Voters to be asked to decide what lawmakers can’t
DENVER – When state lawmakers failed to address the growing tension between energy companies and landowners, Plan B was already in the works: Ask the voters.On issues ranging from immigration and gay marriage to money in politics, voters and advocacy groups are also hoping to put questions on the November ballot to settle conflicts that the Legislature was unable or unwilling to do.By Friday afternoon, the last day to join that process, more than 120 proposals had been filed at the state Capitol but not all of them will end up on the ballot.John Gorman, a Glenwood Springs real estate agent, thinks voters will be receptive to his proposal to make sure oil and gas developers pay the “fair value” of damages they cause to surface property owners.The industry did agree that it should pay some damages but Gorman said they were able to stop a stronger bill from being passed.”It’s one thing to lobby the Legislature, it may be another thing to lobby the people of Colorado,” said Gorman, who filed his three-line proposal about a month before the bill was killed following opposition from home builders, the real estate industry and environmentalists.Petitions to ban gay marriage and bar most state services for illegal immigrants have already been filed but a legal challenge has kept backers of the immigration proposal from beginning to the collect the approximately 100,000 signature they’ll need to be sure of making the ballot.Eminent domain critics are collecting signatures for a constitutional amendment in case state lawmakers fail to pass a proposal that prevents the government from taking property to turn it over to developers. Still waiting for reviews are proposals to allow pharmacists to provide emergency contraception without a doctor’s prescription – a proposal vetoed by Gov. Bill Owens – and to ban cash gifts to lawmakers. That’s something lawmakers have failed to do for three years.”Almost anyone who’s lost at the Legislature or who’s lost at Congress is now turning to the ballot in Colorado,” said Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College.Loevy said Colorado is the perfect place for people with money or grass roots support to get their issues heard because it takes relatively few signatures to make it onto the ballot, and because groups can pay people to collect them. It costs an estimated $1 to $3 a signature to hire a signature gatherer.Gorman has been consulting with home builders and other opponents of the legislative proposal but he won’t know until the final language is approved who will help his campaign. He’ll need to get the signatures of 67,829 registered voters but groups usually get more because some will be rejected.But that may not be the only hurdle.Stan Dempsey of the Colorado Petroleum Association says his group is considering challenging Gorman’s language in court.Meanwhile, Ken Wonstolen, senior vice president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has filed a ballot proposal of his own aimed at home builders, whom he blamed for blocking the split estate bill with an “all-or-nothing strategy”. It requires that home sellers guarantee that the property’s water supply is sufficient.A spokesman for the Colorado Home Builders Association didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.Wonstolen said he hoped the proposal would lead to a dialogue with home builders but he wouldn’t elaborate on his strategy.”We see a very troubling, vague proposal on compensation issues already filed. In Colorado, it seems that’s the way we have the debate, through the ballot proposals,” he said.
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