The Alternative Voterís Guide

The Legislative Councilís ballot-analysis booklet has inspired so many fights, it should be called the black-and-blue book. Hereís our cure.

After HB 1161 passed, its opponents came up with the language for Amendment 34, which would overturn any limits on what homeowners can recover in cases of bad workmanship or injury. The amendment also would limit the ability of the legislature to create future caps regarding construction issues and eliminate the requirement that homeowners give builders the chance to fix any mistakes before they sue them. (In other words, it would codify into law the widespread concept that while Coloradans are nice, they'd much rather backstab than openly confront.)

Who's behind it?

Committee to Take Back Our Property Rights.

War chest: $398,160.

Big donors:Vanatta, Sullan, Sandgrund & Sullan.

Noteworthy supporters: Longtime lobbyist and former Greenwood Village mayor Freda Poundstone; big-shot attorney Scott Sullan, who collects the bulk of his hefty income from representing homeowners in class-action lawsuits against builders.

Who wants it dead?

Coloradans for Responsible Reform 2004.

War chest: $2,571,125.

Big donors: National Association of Home Builders; MDC Holdings, parent company of Richmond American Homes; Melody Homes; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Noteworthy opponents: Mike Rosen; Jim Vetting, president of the Greeley-area Habitat for Humanity.

Fun facts:

• In June 1996, Richmond American Homes gave Sullan's firm $1.9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit.

• Poundstone has successfully pushed two constitutional amendments through in Colorado, including the measure that opened up three old mining towns to "limited stakes" gaming, and 1974's initiative that prohibits Denver from annexing any portion of a neighboring county unless the voters of that county give their approval. Thanks to the Poundstone Amendment, Denver is now an island unto itself.

Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running for re-election in District 6, entered a tribute to Poundstone into the Congressional Record on July 22, citing her "dedicated and inspiring career." Tancredo does not support Amendment 34.

Best campaign snafu:

Tit-for-tat filings with the secretary of state's office for campaign-finance violations.

Guide to decide:

• If you hear the word "nail" and think of a sexual act, vote yes.

• If you hear the word "nail" and think hammer, vote no.

• If you live in Lowry, Stapleton, the Elitch Gardens development, Highlands Ranch or just about any new housing project sprawling out onto the plains, vote yes. Just in case.

• If you built Lowry, Stapleton, the Elitch Gardens development, Highlands Ranch or just about any new housing project sprawling out onto the plains, vote no. And say a prayer.

• If you like trial lawyers, vote yes. Their kids have to eat, too.

• If you think Colorado's new tort-based auto insurance has really reduced premiums, vote no.

If we were betting types:

WW: 1-1 (but make that 2-1 if we get another roof-collapsing, thirty-inch blizzard before November 2).

TR: 1-1.

JG: 2-1 against. "If there's anything folks fear more than death, it's those vicious lawyers."

Amendment 35: Tobacco Tax Increase for Health-Related Purposes
What the hell would it do?

Raise taxes on cigarettes by 64 cents a pack. If Amendment 35 passes, it would be the first tobacco tax hike in this state in eighteen years, and would raise a projected $175 million a year for smoking-related health care, education and prevention.

Currently, the state collects about $65 million annually from cigarettes and tobacco products, dumping about one-quarter of the money into municipal coffers and keeping the rest in the general fund, where it's used to pay for everything from education to roads. Since 2000, Colorado has also received about $118 million a year as part of the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco companies, of which the legislature allocates approximately $5 million a year to programs like Quitline or to educating kids on the hazards of lighting up. As a result, the proponents of Amendment 35 specifically focused on funding such programs.

But even before the measure was put on the ballot, much less voted into law, Representative Brad Young pushed through House Bill 1455, which would put any monies collected through Amendment 35 directly into the general fund, ignoring not only the will of the voters, but language voted into the constitution that requires all of the proceeds to go to health-related programs.

Assuming the courts can hash out the inevitable challenges over that, one question remains: Should sinners subsidize others? Sin taxes are often regressive taxes, meaning they hurt the poor. According to the Journal of Public Health, those at or below the poverty level are more likely to smoke and less likely to be able to quit -- and if voters pass Amendment 35, these folks would be hit with an extra 64-cent tax they may not be able to afford. Proponents would like to think that the increased cost would push some people to quit. It sure worked in New York City, where smoking took an 11 percent dive after cigarettes hit ten bucks a pack.

Who's behind it?

Citizens for a Healthier Colorado, which includes the American Lung Association of Colorado, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance.

War chest: $1,756,281.59

Big donors: Colorado Health & Hospital Association, Colorado Community Health Network, American Cancer Society.

Noteworthy supporters: Pat Stryker of Fort Collins, Forbes magazine's 377th-richest person in the world.

Who wants it dead?

Protect Our Constitution: Vote "No" on #35 Committee.

War chest: Empty, but...

Big donors: Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and the Colorado Association of Distributors have made $10,370.40 in non-monetary donations for various services, including consulting, "ally development" and use of office space and equipment.

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