POSITION IN BRIEF:
Support for clarity of language and suitability of topic and detail in proposed constitutional amendments.

POSITION: (Adopted 1983-85)

For the purpose of evaluating the Colorado Constitution and proposed constitutional amendments in terms of clarity of language, suitability of topic and detail, the LWVCO favors use of the following criteria.

The Constitution and proposed amendments should:

  • Guarantee the rights of individuals.
  • Provide for establishment of the executive, legislative and judicial branches; establish the basic function of each with checks and balances; provide clearly defined lines of authority and responsibility and grant them adequate powers to carry out these responsibilities.
  • Provide a flexible framework for effective state and local government, broad enough to allow for changing conditions.
  • Be a concise, understandable, and integrated statement of basic law, free from statutory detail and obsolete provisions, logically organized, and internally consistent.
  • Provide methods to amend, revise or replace the Constitution.
  • Allow intergovernmental cooperation.
  • Establish the power to tax but leave specifics of structure and detail to enactment by the General Assembly.
  • Be consistent with the Federal Constitution.
  • Prohibit the Colorado General Assembly from changing an initiated statutory revision for a specific period of time except in the case of Supreme Court review on constitutionality. That period of time should be at least two years from the time of implementation of the statute. This portion of the constitution position has been incorporated into the “Initiative Process in Colorado” position.

HISTORY

In 1963 the LWVCO undertook a major study of the Colorado Constitution which included the framework of state government, the three branches of government and those fiscal and local governmental powers defined in the Constitution. This study and resulting positions were the basis for action regarding the judicial system and apportionment for many years and led to more detailed studies of such issues as financing state government and financing education.

In 1981 the League again adopted a study of the Colorado Constitution focused primarily on the methods of changing the Constitution. In 1983 the specific focus was on the legislative and executive powers as they related to managing and meeting the state’s current and evolving needs. The executive and legislative sections of the Colorado Constitution were found to be basically acceptable in their present form.

In 1993 the Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the voters limiting future constitutional amendments to a “single subject clearly expressed in the title.” The LWVCO supported this amendment, and it was adopted by the voters in the 1994 General Election.

Since the legislature can change a statutory amendment as soon as it is adopted, many persons using the initiative process recently have preferred to propose constitutional rather than statutory amendments. Some of these proposals would have been more appropriate as statutes – subject to change – since they have created conflicting revenue and budgetary problems that have restrained the state government’s ability to adequately address key problems.

League would support a measure to encourage the use of statutory rather than constitutional amendments as long as there is at least a two-year waiting period before changes can be made. In 2008 LWVCO supported SCR3 Changes to Initiatives which made it to the ballot as Referendum O. This amendment would have increased the number of petition signatures required for constitutional initiatives and lowered them for statutory initiatives, required a geographical distribution for signatures, changed the time lines for the petition process, and increased protection to statutory amendments from legislative changes. LWV supported efforts to educate voters on the issue but Referendum O was defeated in the general election. A similar SCR3 in 2010 and SCR1 in 2011 died before getting to the ballot.

Referendum Q on the 2010 ballot was supported by LWVCO. This successful amendment provided a process for temporarily moving the seat of government in case of a disaster emergency.