State ballot issues

‘Yes’ on S, ‘no’ on campaign finance and marijuana amendments

Colorado voters face three statewide ballot issues in this election.

The proposed Amendment S to the state constitution is mainly concerned with updating the state personnel system to give greater flexibility in appointments and greater emphasis on merit. Both are good moves. Amendment S also would increase the hiring preference for veterans and would somewhat increase the ability of the state to hire non-residents for positions that “cannot be readily filled from among residents.”

Because the state personnel system already is codified in considerable detail in the constitution, any attempt to alter it significantly requires a constitutional amendment.

The measure was referred to voters after being passed by a two-thirds majority of both houses of the state Legislature. That alone suggests there’s little about it that’s controversial. Proponents suggest it would bring state employment practices more into line with those of the private sector and help ensure that state positions were filled by the best possible candidates — an argument likely to find favor among voters this year. Some opponents argue that it would reduce protections for state employees and that politics could play a stronger role in their hiring, promotion and dismissal.

The Journal recommends a “yes” vote on Amendment S.

Amendment 64 to the state constitution would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by persons 21 and over, and would require the state to regulate the growth, manufacture, sale and taxation of marijuana in a system of licensed establishments overseen by state and local governments.”

The primary argument for Amendment 64 is that the current prohibition clogs courts and crowds jails while failing to control possession and use of the drug. Proponents point out that alcohol and tobacco, both substances with tragic side effects, are not outlawed. They say the amendment will improve public safety and will bring tax revenue to the state.

However, possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana are still federal crimes, and although the federal government has tolerated Colorado’s medical marijuana businesses, this amendment is beyond the limits of that tolerance. Colorado has stumbled badly in its regulation of medical marijuana and is hardly likely to succeed in preventing a free-for-all if broader usage were to be legalized. In addition, serious legal questions have not yet been answered.

This isn’t the solution to the failed war on drugs. The Journal recommends a “no” vote on Amendment 64 and a continued effort to address the criminal justice issues involved.

Amendment 65 would “instruct” Colorado’s congressional delegation to support a campaign finance amendment to the U.S. Constitution and would further instruct the state legislature to ratify such an amendment.

Few Coloradans doubt the need for broad reform of campaign finance laws. Nonetheless, the state constitution is not the place to promote such an agenda, and a state ballot measure cannot compel elected officials to vote in specific ways. In addition, any measure that potentially limits free speech should be viewed with skepticism.

The Journal’s recommendation here is similar to that on Amendment 64: Vote “no” on Amendment 65 and urge elected officials to return to the drawing board and reform campaign finance.