Overview

Welcome to the AIA Colorado 2020 Ballot Guide, providing a brief overview of the entire statewide ballot with a more detailed look at everything of particular relevance to the architecture profession in the following categories:

  • Federal Elections
  • Colorado Legislature Elections
  • Colorado Ballot Measures

An important reminder: Mailed ballots will start arriving the week of October 12 if you are already registered to vote at your current address. With the current delays in USPS delivery times, promptly completing and returning your ballot will help statewide efforts towards a smooth election season in Colorado. Local government websites typically feature a list or map of ballot drop-off locations as an alternative to mailing back your ballot.

If you’re looking for in-depth non-partisan information, ballotpedia.org is highly recommended and all registered voters have (or will) receive a Colorado 2020 State Ballot Information Booklet (the “blue book”) in the mail.

AIA Colorado does not endorse candidates for office. ARCpac, the Architects of Colorado Political Committee, has made campaign contributions to state legislature candidates as detailed in the state races section below.

 



Federal Elections

This section hardly needs an introduction if you’ve been paying any attention to the news lately. Architecture-related issues are probably far down the list of priorities for any voter at the federal level, but here are the races on the 2020 ballots.

President

President Trump (R) is running for reelection this year in one of the most closely watched races in recent memory. In addition to typical partisan issues common to presidential races, we’ll see very different responses to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic from each candidate, likely to occupy their attention for at least the first year of the next term.

  • Republican (incumbent): Donald Trump, (2017-current)
    • VP: Mike Pence (2017-current)
  • Democrat: Joe Biden, former Vice President and US Senator (DE)
    • VP: Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator (CA)

U.S. Senate

As the Democratic party looks to regain control of the U.S. Senate (currently held by Republicans 53-47), Colorado is one of their highest priority races. This has brought additional outside spending and national attention to our senate race this year.

U.S. House of Representatives

There is less at stake in the U.S. House this year, as Democrats are expected to retain their control of the chamber by a comfortable margin. In Colorado, HD-3 has gotten the most attention as the only race without an incumbent, after Rep. Scott Tipton lost his primary.

U.S. House, Congressional District 1 (Denver)

U.S. House, Congressional District 2 (Northern Front Range)

U.S. House, Congressional District 3 (Mountains, South, and West Colorado)

U.S. House, Congressional District 4 (East Colorado)

  • Republican (incumbent): Ken Buck, (2015-present)
  • Democrat: Isaac McCorkle, (no previous electoral experience)

U.S. House, Congressional District 5 (Colorado Springs)

U.S. House, Congressional District 6 (East Denver Metro)

U.S. House, Congressional District 7 (North Denver Metro)

 


Colorado Elections

Every two years, there are elections in all 65 House districts and half of the 35 Senate districts. The outlook for 2021 is that Democrats will retain their strong majority in the House, likely holding 40-42 of the 65 seats. On the Senate side, Democrats are also expected to retain control with 19-20 of the 35 seats. ARCpac has made contributions to the following candidates:

Boulder Metro Area

Tracey Bernett (D-Longmont) HD-12

Colorado Springs Metro Area

Mark Baisley (R-Douglas County), HD-39

Terri Carver (R- El Paso County), HD-20

Paul Lundeen (R-Monument), SD-09

Denver Central Metro Area

Chris Hansen (D-Denver), SD-31

Denver East Metro Area

Janet Buckner (D-Aurora) SD-28

Denver North Metro Area

Shannon Bird (D-Westminster) HD-35

Yadira Caraveo (D-Thornton) HD-31

Kyle Mullica (D-Thornton) HD-34

Kevin Priola (R-Henderson) SD-25

Denver South Metro Area

Kevin Van Winkle (R-Highlands Ranch) HD-43

Denver West Metro Area

Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada) SD-19

Greeley/Loveland Metro Area

Mary Young (D-Greeley) HD-50

 

Judge Retention

In Colorado, judges are appointed to their positions by elected officials, then reviewed by the non-partisan Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation after two years and are put on the ballot for a retention vote. After the first vote, subsequent votes happen every 4-10 years based on the position.

Judge retention doesn’t affect the architecture profession, but you can look up recommendations for retention in your county here. Only two of the 104 judges reviewed across the state this year did not receive favorable recommendations in their review.

 


Colorado Ballot Initiatives

There are 11 statewide measures on the 2020 ballots. None directly affect the practice of architecture, but the paid family/medical leave measure could affect firms and many measures have state or local budget implications. It’s important to emphasize that Colorado has suffered a massive budget shortfall in 2020 (~$3 billion, reduced to $2 billion after federal assistance) due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. The 2021 budget will be similarly affected.

Architecture-related state budget items include B.E.S.T. grants for K-12 schools, historic preservation tax credits, and capital construction projects for state-owned buildings (including public universities). In a budget shortfall situation, the state spends significantly less on capital construction (including maintenance) projects. If a state-funded program such as BEST loses its funding entirely, the reality is that it becomes much more difficult to bring it back in the future. It’s unknown if these state-funded programs will see additional cuts or how severe they might be. The bigger the shortfall, the more likely they get affected though.

All measures are listed here for the sake of completeness, but only those of interest to members will include details. Propositions are statutory changes and like any state law, can be changed by future legislative efforts. Constitutional amendments, if passed, can only be changed by the voters should a new amendment be approved for a future ballot. Numbered measures were instituted by the public and submitted signatures for approval. If identified by letters, the state legislature voted to put the measure in front of voters.

Proposition 113 – Adopt Agreement to Elect U.S. Presidents By National Popular Vote

Not related to the architecture profession.

Proposition 114 – Restoration of Gray Wolves

Not related to the architecture profession.

Proposition 115 – Prohibit Abortions After 22 Weeks

Not related to the architecture profession.

Proposition 116 – State Income Tax Rate Reduction

Colorado has a flat income tax rate of 4.63 percent. If passed, it would be reduced to 4.55 percent. The state estimates next year’s budget would be reduced by approximately $170 million. This could affect architecture-related state budget items.

Another important note is that in Colorado, voters must approve any income tax increase. This tax cut cannot simply be undone in the future by the state legislature like other proposition ballot initiatives.

Proposition 117 – Voter Approval Requirement for Creation of Certain Fee-Based Enterprises

In this context, a fee-based enterprise is a state-owned business that is largely reliant on user fees for funding. State universities are an example of such an enterprise. If passed, this measure will require future and existing fee-based enterprises over a specific revenue threshold (affecting 7 of the current 22) to be approved by voters. These enterprises have become popular in Colorado exactly because they aren’t a tax increase that requires voter approval. This measure takes away that exemption. If voters don’t approve the enterprise, it must seek alternate funding sources or cease operating.

These enterprises don’t typically fund individual building projects, but some do directly fund infrastructure projects and indirectly result in building projects (state universities in particular). The removal of any fee-based enterprises will impact future state budgets, but the extent can’t be predicted since voters may keep or vote down enterprises individually.

Proposition 118 – Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

If passed, this program would require paid family/medical leave benefits for nearly every employee in the state. The funding is split between employers (with more than 10 employees) responsible for part and employees themselves paying through a deduction every paycheck. However, businesses that offer qualifying benefits already will be exempt from paying premiums.

This type of program has had champions in the state legislature for multiple years now but could never get the votes to pass. Proponents argue that lower income earners deserve these paid benefits just as much as higher income earners (who’s employers are already more likely to offer them). Opponents of this ballot measure point out that many businesses are already stressed by the current economy and may not be able to afford to fund their share. Future premiums may increase if today’s funding projections prove inaccurate.

Proposition EE – Increase taxes on nicotine products

If passed, nicotine (including vaping) products will be taxed at a higher rate, raising an estimated $168 million next fiscal year. Revenue will primarily target preschool funding and rural school financial support, as well as tobacco education programs.

Amendment 76 – Citizenship Qualification of Electors

Not related to the architecture profession.

Amendment 77 – Local Voter Approval of Gaming Limits in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek

Colorado’s constitution places strict betting and game type limits in Colorado casinos. This amendment gives local jurisdictions with casinos the ability to expand their games and betting limits if local voters approve.

This change is anticipated to increase tax revenue from gambling in Colorado. Of note to architects, 28 percent of this gaming tax goes to the State Historical Fund for preservation of historic sites in Colorado.

Amendment B – Repeal Property Tax Assessment Rates

This amendment is tricky to explain, so let’s start with the key takeaways. Passing the amendment effectively keeps residential property taxes at their current levels. These taxes are primary funding sources for school districts across the state. They also fund other local government services to varying degrees, depending on the jurisdiction. The state legislature would also have greater ability to adjust property tax rates in the future, but rate increases would require statewide voter approval like any other tax increase. If it does not pass, local governments will have to either deal with budget shortfalls (especially for K-12 education) or get local voter approval to raise taxes enough to offset the shortfall.

Statewide school district revenue is estimated to drop $491 million if Amendment B fails. There will be fewer K-12 construction projects across the state. Local budget shortfalls will likely trigger changes to the state budget as legislators look at how much the state should offset that drop in local tax revenue. Opponents of Amendment B note that local governments can continue to propose specific tax increases to offset this loss on their own (subject to voter approval). There are also concerns that this amendment makes it easier to raise residential property taxes in the future, which will make housing less affordable in general. Rental properties in particular will pass these costs on to renters.

Why is this a constitutional issue? The “Gallagher amendment” added to the Colorado constitution in the 1980s created a requirement that residential properties taxes must be 45 percent of the total combined residential and commercial property taxes. This keeps residential property taxes low in general. In the ’90s, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights was added to the constitution and it says any tax increase in Colorado must be approved by voters as a ballot measure. If the economy in Colorado takes a sharp downward turn (as it certainly has in 2020 due to COVID-19), there will be a drop in commercial property taxes collected by the state. This forces residential property taxes to drop as well. That’s great for individual taxpayers, but it wreaks havoc on local budgets where different services are funded by different taxes. The lost revenue is immediate but trying to rebalance or increase tax revenue takes significantly more time since voters must approve it.

Amendment C – Bingo Raffles Allow Paid Help and Repeal 5-year Minimum

Not related to the architecture profession.

 

For more information or to discuss any amendments, email Nikolaus Remus, AIA, Advocacy Engagement Director.