to join the National Popular Vote Compact. The Democratic-backed law could eventually bind Colorado and other states to commit their presidential election votes to the candidate who wins the most votes nationally, rather than the candidate who wins the state.
Proposition 114 - Restoration of Gray Wolves
The Question: Should Colorado reintroduce gray wolves on certain lands west of the Continental Divide? If approved, it could help an endangered species recover its place in Colorado’s ecology, but the measure faces criticism from ranchers who fear they’ll lose livestock to the predators. Read more from CPR. Read the initiative text.
Proposition 115 - Prohibit Abortions After 22 Weeks
If voters approve this measure, people in Colorado would be banned from having abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except when there’s a risk to the mother’s life. These types of abortions are only about 1.3 percent of all procedures and often are a result of parents receiving a life-altering diagnosis about the fetus. The measure’s supporters describe it as a step to protect fetuses, arguing that abortions this late in pregnancy are “cruel.”
Proposition 116 - State Income Tax Rate Reduction
This initiative would cut the state’s income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent. A person making $50,000 would see their tax burden fall by about $40.
This change would reduce the state government’s revenue by an estimated $170 million in the next fiscal year. Supporters argue it would boost businesses and consumer spending, while opponents say it would weaken government services and social supports already severely cut by the downturn. The measure was originally intended to counter a progressive tax measure that failed to make the ballot.
Proposition 117 - Voter Approval Requirement for Creation of Certain Fee-Based Enterprises
This would add a new TABOR-like provision to state law, requiring the state government to get voter permission before it creates major new “enterprises,” which are partially funded by fees. Colorado voters already have authority over tax increases and rarely approve them. The state Supreme Court has held that a fee is different from a tax because it is reasonably connected to a specific purpose. And in the years that TABOR has been in effect, lawmakers have used them as a way to raise money without raising taxes. Critics see fees as an end-run around TABOR’s spending limits.
Proposition 118 - Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program
This initiative would mandate that employers provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for many Colorado workers, plus an additional four weeks in case of complications. The leave could be used for childbirth and other family medical situations. The law would offer paid leave benefits to workers who have earned at least $2,500 at their job. It also guarantees people won't be fired while they're on leave if they have been on the job at least 180 days.
When they are on leave, workers’ wages would be partially covered through a state-administered fund. The money in that fund would be supplied by premiums paid by employers and workers, amounting to 0.9 percent of each worker’s wages. Businesses with fewer than 10 people would be exempt from the employer premium, and companies could opt to go with their own leave program instead of participating in the statewide program if it meets set criteria.
Supporters say it’s a critical support so that working families can deal with health issues, while opponents say it’s a burden that businesses can’t deal with amid the pandemic downturn and recovery.
Proposition EE - Increase taxes on nicotine products
This measure was referred to the ballot by the state legislature. If passed, it would raise an estimated $168 million next fiscal year by creating a new tax on nicotine vaping products and raising existing taxes on tobacco products. Vaping product taxes would start at 30 percent of the manufacturer’s price and eventually rise to 62 percent. The tax on cigarettes would ramp up from $0.84 a pack today to $2.64 a pack by 2027. Taxes on other tobacco products would grow from 40 percent today to 62 percent by 2027. The minimum price for cigarettes would be set at $7 per pack beginning in 2024. Read the state’s fiscal analysis.
Amendment 76 - Citizenship Qualification of Electors
Should the state constitution be amended to explicitly require that Colorado voters must be U.S citizens? The state already bans non-citizens from voting, so opponents say this would accomplish little in practice. But its supporters argue that language needs strengthening and point to a handful of cities in other states that allow non-citizens to vote in some local elections. The state constitution currently says that “every citizen” may vote, while the amendment would change it to say that “only citizens” may vote. (Read the initiative text here)
- Supporters: Colorado Citizen Voters
- Opponents: Vote No On 76 (coalition includes numerous progressive organizations)
Amendment 77 - Local Voter Approval of Gaming Limits in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek
When Colorado voters approved gambling in three historic mountain mining towns, it came with a lot of limits; casinos can only offer slots, blackjack, poker, craps and roulette, and as of 2008, individual wagers are capped at $100. This measure would allow voters in the three cities to approve additional games and higher bets. It also allows revenues to go to community colleges.
- Supporters: Local Choice Colorado
- Opponents: None registered
Amendment B - Repeal Property Tax Assessment Rates
Should Colorado repeal part of the Gallagher Amendment, which limits residential property taxes to 45 percent of the statewide tax base? If passed, the measure would prevent automatic cuts to residential property tax rates in the future. Homeowners’ bills won’t go down, but funding for schools, rural fire districts and other entities that rely on property taxes will stay steady. Originally added to the state constitution in 1982, Gallagher effectively forces the state to lower residential property tax rates in order to keep residential tax revenue “balanced” with commercial property revenue. (This measure was referred to the ballot by state lawmakers via SCR20-001)
- Supporters: Colorado Coming Together
- Opponents: Keep Property Taxes Low
Amendment C - Bingo Raffles Allow Paid Help And Repeal 5-year Minimum
Added to the ballot by the state legislature, this measure would change how charitable gaming activities are managed. It would shorten the time a nonprofit must operate in Colorado before it can apply for a charitable gaming license, from five years to three. It would also allow licensees to hire paid staff to operate their bingo games or raffles. (This measure was referred to the ballot by state lawmakers via HCR20-1001)
- Supporters: Colorado Charitable Bingo Association
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the description of job protections offered by the paid leave initiative.