Coloradans Could Vote on Transportation, Oil and Gas, Education Funding, More

Coloradans Could Vote on Transportation, Oil and Gas, Education Funding, More
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Good news, Colorado: As of today, August 7, you can go to the grocery store or out to eat without being pestered by someone asking you to sign a petition.

The backers of five potential ballot initiatives waited until the last day, August 6, to submit signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office (two other campaigns submitted theirs well before the Monday deadline). If the signatures are validated in the next thirty days, come November, Colorado voters could weigh in on everything from oil and gas developments to campaign finance to education funding.

But first, the campaigns must be found to have each submitted 98,492 valid signatures — or 5 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for secretary of state in the 2014 general election. The Secretary of State's Office will vet those petitions over the next thirty days.

Assuming they all pass muster, here's what will be on the November 6 statewide ballot:

Initiative 97
Perhaps the most contentious initiative in the bunch, I-97 would require that new oil and gas developments not on federal land be at least 2,500 feet away from an occupied structure or certain "vulnerable" areas, including playgrounds. The state currently mandates 500 feet and 1,000 feet for homes and schools, respectively. The campaign behind I-97, Colorado Rising, had received $256,006.84 in contributions as of August 1, a fraction of what its opponent, Initiative 108 (see more below), has raised.

Initiative 108
I-108 would require the State of Colorado to compensate property owners whose land is devalued because of regulations. The PAC behind 108, Protect Colorado, has millions in its coffers, mostly thanks to donations from the largest energy companies in the state, including Anadarko, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy.

Initiative 126
Submitted by the Reverend Dr. Ann Rice-Jones, a member of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, and Corrine Fowler, a longtime local activist, I-126 targets so-called payday loans by restricting the charges on short-term loans to 36 percent per year. (Per the initiative's language, payday lenders are currently charging up to 200 percent.) I-126 would also repeal existing previsions that allow for flat, up-front charges and monthly maintenance fees in addition to interest charges on a loan.

Initiative 153
Colorado voters could choose between two very diverging paths to fund transportation projects in November. Initiative 153 would increase the state sales tax rate by .62 percent for twenty years, starting January 1, 2019, to fund such projects. I-153 is backed by large business groups, including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Initiative 167
I-167, on the other hand, is favored by conservatives, as it wouldn't raise taxes and would instead rely on $3.5 billion in "revenue anticipation notes," aka bonds, to fix roads and bridges. "If all our ballot measure does is contrast the [Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce's] massive tax increase and they both fail, I consider that a wonderful victory as well,” Independence Institute president Jon Caldara says of what's known as "Fix the Damn Roads."

Initiative 173
Billed as a "campaign finance reform" measure, I-173 would allow candidates for statewide office to increase their contribution limits if their opponents contribute more than $1 million to their own campaigns. Proposed by a former Republican state lawmaker, I-173 wouldn't pass in time to impact the state's current gubernatorial race, in which Democratic challenger Jared Polis has contributed millions of his own funds, but could impact the campaigns of future wealthy Coloradans.

Initiative 93
As schools across the state struggle with funding cuts — some $6.67 billion since 2009 — the campaign behind I-93 is hoping voters will be more sympathetic than lawmakers. I-93 would raise the state income tax for the top 8 percent of earners to fund full-day kindergarten and increase public-school funding. It's designed to amend the state constitution, which means its backers had to jump higher hurdles, gathering signatures from at least 2 percent of voters in all of Colorado's 35 Senate districts,

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