Friday, October 27, 2006

Voting in Colorado?

I am getting ready to go vote. I have been very absent on the blog (work and life stuff) and thought this would be a good topic to come back with. I promised I would blog on the plethora of amendments we are voting on in CO this year and I will do so. While I state my opinions on the amendments I thought I would do something different and also share the resources I found to make my decisions. That should be more important to you than my opinion and I hope it helps you to make your own (especially if you agree with me :-)

To that end..... here is the actual text of the propositions in PDF. Useful.

The Secretary of State's site has the official pointers to all the Amendments and Referendum.

I also like the Project Vote Smart web site for summaries and good pointers.

Amendment 38 deals with changes to the petition process, not the constitutional amendment process. The RMN had a decent article on it and PVS has info and pointers. There is a lot of legalistic text in this one that I am not sure I am parsing the same way the judges will but it all sounds like a good idea to me. I will be voting YES on 38.

Amendment 39 would force the school districts to spend at least 65% of its operational money on classroom instruction. PVS has a good summary. KRDO has a great pointer list of those for it and against it and that is as telling to me as the text of the amendment or the arguments for and against. When I found out that our schools were generally spending much less than 65% of my tax money they get on classroom instruction I was astonished. There must be a definitional problem here, right?

Included in "classroom instruction" is teacher and COACH pay, the cost of books and other materials used, the cost of the stuff needed to run the library, the salary of the library staff, any cost associated with a school field trip. My definition would have been more restrictive and I still figured it would be 70% or more. I wouldn't, for instance, have included paying coaches. I think sports are important and school should have sports available but in my mind that is extra, but just to be clear it is counted here.

Operational costs do not include the cost of building, upgrading or expanding the school or school grounds so that isn't the problem. We pay for all that from a separate pile of tax dollars so why are we below 65% of the rest of the money?

What isn't included in "classroom instruction"? I am sure there are lots of things but the big ones seem to be administrator salaries, nurses on site, site security personnel, janitorial staff, the electric and heat bills and the cost of running the busses.

If I have one objection to this it would be the cost of running the busses. That could be a problem for some of the more rural areas where the busses need to go relatively long distances per student. Busses are not known for being fuel efficient and there is little that a school district can do about the cost of fuel. That said, there is a process in the amendment that a school district can apply to the governors office for a waiver every year based on their exceptional circumstances. Hopefully that would solve this shortcoming.

I will not only be voting YES on this one but highly encourage everybody to do so. If you look at the list of the opponents they are the classic group of constituents who are worried about getting more tax dollars to the "schools" but not at all concerned with getting kids a better education. They oppose school choice and measuring the effectiveness of schools and, God forbid, teachers being forced to pass standardized tests in the subjects they teach.

amendment 40 is term limits on judges. I am for term limits on politicians and against them on judges. I didn't look at extended materials. I will be voting NO on this one.

amendment 41 is a government reform package. Every honest person would support much of what is in it. Wikipedia has a nice list of article links you can use to go see why so many people are against it. As always, I read the text first and my first thought was, this will make the free coffee from the local diner to cops or firemen illegal. I don't like corrupt cops any more than the next guy but can we all agree that this is just a courtesy to men and women who run the risk of getting killed for our safety for not nearly enough pay? What I didn't immediately think of was the big complaint I see in the articles. It makes it illegal for a civil servant's kid to take a private scholarship. I went back and reread the amendment and I have to agree that I read it that way, now that it was pointed out to me. Good idea, bad implementation, I have to vote NO on this one.

Amendment 42 is a state minimum wage amendment. I have to be up front and tell you that I am against the entire idea of a minimum wage. I am unapologetically a market forces kind of guy. That said, even if I liked the idea and thought it would be a good idea to raise the minimum wage in Colorado to $6.85/hour today I would have to vote against this thing any way. It forces an annual adjustment to keep the minimum wage up with inflation and there is NO process for anybody to stop it which means this thing is going on autopilot until another amendment repeals it. Just to put it clearly, if this thing had been in effect during the wonderful 4 years of the Carter administration we would have been increasing the minimum wage by more than 10%/year in the middle of high unemployment. Sound like a good plan? If you are sane you must vote NO on this one.

Amendment 43 is a marriage definition act. It is nice and short and directly to the point. "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state." That is the entire text. It does not prohibit civil unions or create them, it just locks in the definition of marriage whether performed in this state or any other. I am in the YES column here.

Amendment 44 is making it legal to possess one ounce of marihuana if you are 21 or older. It further makes possession of same by someone under 21 a class 2 petty offense with a fine of not more than $100. For those of you who didn't go to high school, an ounce is quite a bit of weed. This does nothing to change the law on buying, selling, transporting across state lines, etc. It is a stupid idea undoubtedly written up by a pothead. We should either make weed legal or keep it illegal but this whole "it is legal to own but not to grow or buy or sell" is just dumb. It creates a nightmare situation for the cops and I will be a NO vote against the potheads.

I will do the referendums in another post when I have a little time.