DENVER — Colorado voters will decide on 11 statewide ballot measures in this year’s Nov. 3 General Election, which range from several legislature-referred measures, to a referendum, to citizen-led initiatives.
Voters will decide on the future of the Gallagher Amendment and gray wolves in Colorado, whether to move forward with a paid family medical leave law, whether to cut the state income tax rate, whether to ban abortions after 22 weeks of gestation, and how to award the state’s presidential electors, among others.
We’ve gone through and developed summaries for Coloradans to look ahead before they decide how to cast their ballot, which can be found below.
Ballots will start being mailed out statewide this Friday, Oct. 9. More resources are available from The Blue Book, which is available in both Spanish and English. All this week, Denver7 will have stories running in our newscasts about the various ballot initiatives. Find more information and stories on the Denver7 Election 2020 page and on our election resources page.
The ballot questions
Amendment B: Repeal Gallagher Amendment
Referred by legislature. Measure passes with a majority vote.
This measure was referred to voters by Colorado lawmakers when they passed a bipartisan concurrent resolution this year to place the measure on the ballot.
If passed by voters, the measure would repeal the Gallagher Amendment to the state constitution, which was first passed in 1982 and is essentially a ratio that balances residential and non-residential property taxes.
Under the amendment, residential properties are required to pay 45% of the state’s property tax share and non-residential properties, like businesses, paying 55% of the share.
The amendment set the non-residential property assessment rate at a fixed 29%. When the amendment was originally made, the residential assessment rate was set at 21%, but it has been adjusted every two years to keep the 45-55 ratio intact and currently sits at 7.15% as residential property values increased in Colorado’s urban areas but not as much in rural areas.
Because of TABOR, which was adopted in 1992, local governments cannot compensate for the falling residential rates by raising taxes on businesses without asking voters, so the residential rates kept falling while non-residential taxpayers took on more of the burden because of the ratio.
Property taxes help fund schools, fire districts, hospitals and more, and with the state facing a massive budget shortfall, the proponents’ idea behind the repeal would be freeing up more money for those resources in coming years, especially in tightly-squeezed rural parts of the state.
Opponents say that they worry repealing the Gallagher amendment will eventually lead to increased residential property taxes on families, and that repealing the measure would mean Coloradans would forego another residential property tax cut next year.
A “Yes” vote for Amendment B would repeal the 45-55 ratio as well as the original reference to the 21% residential property tax rate, which has not applied since 1986. A “Yes” vote would also repeal the 29% non-residential property tax rate reference, except for producing mines, and lands or leases producing oil or gas. Passage of Amendment B would keep assessment rates for both residential and non-residential property constant because lawmakers passed a. moratorium that will take effect if the measure passes.
A “No” vote on Amendment B would leave the Gallagher Amendment in place, as well as the 29% non-residential property tax rate. The Legislative Council says if the measure does not pass, it is “expected to result in a decreasing residential assessment rate over time and in automatic local mill levy increases in jurisdictions where required by law.”
Click here to learn more about Amendment B. You can also learn more by watching the videos embedded below.
Amendment C: Conduct of Charitable Gaming
Referred by legislature. Measure passes with 55% of the vote.
This measure was referred to Colorado voters by the state legislature via a concurrent resolution and would change the management of state gaming activities, particularly raffles and bingo.
A “Yes” vote would allow nonprofits to obtain a charitable gaming license after three years instead of the currently-required five years and allow those organizations to hire and pay people up to minimum wage to run the games.
A “no” vote would mean the licenses could only be obtained after five years and the only people who can run the games are unpaid members of the organization.
Click here to learn more about Amendment C. You can also learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Amendment 76: Citizenship Qualification of Voters
Measure passes with 55% of the vote.
The state of Colorado already does not allow people who are not U.S. citizens to vote, as the constitution says “every citizen” can vote. Amendment 76 effectively does little except to change the language to “only a citizen” can vote.
The language change is aimed at addressing a theoretical situation in which a local municipality allowed non-citizens to vote – as has happened in some other U.S. cities, such as in San Francisco with its school board. It has not happened in the state of Colorado.
A “Yes” vote would change the constitution to say that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is eligible to vote in Colorado may do so.
A “No” vote would keep the constitution’s language the same, noting that “every citizen” of the U.S. who is eligible to vote in Colorado may do so.
Click here to read more about Amendment 76. You can also learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Amendment 77: Local Voter Approval of Casino Bet Limits and Games in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek
Measure passes with a majority vote
This citizen-led initiative would, if passed, give voters in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek local control in allowing games beyond slots, blackjack, poker, craps and roulette – the only games currently allowed at Colorado casinos.
Single wagers are also currently capped at $100. This measure, if passed, would allow voters in those municipalities to raise those limits. Passage of the measure would also allow revenue from gaming taxes to be used for community colleges to improve student retention and success rates.
A “Yes” vote gives voters in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek local control over games and bet limits and allows funding from new games to go toward community colleges.
A “No” vote keeps bet limits and game allowances in the hands of the state constitution and its voters.
Click here to read more about Amendment 77. You can also learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Proposition EE: Taxes on Nicotine Products
Referred by legislature. Measure passes with a majority vote.
The measure was referred to Colorado voters by state lawmakers as part of HB20-1427 as the state tries to address its high teen vaping rates and other tobacco and nicotine use.
If approved by voters, a new tax would be created for nicotine and vaping products, and existing taxes would be raised on cigarettes and other tobacco products, which would raise an estimated $250 million in revenue this fiscal year and next, according to Legislative Council Staff.
A pack of cigarettes would go from being taxed at $0.84 per pack up to $2.64 per pack by 2027, when cigarettes will cost at least $7 per pack in the state should the measure pass. Tobacco products would see the current 40% tax rate increase to 62% by that year, and the new nicotine tax would be applied at 30% starting in 2021 and go up to 56% starting in July 2024.
The added revenues would be allowed to be spent on a new cash fund for rural schools, preschool funding, tobacco education programs, housing and health care.
A “Yes” vote would implement the new tax and tax rates and allow those revenues to go toward the designated programs.
A “No” vote would keep taxes on tobacco, cigarettes and nicotine the same.
Click here to read more about Proposition EE. You can learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Proposition 113: Adopt Agreement to Elect U.S. President by National Popular Vote
Referendum petition. Passes with a majority vote.
In 2019, the Colorado legislature passed a law to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which says that if enough states join, the president would be determined by the popular vote rather than the Electoral College. The measure was supported by Democrats and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who says it upholds the principle of “one person, one vote.”
But Republicans and others have pushed back, saying it undermined the Electoral College and harmed Colorado’s ability to be a player in the presidential elections. Fountain and Monument have already passed resolutions opposing the law. Monument’s mayor was one of the organizers of the referendum initiative.
A “Yes” vote on Proposition 113 approves the bill joining Colorado in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
A “No” vote on Proposition 113 rejects the bill joining Colorado in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Click here to read more about Proposition 113. You can also learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Proposition 114: Reintroduction and Management of Gray Wolves
Measure passes with a majority vote.
One of the most-discussed ballot measures this election involves whether or not to direct the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to reintroduce gray wolves to their once-natural habitat west of the Continental Divide and a plan to manage them.
Supporters of the measure say reintroducing gray wolves to the state would restore balance to the state’s ecosystem and bring back an animal that was hunted to near extinction, but opponents of the measure, including many ranchers and farmers, say reintroducing the wild animals could pose a threat to their livestock.
Gray wolves were native to Colorado but were hunted to near extinction by the 1940s. About 6,000 of the animals live in the Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Western Great Lakes.
And a pack of wolves is already believed to be in Colorado. CPW said in February that DNA results from scat found near an elk carcass in Moffatt County confirmed the presence of three female wolves and one male wolf who were all related. In January, CPW officials confirmed a sighting of six wolves about two miles from where the elk carcass was discovered.
A “Yes” vote would direct the CPW Commission to develop a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves west of the Continental Divide.
A “No” vote would mean the CPW Commission will not be directed to come up with a gray wolf reintroduction plan.
You can learn more by watching the videos embedded below.
Proposition 115: Prohibit Abortions After 22 Weeks
Measure passes with a majority vote.
This citizen-led initiative aims to ban abortions after the 22nd week of a woman’s pregnancy unless her life is at-risk, even though only about 1% of abortions fall into this category. The measure narrowly made the ballot, only doing so after a cure period at the end of May.
If passed, a doctor who breaks the rule and performs an abortion outside of 22 weeks would be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, which would be punishable by a fine. Physicians who performed abortions outside of the 22-week window would also face disciplinary action by the state medical board and a suspension of their license of at least three years under the proposal. Women who receive an abortion would not be penalized.
Proponents of the measure say it is aimed at protecting fetuses, while opponents say it is another targeted infringement on women’s rights over their bodies and health care.
A “Yes” vote would prohibit abortions in Colorado after 22 weeks of gestation except to save the mother’s life.
A “No” vote means abortions in Colorado will continue to be allowed at any point during a woman’s pregnancy.
Click here to read more about Proposition 115. You can also learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Proposition 116: State Income Tax Rate Reduction
Measure passes with a majority vote.
This measure seeks to cut the individual and corporate income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for 2020 and future years, which would reduce state revenue by an estimated $154 million for the 2021-22 budget year, or about 1.2%.
People making $50,000 a year in taxable income would save about $40 a year; people making $25,000 a year would save $20; those making $125,000 a year would save $100 each year and people making $1 million a year would save $800 in taxes.
Colorado’s median household income is around $70,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Proponents say the tax cut would help Coloradans across the board by leaving even some extra money in their pockets, though the savings for most low-income Coloradans would be small.
Opponents of the measure say the state needs the money during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and note that about 2% of Colorado taxpayers – those making over half a million dollars each year – would receive more than half the savings.
A “Yes” vote would reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%.
A “No” vote would keep the state income tax rate at 4.63%.
Click here to read more about Proposition 116. You can also learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Proposition 117: Voter Approval for Certain New State Enterprises
Measure passes with a popular vote.
Proposition 117, if passed, would create a new provision similar to TABOR, but relating to enterprises and fees instead of taxes. If passed, Colorado would have to seek voter approval for any new government-owned enterprises if its revenue exceeds $100 million over its first five years.
Since fees have been deemed by the state Supreme Court not to be taxes, they are often used to raise money for programs that might otherwise require a tax increase approved by voters, which rarely happens.
In the 2018-19 budget year, fee revenue accounted for around 20% of the state’s budget, according to Legislative Council Staff.
Current enterprises that would have required a vote had this measure been in place already during the 2018-19 budget year include higher education tuition and student fees; health care affordability fees from the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise; fees from Colorado Lottery tickets; employer Unemployment Insurance premiums and surcharge; Parks and Wildlife hunting and fishing licenses, stamp, boat and vehicle registrations and state park entrance fees; manufacturing and agricultural product sales and fees from the Petroleum Storage Tank Fund.
Proponents say the measure is another check on the government’s power, while opponents say the measure is another way of crippling the state budget by tying the hands of the government in what it can do with revenues and when.
A “Yes” vote would mean voter approval would be required for new state government enterprises with fee revenue over $100 million in the first five years.
A “No” vote would allow the state legislature to continue to have the authority to create new enterprises.
Click here to learn more about Proposition 117. You can also learn more by watching the videos embedded below.
Proposition 118: Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program
Measure passes with a popular vote.
If passed, the initiative would require employers to provide their employees up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave each year starting in 2024. It also would allow for an additional four weeks of that person has a serious pregnancy-related health condition or childbirth complications. PFML program would mean that the employee could take up to 12 weeks off without losing their job.
Employees would be eligible for the benefits after they have earned at least $2,500 in wages and for added job protections from being fired if they have been with their employer for at least 180 days.
Both employees and employers would pay into a newly-created Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund starting in January 2023, which will be used to pay out the leave benefits similarly to how unemployment is paid. The amount a person would receive would be based on their average weekly wage – up to $1,100 a week.
The cost would initially be about 0.9% of an employee’s wages, and businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be exempt from the employer premium, though the premium would be allowed to be bumped up to 1.2% of an employee’s wages starting in 2025.
Self-employed people would also be exempt. Local governments would be allowed to decline to participate and businesses that offered paid leave benefits could stick with their program instead.
Proponents of the measure say it will help Coloradans not have to choose between work and their health and would be a boost on top of current federal FMLA and state sick leave programs. Opponents say it is an added cost to businesses and workers that might never have to be used.
A “Yes” vote would create a Paid Family and Medical Leave program.
A “No” vote would not create a new Paid Family and Medical Leave program.
Click here to learn more about Proposition 118. You can also learn more by watching the video embedded below.
Editor's Note: This page and story will be updated with more links to Denver7's coverage of the 2020 ballot initiatives as they run the week of Oct. 5-9.