Aurora officials support initiative to make it harder to amend Colorado constitution

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AURORA | Some of Aurora’s elected and business leaders are backing a ballot measure that would make it harder to amend the state constitution.

A ballot initiative known as “Raise the Bar, Protect our Constitution” wants ballot measures to be more representative of voters across the state, and not just a majority of voters along the Front Range.

Right now, to amend the state constitution, a ballot measure needs a little over 98,000 signatures and a 51 percent majority to pass. Those signatures can come from anywhere in the state. Colorado’s constitution has been amended more than 150 times, and state lawmakers say special interest groups are benefiting the most from the current requirements.

“Subject only to policy whims of the day, citizens and groups have gathered signatures on the 16th Street mall, placed initiatives on the ballot, and watched patiently as bare majorities created constitutional law,” said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan in an open letter supporting the change.

The “Raise the Bar” initiative would make collecting those signatures more difficult by requiring that signatures come from 2 percent of registered voters in all of the state’s 35 Senate districts. The measure would also require a 55-percent majority in a statewide vote in order for the measure to pass instead of the 51-percent majority in place right now.

Aurora Economic Development Council President and CEO Wendy Mitchell also endorsed the initiative in a letter.

But some Aurora community organizers say the move is intended to stifle citizen involvement.

“Why are the professional ad campaigns and money being poured into the effort to make citizen involvement more restrictive?” asked Nicole Johnston, who has led the effort in east Aurora to seek more local control on oil and gas development. “Collecting 98,000 signatures to be put on the ballot and getting a majority of the vote is already a challenge. Making the restrictions more difficult will only inhibit citizens’ involvement in our laws.”

Johnston pointed to the recent approval for Coloradans for Community Rights to proceed with gathering signatures for the Colorado Community Rights Amendment as one such effort that would be hampered by the passage of a “Raise the Bar”-style initiative.

Last year a group known as Building a Better Colorado, which is composed of top bipartisan state lawmakers such as Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, also listed the state’s requirements for constitutional amendments as an issue that makes the Colorado increasingly difficult to govern.