This second installment of our 2018 voter’s guide will discuss statewide ballot initiatives requiring voter approval. AIA Colorado is taking a formal position on two initiatives as detailed below, but this guide will otherwise summarize each item and inform members on how they will affect the architecture profession, without taking a position.

Please note that ballot initiatives are assigned a particular number during the signature-gathering period. Once on the ballot, initiatives become Propositions (statutory changes) or Amendments (constitutional changes) and receive a different number.

Further information on any election-related races or initiatives can be found at https://ballotpedia.org/Colorado.

Before we go into details though, it’s worth mentioning a few items on voter registration and ballot procedures.

Are you registered to vote?

If you know you aren’t registered to vote, you can do so online and receive a mailed ballot until October 29. You can still register up to election day on November 6, but will have to vote in-person.

If you aren’t sure, or have changed addresses since the last election, visit the Colorado Secretary of State website to check your status. You can change your address directly from your summary page.

How are ballots distributed and returned?

Every registered voter will receive their ballot in the mail, which will start being distributed on October 15. You can mail it back (use two stamps!) or drop it off in-person at approved locations (which vary county to county). Remember that ballots must be received by November 6, so think ahead if mailing your ballot.

You can always vote in-person as well, even if you get your ballot mailed. Check your city or county websites for polling locations and days/hours of operation. Locations are typically open for 7 days before election day.

Ballot Initiatives Supported or Opposed by AIA Colorado

AIA Colorado SUPPORTS Proposition 110: Transportation Funding
Previously Ballot Initiative 153. Also known as “Let’s Go Colorado”

The strength of the architecture profession is closely connected to the strength of our communities in Colorado. As such, we recognize that investment and maintenance of transportation infrastructure benefits our members and allied professions throughout the state.

Through a modest sales tax increase (0.62%) and bond authorization, Proposition 110 will fund transportation projects ranging from sidewalks to freeways over the next 20 years if passed. Tax increases and bonds must be approved by voters in Colorado, so we’re asking AIA Colorado members to support this investment in our communities on your 2018 ballots. Visit the newly-revamped Let’s Go Colorado website for detailed information on how this tax revenue will be spent.

If this does not pass, the legislature has an alternative ballot measure planned for 2019 that will could approve bonds for transportation project, but not include additional revenue through sales tax. This alternative will provide less funding, and as such, will limit the infrastructure improvements that can be pursued.

AIA Colorado OPPOSES Amendment 74: Just Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation
Previously Ballot Initiative 108

Colorado’s constitution contains eminent domain language, stating that private property cannot be taken by a government without just compensation. This initiative adds “reduced market value” as another criteria requiring just compensation. This vague standard opens state and local governments up to lawsuits for any land-use decision, from zoning standards to NIMBYism (“Not in my Backyard”) on specific approved developments.

Further complicating the issue, there isn’t a clear “market value” definition that a government agency can rely upon as safe harbor from lawsuits. As a result, governments will have to prepare to give monetary compensation for every land-use regulation they make, or face lawsuits from any property owner who wants to claim some sort of reduction in value of their land. This money will have to be raised through either tax increases or fees.

Land use and planning, inclusive public engagement, housing, livable communities, and historic preservation policies are all measured against the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This initiative elevates property values in a way that will compete against a holistic look at design and planning solutions.

Voter-Initiated Constitutional Amendments

Amendment 73: Funding for Public Schools
Previously Ballot Initiative 93. Also known as “Great Schools Thriving Communities”

This amendment creates a state treasury “Quality Public Education” fund that will supplement general fund appropriations for K-12 public education. This fund will be maintained through the tax changes:

  • Income taxes will increase for people earning $150,000 annually (combined income for married people filing jointly). There are five income brackets added for this purpose, increasing the tax rate from 4.63% to between 5% ($150K-$200K income) and 8.25% ($500K+).
  • Corporate taxes across the board will increase from 4.63% to 6.0%.
  • Property taxes levied by school districts (but not other local governments) will decrease slightly for both residential and non-residential properties.

How this will affect AIA Colorado members:
Members may see their income taxes increase, if they are above the $150,000 income threshold. Every architecture firm will see their business taxes increase. School districts could potentially have more funding for design and construction projects, but there’s very little specificity in the amendment on how this fund will be used from year to year.

Amendment 75: Campaign Contributions
Previously Ballot Initiative 173. Also known as “Stop Buying Our Elections”

Candidates for statewide office in Colorado may spend as much of their personal funds as they wish on their campaigns, while outside contributions have strict limits imposed based on their source. This amendment will increase outside contribution limits (by 5x) if a candidate spends more than $1 million of their own money in a race. While this amendment would even the playing field in certain circumstances, only wealthy supporters or particularly strong fundraising entities will be able to max out contributions at the higher limit. Whether it’s reality or just a perceived issue, this will have the appearance of certain people/groups having greater influence over elections.

How this will affect AIA Colorado members:
ARCpac (Architects of Colorado Political Committee) and ARCsdc (Architects of Colorado Small Donor Committee) would be able to increase their contribution limits, but this is unlikely to occur. Both fundraising entities typically only support state legislative candidates, which are not affected by this change. Should either support a statewide candidate, historical fundraising numbers don’t indicate that the contributions could be given above the current limits.

Voter-Initiated Statutory Propositions

Proposition 109: Authorize Bonds for Transportation Projects
Previously Ballot Initiative 167. Also known as “Fix Our Damn Roads”

This is the second of two transportation funding ballot initiatives. It would authorize bonds to pay for state transportation projects previously identified by CDOT. Unlike Proposition 110, this version does not raise taxes, but as a result it requires that the bonds must be paid for out of the annual state budget. It is also more limited in scope and would not include maintenance or local/small scale projects.

Should Propositions 109 and 110 both pass, each will go into effect to the greatest extent possible. Where there are conflicts, the proposition that won the most votes will take precedence.

How this will affect AIA Colorado members:
The projects supported by this proposition are for state-owned transportation infrastructure only (highways, etc.) These are less likely to affect communities directly and are further removed from the work we do. More importantly, the state legislature must pass a balanced budget every year and cannot raise taxes without voter approval. There is very little discretionary spending already, which will be further reduced if the budget must absorb new bonds. It is likely that capitol construction funding will suffer as a result.

Proposition 111: Limits on Payday Loan Charges
Previously Ballot Initiative 126. Also known as Coloradans to Stop Predatory Payday Loans

Payday (short term) loans have an up-front interest rate of 20%, plus annual interest rates up to 45% with additional fees up to $30 per month. This proposition would reduce and simplify interest to a maximum of 36% annually with no additional fees allowed. Simply put, payday lenders will make less money per loan.

How this will affect AIA Colorado members:
AIA Colorado does not see this proposition as affecting the architecture profession. We do recognize that should any of our members take a payday loan, their interest rates will be reduced.

Proposition 112: Minimum Distance Requirements for New Oil, Gas, and Fracking Projects
Previously Ballot Initiative 97

Colorado law states that oil and gas development must located at least 500 feet, and in some cases 1,000 feet from occupied structures. This can still result in equipment that is in the immediate vicinity of homes, businesses, and occupied outdoor spaces. This proposition would increase the setback distance to 2,500 feet from every type of occupied structure as well as “vulnerable areas” such as parks, bodies of water, and other occupied outdoor spaces.

Opponents of this proposition claim that the combined effect of the increase setback and definition of “vulnerable area” will eliminate 85% of the state for new oil and gas development. If accurate, this would result in a $1 billion loss in tax revenue and nearly 150,000 jobs by the year 2030. An estimated $230 million of school funding could be lost in the next three years from state land trusts. This would also affect the mineral rights of property owners who could allow oil or gas extraction on their properties under current law.

If passed, this proposition will reduce the amount of industrial chemicals, air and groundwater pollutants in the immediate vicinity of occupied land and buildings. Many types of oil and gas equipment are not required to be directly above the extraction sites.

This proposition has been particularly contentious, with both proponents and opponents making bold statements and dire predictions. The state oil and gas commission has long been at odds with local municipalities, who cannot set their own local setbacks and standards. Whether or not this passes, it won’t be the end of heated arguments on oil and gas extraction safety.

How this will affect AIA Colorado members:
Oil and gas development infrastructure has little to no direct effect on the practice of architecture. However, the economic impact will be immediate. Whether the financial estimates are accurate or not, there will be less funding for state and local government construction projects as a result of lost tax revenue (both direct and as a result of lost jobs in the oil and gas industry). Architects with clients concerned about air quality and clean groundwater may see more opportunities for project site selection.

Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments

The following amendments have been referred to voters by the state legislature. None of these affect the architecture profession or AIA Colorado members directly.

Amendment A: Removal of Exception to Slavery Prohibition for Criminals
Slavery and involuntary servitude are narrowly allowed in the Colorado constitution as “punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” If passed, this exception will be removed and slavery/involuntary servitude will not be allowed under any circumstances. This removal does not prohibit the state from requiring a person to fulfill duties that the person owes to the state. No formal opposition to this amendment has been identified.

Amendment V: Reduced Age Qualification for General Assembly Members
If passed, this amendment will lower the minimum age for being able to run for office in the state legislature from 25 to 21.
Amendment W: Judge Retention Ballot Language
Currently ballots must ask voters to retain judges separately for each judgelisted. This amendment will allow ballots to ask the question once at the top of the list of judges instead, to shorten the ballots without making any substantive changes.

Amendment X: Definition of Industrial Hemp Amendment
Industrial hemp is currently defined in the Colorado constitution, but does not match the Federal law definition. This amendment changes the constitution to simple require the definition to match Federal law, or to put the actual definition in state statutes if allowable. The Industrial hemp definition was originally added to the constitution to clarify the difference between it and consumable marijuana.

Amendment Y: Independent Commission for Congressional Redistricting Amendment &
Amendment Z: Independent Commission for State Legislative Redistricting Amendment
These amendments will update the process used to draw state legislative and US House congressional districts within Colorado as is required after every US census. The intent is to provide guidance on what constitutes fair and competitive districts, as well as create a commissions that include members from both major political parties and independents. The new system will include multiple checks and balances for approval. This process will reduce the ability for the party in power to gerrymander districts.