A televised debate on Oct. 6 laid out arguments for and against the statewide ballot questions that Colorado voters will begin deciding on this month.
The debate, sponsored by KUSA-TV, allowed advocates to argue their positions on the four ballot …
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The debate, sponsored by KUSA-TV, allowed advocates to argue their positions on the four ballot questions, beginning with the two measures that would alter the state's Constitution.
Amendment 67 is this year's version of the so-called “personhood” amendment, which would create legal protections for the unborn and would essentially ban abortion in the state.
If passed, the measure would change the state's criminal code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act to include unborn human beings.
Supporters say the measure protects pregnant women and their unborn children from harm, but opponents argue the effort goes too far.
“They say it's about protecting pregnant women, and in fact, it is not,” said Cathy Alderman of the group No on 67. “It would ban abortion in all cases.”
There is no legal or medical definition of the term “unborn human being,” so Amendment 67 could end up providing legal protections for fertilized eggs, supporters have said. And that could impact the availability of abortions and birth control.
Alderman said the changes to the criminal code could result in women and doctors being investigated for miscarriages.
Supporters of Amendment 67 were not there to make their case. Similar personhood efforts have failed at the ballot box, going back to 2008.
The other proposed constitutional amendment on this year's ballot, Amendment 68, would allow casino-style gambling at the Arapahoe Park racetrack along the eastern fringe of Aurora, with new gaming tax revenue going toward K-12 education.
Supporters say the measure would bring in $114.5 million in public and charter school funding. Supporters say schools could use the funding and it's a great way to obtain the money without raising taxes.
But opponents say the effort would hurt mountain town casinos — which would depress the already-existing gaming tax revenues collected there — and would create casino-style gambling in communities that may not even want it there.
Katy Atkinson, who opposes the measure, cited several education advocacy groups that oppose Amendment 68.
She also said it is telling that Congressman Mike Coffman and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff — two rivals locked in a heated 6th Congressional District race and who would represent the area where the racetrack sits — agree in their opposition to the measure.
“So, candidates who do not agree on much agree that this one's a bad idea,” Atkinson said.
But Becky Brooks of Yes on 68 said 20,000 people in Aurora signed the petition to get the measure on the ballot and that hundreds of teachers statewide are backing the effort.
“So, to make a broad statement that this is not wanted by the people around there is just untrue,” Brooks said.
Meanwhile, Proposition 104 would require school boards to negotiate collective bargaining agreements in open meetings.
Supporters say the public has a right to know how their local schools districts are spending their money and that the measure provides greater oversight of government spending.
“The goal is simply to provide transparency because it's the basis of good government,” said former state Rep. BJ Nikkel, a Republican.
But Tyler Chafee, an opponent, said he the ballot language “could apply to every single conversation that administrator has with a member of a teacher organization.” He also cautioned that school districts could end up seeing a spike in legal fees over confidentiality issues.
“If it passes I think there are a number of things or consequences that we may not think of,” Chafee said.
The broadcast closed with a debate over Proposition 105, which would require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms.
GMOs are found in the vast majority of common food crops, such as soybeans, corn and canola. The scientific consensus is that GMO-based foods are currently not harmful to the public's health or the environment.
But supporters say that consumers have a right to know what's in their foods and can make better choices about what their families consume if they know what's in the foods they eat.
Robyn O'Brien, a 105 backer, said there have been no long-term health studies on GMO-based foods.
“So the industry can say there's no evidence of harm when in actuality there is no long-term evidence,” she said.
But opponents said the ballot measure presents a number of issues. They say the measure would result in higher food costs and that the labeling could be taken by consumers to mean that the food is unsafe, causing unnecessary concern for food they've probably been eating for years anyway.
Opponents also take issue with the fact that 105 allows for exemptions for several food products like animal feed, gum, alcohol, cheese and restaurant meals.
Dietitian Mary Lee Kim said if a consumer goes into a grocery store for a frozen pizza, the pizza would require labeling. But if the store cooked that same pizza on site and it was eaten there by the consumer, no label would be required.
“So, how is that consistent?” Kim said. “It doesn't offer the consumer any good, reliable information.”
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