Bravo for ballot issues

(John Andrews in the Denver Post, Sept. 17) “Why, John Andrews! You don’t like government.” The scolding words came from Gov. Roy Romer. It was 1990, and I was the Republican nominee debating the Democratic incumbent. To emphasize my freedom agenda, I had begun urging a vote for "Andrews and the Amendments," namely TABOR and term limits. The liberal Romer pounced on this as proof of his conservative challenger’s unfitness, and sure enough, he won big on election day. But term limits won even bigger, and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights just missed winning, coming back for a victory in 1992. Both are still with us and popular. So if liking those reforms equates to not liking government, this columnist is not alone in the sentiment.

Let’s be clear. I accept and respect government. I recognize the need for a political order to protect and restrain all of us as unruly human beings, deficient in self-discipline. But precisely because of my skepticism about fallen humanity, I have little liking for government as such, little trust in its fearsome monopoly of power.

Liberals do feel affection and affinity for government. They center their hopes on what it can do for people. We conservatives worry more about what it can do TO people. We cherish our American form of government, the best on earth, limited and directed by consent of the governed. Our hopes, though, are centered on what freely choosing individuals and private, voluntary institutions can do for themselves, under God.

Coloradans this year face another ballot crowded with amendments and referendums. Some believe we have too much of this voter participation in changing the constitution and laws, whether proposed by the legislature or by citizens’ petition. Not me. Distrusting political insiders and centralized power means welcoming a brake (or accelerator) on the process from we the people – and I do.

No matter which candidate you like for governor, or which party you want running the legislature, these ballot issues are your chance to alter the playing field on which November’s winning candidates will suit up next January. “All political power is vested in and derived from the people,” proclaims the Colorado constitution. Never let the insiders talk you out of exercising your share.

Our state is fortunate, for example, that government must always seek voter approval of taxes or debt, under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Those who claim TABOR is dead, just because state refunds were waived till 2011 by last year’s Referendum C, are talking moonshine. Your permission for key fiscal decisions will be requested on many local ballots this fall. Lots of other states envy us that.

As for the statewide ballot, 15 measures large and small await our action. Much like Senate bills in the past, my vote is an easy call on some of them, a tougher decision on others. Here’s my scorecard so far:

Strengthening consent of the governed: Yes on Amendment 38, safeguarding your petition rights and restraining legislative overreach. Yes on Amendment 40, putting term limits on high-ranking judges.

Making illegal aliens less welcome: The state Supreme Court robbed us of voting on the main issue here. But I’ll vote Yes on Referendum H, a tax hammer over employers who cheat, and Yes on Referendum K, a state lawsuit demanding tougher federal enforcement.

Affirming traditional marriage: Yes on Amendment 43, putting into the constitution a one man-one woman statute we passed in 2000.

Maximizing education dollars in the classroom: Yes on Amendment 39, so at least 65 cents on the dollar gets spent where teachers face kids. No on Referendum J, a bogus alternative from teacher unions.

Easing the property-tax burden on disabled veterans: Yes on Referendum E, absolutely.

Protecting jobs for minorities and youth: No on Amendment 42, a minimum wage hike that would lessen entry-level opportunities by boosting labor costs 30%.

Nixing nutty ideas: No on Amendment 41, unless you want to chill normal dialogue between public officials and the public. No on Amendment 44, unless you want to make Colorado a marijuana mecca.

The remaining loose ends I’ll happily tie up in a future column, for I do indeed love politics. It’s just government I’m not crazy about.