Friday, February 18, 2011

Bipartisan bill to give Colorado voters the chance to protect the state constitution passes Senate

DENVER— Today, a bipartisan resolution that would ask voters to raise the threshold for changing the Colorado constitution and add protections for citizen-initiated laws passed the Senate on second reading. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 (SCR 1), sponsored by Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) and Senator Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), will be heard by the Senate one final time before going to the House for consideration.

Currently, Colorado’s constitution can be amended with only a 50 percent majority vote of the people. This is an extremely low threshold, and the aim of SCR 1 is to give voters an opportunity to protect the constitution by requiring a 60 percent majority to pass amendments.

President Shaffer gave the following statement today in regard to the passage of his resolution:

“Election after election, voters have been subjected to ballot initiative warfare. The business community has been forced to spend millions of dollars opposing harmful initiatives like 60, 61, and 101. Instead of spending millions of dollars opposing proposed constitutional changes that will negatively impact our economy, the business community should be able to re-invest those dollars in creating Colorado jobs.

This resolution asks voters to consider how easy it is to change our state’s foundational document.”

SCR 1 has bipartisan co-sponsorship in both chambers of the legislature, including House Speaker Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch). Also, a broad coalition of businesses, non-profits, and local leaders from across the state has stood in support of SCR 1.

Senate Bill SCR 1 will give Colorado voters the chance to:

1. Increase the number of votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment from 50 percent to 60 percent.

2. Require that signatures gathered to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot come from across the state. Of the minimum number of petition signatures required (5 percent of votes cast in the most recent Secretary of State election), 70 percent of those signatures would be required to come from each congressional district in equal parts. The remaining 30 percent of the total may come from the state at-large.

3. Allow current constitutional amendments to be repealed with the same majority requirement by which they were approved and require future amendments to be repealed with the same 60 percent super majority requirement by which they were approved (with the exception of SCR 1 which would pass under current requirements, a 50 percent majority vote, but could only be repealed with 60 percent super majority vote.)

4. Protect citizen-initiated changes to statute for three years after they become effective by increasing the required vote of the legislature to two-thirds to change or repeal such a statute.


Currently, proposed amendments to the Colorado constitution are placed on the ballot by gathering a required number of signatures (five percent of the number of votes in the most recent Secretary of State election) or by a two-thirds vote of the Colorado General Assembly. Signatures for citizen initiatives may currently be collected from anywhere in the state. Changes to statute, like constitutional changes, may also be placed on the statewide ballot through the gathering of the required number of signatures.