By Angie Knepell, STATE BILL COLORADO
DENVER — Out of more than a hundred initiatives filed for the 2010 election cycle and with petition deadlines looming, only a handful will make it to the November ballot.
Amid court challenges to HB09–1326, legislation that attempted to rein in the citizen activism seen on the 2008 ballot, the path to the ballot is paved with some success, but mostly failure.
The initiatives already on the ballot are familiar: taxes and “personhood.”
Another attempt at the failed 2008 “Personhood Amendment” comfortably met the requirements for the ballot. It has been slightly re-worded and is now Amendment 62. Proponents believe the revived initiative will fare better. According to the Personhood Colorado website, proponents say that high-level GOP support, which the 2008 measure did not enjoy, is indicative of more support in general.
Proposition 101, which would reduce various vehicle registration taxes, is on the ballot alongside a pair of tax-related initiatives. Amendment 60 proposes reducing property taxes and Amendment 61 prohibits state and local governments from taking out loans without voter approval.
Race to the deadline
More than a hundred initiatives have been filed, and some still face the daunting task of gathering the minimum 76,047 signatures required by Aug. 2 to be placed on the ballot.
Of the many is the Jon Caldara’s “Obama Care” initiative, which is a challenge to the federal government ‘s right to legislate health care in Colorado.
Caldara, president of the Independence Institute,
Proponents have a much better chance since U.S. District Judge Phillip Brimmer on June 11 gave the legal green light to use paid signature gatherers, said Caldara, president of the conservative Independence Institute. Brimmer decided in favor of Caldara and others, who sued Secretary of State Bernie Buescher contending that HB09–1326 was unconstitutional.
“Volunteers say we’d absolutely be able to get enough signatures,” Caldara said. “Personally, I say no. I can’t tell you actual numbers but, with volunteers we think we think we’ll get at least 20,000 signatures. With the paid signature gatherers we think we’ll get 100,000 signatures.
“We are very optimistic (about making the ballot). I’ve been involved in the process enough to know when I’m shooting rubber bands at the moon.”
Dead or delayed
Some citizen movements have delayed or withdrawn their initiatives because of the challenges of organizing a grassroots effort in time to gather enough signatures.
Clean Campaigns Colorado has decided to suspend efforts on gathering enough signatures to land its campaign finance reform initiative on the November ballot. Still, James Hoffmeister, head organizer of the campaign, is invigorated by the experience.
“Our achievements, though they fall short of getting the initiative on the ballot, have been remarkable. [The experience] has been positive and exciting. We gathered about 5,000 to 6,000 signatures but considering we started on April 29, our overall feeling is one of success.”
Hoffmeister is now looking to the future, to 2012. “We learned a lot from the process. Remember, it took three attempts to pass TABOR.”
Another attempt to legalize marijuana in Colorado also will be delayed until 2012. Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER, says that’s for political and funding reasons. Tvert joined Caldara in the HB09-1326 lawsuit.
“We were not able to run the initiative this year because we determined the funds would not be able to cover the cost of a petition drive,” Tvert said. “Had the federal court issued the injunction blocking the legislature’s anti-initiative and petitoning law earlier, it probably would have been possible.
“Turnout will be far greater in 2012, seeing as it is a presidential election year. Also, polls show that about 49 to 50 percent of Coloradans support making marijuana legal for adults, regulating it, and treating it like alcohol. By 2012, support should be well over 50 percent given the rate at which it is growing.”
Some derided the 2008 ballot for having too many citizen initiatives. The 2010 ballot figures to have fewer, which perhaps will lessen the debate over the ease by which citizens can propose law in Colorado.
Both Caldara and Tvert say the path to putting an initiative on the ballot is anything but easy. “For example, the  Personhood Amendment had the depth of organization required [to make it on the ballot],” Caldara said. “They worked through the churches. If you don’t have paid signature gatherers and that kind of organizing, it won’t happen.
Tvert says, “Getting an initative on the ballot in Colorado is exceptionally difficult unless you are incredibly well-funded. Essentially, the current process makes it incredibly difficult for grassroots and smaller groups to access the ballot and challenge opponents.” •