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Ballot measure petitions are due Aug. 6. Who’s asking for your John Hancock?

Author: Marianne Goodland - July 25, 2018 - Updated: August 9, 2018

initiativesIn this Oct. 23, 2015 file photo, volunteers help deliver petition signatures to put a health care question on the 2016 Colorado ballot. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Aug. 6 is the final day for turning in petition signatures that could put some ballot questions on the November general election ballot.

There are 23 approved petitions, although many are duplicates and not all are out for signatures. Another ballot measure — one that seeks $1.6 billion for in higher taxes for K-12 education — was turned in to the Secretary of State’s office on July 11 and is awaiting certification.

Some of the ballot measures seek to change state law (statutory); others want to change the state Constitution. Those latter proposals will need to collect signatures in all 35 of Colorado’s state senate districts, with at least 2 percent of residents in each senate district signing the petitions. Each ballot measure needs a minimum of 98,492 signatures, although conventional wisdom is to come in with at least 50 percent above that to cover any petition or signature errors.

The November ballot already has six referred measures sent by the General Assembly. They deal with issues such as lowering the minimum age for a legislator from 25 to 21; removing “slavery” from the state constitution, a measure that narrowly failed two years ago; removing “industrial hemp” from the state constitution and placing it into statute; and two measures to create independent commissions that would redraw congressional and legislative maps after the 2020 census.

So which measures are still out there?



Probably the biggest battle for your attention during the fall campaign season will center around two ballot questions, both dealing with transportation funding but in different ways.

The state Department of Transportation says it will cost $9 billion over the next decade to catch up on maintenance and repairs on the state’s roads and bridges.

Ballot measure: Initiative #153, statutory

Backers: Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Contractors’ Association

Initiative 153 is the ballot measure tied to Senate Bill 1, passed during the 2018 legislative session. That bill, which was signed into law on May 31, provides $495 million from the 2018-19 budget for transportation projects. The ballot measure would continue the funding, seeking a 0.62 percent tax increase or 6.2 cents on a $10 purchase. That could provide funding to cover up to $6 billion in bonding for road and bridge repairs around the state.

The issue committee tied to the proposal — Coloradans for Coloradans — has already raised $1.37 million to get the initiative onto the November ballot. The construction industry has been the biggest contributor, at $693,000.

Eight different petition firms are collecting signatures for initiative #153.

Ballot measure: Initiative 167, with the catchy title of “Fix Our Damn Roads,” statutory

Backer: the Independence Institute, which doesn’t divulge its funding sources. The initiative would use existing state revenues to pay for $3.5 billion in bonds for road projects.

The issue committee that’s paying for the initiative has so far raised $208,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, all of it from the Independence Institute.

Three petition firms, including two that are also working to gather signatures for its competitor initiative, #153, are collecting signatures for this measure.



Ballot measure: Initiative #173, constitutional

Backer: Former state Rep. BJ Nikkel of Loveland and former state Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray. How they’re paying for a statewide signature push is unknown, but some petition gatherers who are collecting signatures for “Fix Our Damn Roads” are also collecting signatures for this proposal.

What it does: limits candidates from spending more than $1 million of their own money for their campaigns. It’s an anti-Jared Polis measure, according to Nikkel, who also won’t divulge who’s paying for the petition process.



There are competing ballot measures that either back the oil and gas industry or are fighting against it.

Ballot measure: Initiatives 108, constitutional, seeks just compensation when a property, such as oil and gas or mineral revenues, are taken from an owner by a state or local government.

Backer: Colorado Farm Bureau. Chad Vorthmann, vice president for Colorado Farm Bureau, said the initiative is in response “to the tightening of setbacks on oil and gas development, including fracking.” The issue committee supporting the petition process, Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage, was formed just a month ago and has not yet reported any contributions. Five petition firms are collecting signatures for this proposal.

Ballot measure: Initiative #97, statutory, to create a setback of 2,500 feet from occupied structures or other “vulnerable areas” for new oil and gas operations.

Backer: Colorado Rising. Up until recently, the group had four petition firms collecting signatures, including 350 Action, Food and Water Watch and Direct Action Partners (DAP). But DAP shuttered its offices last week and left some of its employees unpaid.

Colorado Rising has so far raised about $270,000 for its petition effort, with $140,000 coming from Food and Water Watch Action Fund of Washington, D.C., a 501(c)4 whose past donors include foundations and “donor-advised funds.”

The committee also got $25,000 from Lush Cosmetics, which is based in Canada.

Ballot measure: Initiative #178, constitutional, to enshrine oil and gas development regulations in the state constitution.

Backer: John Brackney of Webolutions, formerly CEO of the South Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Three petition firms are collecting signatures for this measure.



Ballot measure: Initiative  #126, statutory, to cap finance charges on payday loans at 36 percent.

Backer: Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the Bell Policy Center. But the initiative’s issue committee — Coloradans to Stop Predatory Payday Loans — is collecting big dollars from a low-profile non-profit from Washington D.C. that has been here before. Sixteen Thirty Fund was active in the 2013 recall election, funding an attempt to stop the recalls of state Sen. Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse.

Sixteen Thirty has contributed $841,000 out of the total $866,000 raised by the committee. As a 501(c)4, its funders don’t have to be disclosed, although known donors include the AFL-CIO and the National Education Association. Three petition firms have been hired to collect signatures for this measure.



Ballot measure: Initiative #164, statutory, to ban the use of smartphones by those under the age of 13. This ballot measure got a lot of attention when it was filed last year, but no issue committee has been formed to finance a petition process and no petition firms are collecting signatures for it.

Backer: Parents Against Underage Smartphones, started by anesthesiologist Tim Farnum of Sheridan. Farnum did not return a call on the status of the ballot measure.


Then there are the measures that didn’t quite make it to the finish line.

Ballot measure: Initiative 146, statutory, on transparency in healthcare billing.

Backer:, which was started by Denver author and strategist David Silverstein after growing frustrated with medical bills that he claims didn’t cover enough information about the services provided. But backer Andrew Graham told Colorado Politics this week the measure won’t be on the ballot because of fundraising issues. The issue committee supporting the measure raised a total of $264,000, with $95,000 coming from Silverstein.


Ballot measure: Initiative #169, statutory, to require state and local governments to comply with federal immigration law, aka an anti-sanctuary city measure.

Backer: former U.S. Rep. and failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, who told Colorado Politics that by the time the measure won approval from the Colorado Supreme Court on June 8, there wasn’t enough time to mount a petition campaign.


Ballot measure: Initiative #53, statutory, to require fines collected by state and local governments to be turned over to non-profits.

Backer: Steve Kerbel. The measure expired on March 29 without petitions being turned in.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.