GMO labeling proposal could join Personhood, racetrack casinos on ballot

The last of the petitions pushing citizens initiatives were delivered to Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office last Monday. In the coming weeks, Gessler and his staff will determine which campaigns gathered the 86,105 valid signatures required to get their proposals on the ballot. After a busy season that saw dozens of meastures proposed and then pulled -- including four at the last minute in a controversial fracking compromise -- what's left?

See also: Election Activists Have Some Primary Problems with Colorado's System

Already qualifying for the ballot is Amendment 67, or "Brady's Bill," the third personhood amendment that Personhood USA has been able to get on a Colorado ballot -- although the two previous attempts were soundly defeated by voters. If passed this time, the wording of the Colorado Constitution would be changed to define unborn babies as people.

Amendment 68, formerly Initiative 135, has also made the ballot. It would legalize gambling facilities at horse racetracks. These gaming facilities would then be highly taxed and that money put into an education fund. Proponents of the bill say they expect it to raise several million dollars from just one casino at Arapahoe Park racetrack; opponents counters that supporters are just using education as an excuse for expanding gambling.

In a quick turn of events on August 4, the final day to submit signatures, Representative Jared Polis pulled his endorsement of initiatives 88 and 89 and joined Governor Hickenlooper to announce the establishment of a Blue Ribbon task force to address issues raised by opponents in regard to oil and gas companies operating in Colorado. Anti-fracking 88 and 89, as well as pro-fracking 121 and 137, were all withdrawn.

Only two more initiatives could still make the ballot. Right to Know Colorado, the grassroots campaign behind Initiative 48, which calls for mandatory GMO labeling, turned in more than 167,000 signatures. GMO labeling is already on the ballot in Oregon this year, and if it makes Colorado's ballot, it could be the year's biggest fight.

Less flashy is Initiative 124, which would call for open school-board meetings when collective bargaining is discussed by members of the board and employee representatives. The campaign turned in more than 127,000 signatures the Friday before the final deadline.

Many campaigns didn't have the time, money or manpower to collect the required signatures but promise to try again. Randy Shafer, a proponent of Initiative 111, which would have changed how the Colorado Legislature seats are apportioned, says the campaign plans to take the next two years to create a better network.

Chris Forsyth, the main proponent of initiatives 79 and 94, says a fundraising campaign has already been started to finance another try in two years. Both proposals addressed the way Colorado courts currently operate. Supporters had tried a mail-in campaign to collect the signatures; next time, they'll use the more standard system of having volunteers collect the signatures, Forsyth says.

Frank Atwood, a proponent of initiative 106, which would have introduced Yes or No voting, says the idea will likely be back in 2016 -- but it may morph into something simpler, such as approval voting. Atwood says he was pleased with how many volunteers from different party affiliations were involved in the project, including those affiliated with the mainstream parties as well as the Green Party.

For more information on the November 4 ballot, go to the Colorado Secretary of State's website.

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Jamie Swinnerton
Contact: Jamie Swinnerton