It has been clear since the ‘90s that the Colorado initiative process is a disaster. The original idea was that citizens could counter the big rail and mining industry’s stranglehold on the Colorado State Legislature. Now, however, eccentrics, extremists, out-of-state special interests and a host of well-meaning dilettantes are taking their pet projects into the petition process. There are already more than 100 petitions for initiatives filed. And, some observers believe it could exceed the record 145 in 2014.
It is, of course, still useful to have a citizen process to take on a gridlocked state legislature or a state government being held hostage by some special interest, but the volume and the bizarre and extreme nature of some recent initiatives, often deceptively described in ballot language, needs to be constrained.
There are already several initiatives filed to tighten the initiative process. It’s not easy changing the status quo, given the simple lack of trust in government that dominates so much of our public decision-making. Fortunately, good luck and skeptical voters have stopped many of the worst ideas. It should be pointed out that out of the 145 initiatives filed in 2014, only four made the ballot and voters only approved one. But Colorado’s luck will run out one of these election cycles.