by Zach Ogrodny, staff writer
With mid-term elections here, blue books have been distributed statewide, detailing the amendments and propositions to be voted on this fall. Although Blue Books can be incredibly beneficial for voters, the ballots themselves often delineate these propositions with heavy legalese, something that can possibly result in confusion and precariousness. Translating the legal lexicon present throughout can help voters better understand the proposals that will be debated on in the upcoming months.
Colorado ballots host three amendments and nine propositions to be voted on, all concerning a variety of different issues and proposals including additional proposals exclusive to local areas. Although similar and easily misconstrued, amendments and propositions hold different meanings. Propositions are statutory to the state and can be altered, built upon, or even flat out revoked at a later stage, as opposed to amendments which become effective immediately and cannot be reinterpreted. However, since the amendments on this year’s ballot have bipartisan support, the propositions stand out more due to a plethora of reasons regarding relevancy, relatability, and controversy.
Perhaps the most controversial topic on this year’s ballot is Proposition 122, which outlines the proposed structures that would allow legal access to natural psychedelic substances for all persons over the age of 21 in the state of Colorado by late 2024, supported with an additional strive for decriminalization.
In essence, if passed, the distribution and handling of psychedelics dispersed through licensed institutions would be managed by local governments through programs, agencies, and advisory boards to ensure public safety and regulated use.
Unofficial trafficking of the substances would still be constituted as an unlawful offense, however personal production and communal sharing of five psychedelics would be deemed legal.
Legislation would also allow for criminal immunity of authorized users, and in specific instances, permit removal and reduction of criminal penalties related to the use, sale, and possession of natural psychedelics. Offenders who have already completed their sentence would have to petition to the courts to have their criminal record closed. Underage users, if convicted, would be faced with a variety of punishment, ranging from required drug counseling up to a $250 fine.
A proponent that supports the enaction of Proposition 122 is the benefit that it may have on improving mental health, due to the medicinal presence and proven track record of effectiveness from natural psychedelics. The removal of criminal consequences for those over 21 years or older would also decrease the costs of taxpayer money.
Common arguments against the sanctioning of Proposition 122 include the fact that there are no approved therapies that include psychedelics in their methods of approach to treating mental health. Neither does this breakthrough therapy elicit the recommendation or use of psychedelic mushrooms. Negative health fallout may also result due to the doses, frequency of use and specific types of psychedelics that would be utilized during treatment. These substances have also been banned for 50 plus years and the decriminalization of personal use could expand the black-market demand, possibly exposing uninformed users to laces of other potent drugs.
Another easily debatable topic is that of Proposition FF, one that if passed, would provide healthy school meals for all public-school students by the year 2024. The program would be funded by particular households whose annual income is $300,000 or more, by limiting their tax deductions.
Tax deductions would be limited to $12,000 for single tax return fillers and $16,000 for joint tax return fillers, estimated to total up to $100.07 million. The amount of decreased tax deductions would depend on how much each individual household’s claim from federal tax returns. The $100.7 million would be allocated for the purpose to generate healthy school programs, grants, and an increase in wages for those who service school lunches with exclusive state-grown products.
Arguments for Proposition FF is obviously the fact that school children would be able to eat free and healthy meals which would hopefully enhance their abilities in school. Students would not have to feel judged or embarrassed due to not being able to eat like other fellow peers. Also, in a time where costs are high, some families may not be able to afford the cost of preparing breakfast and lunch on a daily basis, so FF would ease the financial burden that many families face.
Those against Proposition FF may cite those who fall into the $300,000 threshold, who may not want to lose out on money that they would typically have if FF is not passed. Especially in a current world where fiscal pressure is extremely demanding, some may rather save or invest the money they receive back from tax deductions. An argument could also be made that the funding of school meals should reside solely on the individual caregivers and not that of the government, especially for those who can easily afford paying for meals. Finally, other opposers may feel that if the state wants to increase funding for schools, then it should be better spent in other regards such as increasing teacher salaries or purchasing more school supplies.
Lastly, Proposition 123, also heavily disputable, aims to dedicate revenue for affordable housing programs, feasible by relocating a portion of annual state income tax. TABOR funds (Taxpayer Bill of Rights), which is basically excess taxpayer money that is distributed back to taxpayers, would be decreased for the development and oversight of programs.
For EVERY individual, a maximum of 0.1% of taxable income would be collected and further dispersed that would total up to an estimated $290 million by the year 2024.
Specific programs include grants and loans for government and non-profit organizations to purchase and preserve land for affordable housing, equity investments, home ownership programs, down payment assistance, addressing homelessness through rental assistance, and more grants to nurture local development projects.
The passing of Proposition 123 would attempt to confront the long withstanding issue that so many Coloradoans endure without raising state tax rates. Housing prices have become too much to handle, and the development of these programs may allow local residents to participate in the real estate market while also remaining in the community that they call home.
Concerns vary, such as the fact that 60% of the money that is distributed would go to developers, possibly encouraging them to exploit the situation to further support their own interests. Another possible concern is that this proposition doesn’t address the root problems of expensive housing and by implementing even more money may disrupt the market even further. The diminishment of TABOR refunds may also turn voters away from voting, “yes” to Proposition 123.
To emphasize, there are 3 more amendments and 6 more propositions that will be on the ballot, also including locally exclusive proposals that deserve as much attention as the ones explored in this article. That being said, the hope is that by fully understanding the more complex, eye-catching issues defined in Proposition 122, FF, and 123, voters will be more encouraged to take part in this year’s Colorado 2022 election ballot to address these hot topics.