Colorado voters nix pot-tax hike for ed; Denver voters reject homeless camp lawsuit measure

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A man chats with a woman during a sweep of a homeless encampment around the intersection of 14th Avenue and Logan Street near the State Capitol early Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in downtown Denver. A 2021 ballot measure allowing residents to sue the city for not sweeping such encampments appears to have failed before voters. (AP File Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER  | Colorado voters appear headed to rejecting a marijuana sales tax hike to fund out-of-school programs, such as tutoring, technical skill training, mental health counseling and enrichment programs in the arts.

That question was one of several posed to voters around the state on ballot initiatives this year that also include a measure that would limit how many unrelated adults can live together in Denver and another that would limit governors’ power to spend funds from outside sources such as the federal government.

A look at a few of the most interesting ballot initiatives:

MARIJUANA SALES TAX INCREASE

The measure to increase the state’s retail marijuana sales tax rate from 15% to 20% over the next three years was losing according to unofficial results provided by the Colorado secretary of state on Wednesday.

The measure sought to create a governor-appointed board to administer the program, which aims to provide educational and enrichment opportunities with after-school programs and tutoring. It would prioritize eligible Colorado children 5 to 17 years old whose families are at or below the poverty line.

Proponents of the initiative said it was timely and necessary due to the educational gaps worsened by the pandemic and even more so for students of color, those from low-income families and students with special needs.

The group “No on Prop 119” said it would take already-limited funds away from public schools and it would create a private-run board with no oversight or accountability with out-of-state interests.

ROOMMATE LIMIT

A Denver ballot initiative that sought to repeal an increase in the number of unrelated adults who can live together was losing by a large margin in unofficial results from the city clerk from late Wednesday. At issue is an amendment, passed by the city council, which increased the number of unrelated adults who can live together. The amendment changed the city’s zoning code to allow up to five unrelated adults to live together in a single home rather than the current limit of two. The amendment also allowed residential care facilities such as halfway houses for substance abuse programs to operate in more parts of Denver.

Groups like the grassroots campaign Safe and Sound Denver raised concerns that an increase in roommates and residential care homes would negatively impact the quality of life in neighborhoods, bringing more congestion, overcrowded parking and more trash. “Keep Denver from becoming like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco,” the campaign’s website states.

But those who opposed the repeal argued that the amendment takes away affordable housing options and makes it harder to live in Denver, one of the most expensive booming cities with a continuously increasing population over the last decade.

GOVERNORS’ POWER TO SPEND FEDERAL FUNDS

Although some ballots were still being counted, a constitutional amendment that would require legislative approval for the state to spend money received from outside sources, such as the federal government or legal settlements, appeared to have been defeated. Only about about 44% of the votes counted so far were in favor of the measure. It needs at least 55% support because it would add an amendment to the state’s constitution.

A conservative group sponsored the initiative after Democratic Gov. Jared Polis used his executive powers to distribute nearly $1.7 billion of federal COVID-19 relief funds in May 2020.

Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising Action, an organization promoting conservative policies, spearheaded the measure, arguing that Polis’ allocation of federal pandemic funds were not transparent. In a Colorado Politics opinion piece, Fields calls for an elimination of “executive branch slush funds.”

However, opponents argued that limiting the appropriation of federal money puts more work on the part-time Legislature and creates more bureaucracy, which could delay the state’s spending in an emergency such as a pandemic.

HOMELESS CAMPS

A Denver ballot initiative that sought to allow residents to sue the city for a slow response to homeless encampment cleanups was losing in unofficial results as of Wednesday night.

The measure said that people would be able to sue the city if officials don’t clean up an encampment within 72 hours of a complaint. However, a judge ruled Sunday that time limit was unlawful.

Given the ruling, the city said the part of the measure that would have allowed residents to sue wouldn’t be enforced if it passed, said Jacqlin Davis, a spokesperson for the city attorney’s office.

The remaining part of the ballot question would create up to four city-funded camping locations authorized on public property with required running water, restrooms and lighting. But local homelessness advocates say four sanctioned sites still isn’t enough to address the scale of the problem.

 

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