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The hard work of building a better Colorado

TRINIDAD — The Colorado State Constitution is one of the longest constitutions in the country, a group of Coloradans are putting together a campaign to tackle Colorado’s political problems with the hope of placing more ballot measures in 2016, in what is seen as “the most concerted effort in recent memory to address what organizers see as inherent conflicts in how the state is governed.” It is these conflicts that are impeding Colorado’s ability to build new roads, put more money in classrooms, engage an increasingly disenchanted electorate, and prepare for the future in a state with one of the longest constitutions in the country at nearly 75,000 words and 150 amendments. The US Constitution is 8,000 words and has 27 amendments. “Building a Better Colorado,” is a bipartisan effort five years in the making that began its debut run with a 40-stop statewide tour this month. It stopped in Trinidad on Friday September 24. Building a Better Colorado looks at familiar topics, including issues ranging from state revenue caps to a constitutional provision that restricts local property tax increases. The elections panel is studying possible changes on how districts are drawn and how political parties conduct primaries. They’re also examining the voter initiative process and considering whether to

raise the bar for what it takes to amend the state constitution. Others are weighing in on term limits for the state legislators in both houses. The campaign finance experts are exploring donation limits and disclosure rules. The issue most likely to draw attention is state taxing and spending, a conversation that inevitably connects to TABOR, a voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires voter approval for all state tax hikes and limits growth to the rate of inflation plus population growth. During the meeting in Trinidad, between 84 percent and 85 percent of respondents agreed that TABOR, (amendment 23), and the Gallagher amendment needed to either go or be changed. County governments and boards of education have been feeling the negative impacts of TABOR for several years, with rural counties cutting services, road and bridge repairs, and even reducing public safety in response. One hundred percent voted to up the amount of funding public education receives. After the research committee is finished with its tour of the state, they will tabulate the information they received and bring together a meeting in Denver in early December. It is out of this meeting that Building a Better Colorado hopes to forge several ballot initiatives for 2016. The process is drawing initial support from honorary chairmen. A preliminary list produced by the organization, includes Democratic Govenor John Hickenlooper and two of his predecessors, Bill Ritter and Roy Romer. Other leading Democratic names include former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and two of his predecessors, Wellington Webb and Federico Peña. Top Republicans behind the project include former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, former state lawmakers Gigi Dennis and Norma Anderson, and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the former state attorney general.