Voters to Face Three Statewide Ballot Measures on November 6

by Chuck Brackney and Richard Sweetman

Colorado voters will be asked to determine the fate of three proposals on this year’s statewide election ballot. One measure is a referendum sent to the voters by the General Assembly, while the other two are the result of citizen initiatives.

Amendment S: State Personnel System
The measure referred to the voters by the legislature is Amendment S, which amends the state constitution. The measure makes a number of changes to the state personnel system that affect classified employees in state government. The measure has four primary components:

Exemptions from state personnel system
The state’s personnel system provides for specific exemptions from the system for a number of positions, such as employees of the legislature, the state’s courts, and institutions of higher education. Also exempt are political appointees, as well as executive branch department heads and members of certain boards and commissions. Amendment S allows the state personnel director to exempt certain additional management and support positions. These exemptions may not exceed one percent of the total number of state employees in the personnel system, meaning this change would affect at most approximately 325 positions statewide. Additional exemptions could include deputy department heads, chief financial officers, legislative liaisons, and members of the senior executive service.

Evaluating and hiring job candidates
Currently, candidates must be ranked based on the results of a competitive examination using criteria set by each department and the rules of the State Personnel Board. Candidates are scored on a 100-point scale. Amendment S allows for the use of other objective methods to compare and rank job applicants, such as written exams, search committees, and non-numerical criteria. Managers must now choose among the three candidates with the highest scores. The measure allows managers to consider the top six candidates. The measure also moves responsibility for issuing rules from the State Personnel Board to the state personnel director.

Expanding hiring preferences for veterans
The current evaluation process awards a veteran or his or her surviving spouse an additional five points on the competitive examination score. Once an individual has been hired using the veteran’s preference, the person may not apply the preference again to another position. Amendment S allows a veteran to continue to use these preference points when applying for other state positions in the system.

Amendment S allows the state personnel director to waive residency requirements for positions within the system. Current law allows this only when the position requires special qualifications and cannot readily be filled by a Colorado resident. The measure eliminates the residency requirement entirely for positions located within 30 miles of the state border. Additionally, Amendment S also makes some changes to the terms of service for the State Personnel Board, including allowing two appointees to serve or be removed at the pleasure of the Governor.

Amendment 64: Use and Regulation of Marijuana
This proposal concerns the use and regulation of marijuana in Colorado. It proposes a number of changes to the state constitution, including:

State Regulation of Marijuana
Amendment 64 requires the state department of revenue to adopt rules for the licensing and security requirements for marijuana establishments, the prevention of sales to underage individuals, as well as the labeling of products and the health and safety standards for marijuana manufacturing. The rules must not prohibit marijuana establishments or make  their operation impracticable. The department must also develop a schedule of fees for licensing marijuana establishments. Failure to adopt regulations by July 1, 2013, would allow applicants to apply for a license from a local government.

Local Regulation of Marijuana
Local governments may adopt rules regarding the time, place, and manner, as well as the number, of marijuana establishments in the community. Communities may prohibit the operation of an establishment by ordinance, referred ballot measure, or citizen initiative. If a community enacts this prohibition, individuals in that community may still possess, grow, and use marijuana as allowed by the measure.

Types of Licenses
Amendment 64 creates four types of license for the growth, manufacture, testing, and sale of marijuana. These categories are: marijuana cultivation facility, marijuana product manufacturing facility, marijuana testing facility, and retail marijuana store.

The measure requires the legislature to enact an excise tax on the consumption of marijuana. Marijuana would also be subject to existing state and local sales taxes. Medical marijuana would not be subject to any of these taxes. Each year, the state would credit the first $40 million in revenue raised by the excise tax to a state fund used to construct public schools. Amendment 64 does not change existing state medical marijuana laws. Under the measure, licensed medical marijuana cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries may apply for a separate establishment license. Medical marijuana dispensaries may not sell marijuana to retail customers or operate on the same premises as a retail marijuana store.

At the Legislative Council hearing to review and approve the text of the 2012 State Ballot Information Booklet, a.k.a. the Blue Book, there was some controversy over the wording of one of the arguments in favor of Amendment 64. Senator Scheffel offered an amendment that removed some words from the first two sentences of the argument and removed the remaining sentences. The sentences that were removed discussed the potential harm and some possible benefits of marijuana use and the effect on persons and the state of enforcing the existing laws prohibiting marijuana possession and use. The amendment passed, but later in the hearing several legislators expressed confusion over the amendment; it was not their understanding that the amendment was intended to remove the last sentences of the argument.

The proponents of Amendment 64 filed an action in Denver District Court challenging the Legislative Council’s changes to the argument. Judge Robert Hyatt dismissed the action finding that intervening in the blue book process would be the same as intervening in the legislative process and would violate the separation of powers. The court, therefore, did not have jurisdiction to hear the proponent’s complaint.

Amendment 65: Colorado Congressional Delegation to Support Campaign  Finance Limits
This proposal involves election campaign finance limits. It does not directly affect current state or federal law or actually create campaign spending limits. Instead, it amends the state constitution to encourage Congress and the legislature to take steps to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow greater limits on the role of money in state and federal elections. It also expresses the intent of voters that state law should establish mandatory campaign spending limits rather than encouraging voluntary spending limits.

You can find further analysis of these measures, including arguments for and against them, in the 2012 Blue Book published by the Legislative Council.