Dead Measures See New Life

Ballot measures dealing with housing growth, oil and gas development return for 2018

A number of measures that didn’t make it through during last year’s ballot initiative process are being resurrected for 2018. 

Impasses on transportation funding continued through the end of the year but will make a return this year from the Denver Metro Chamber as well as the state legislature. 

A handful of initiatives on the oil and gas front are also making their way through the ranks at the moment alongside measures to limit local housing growth and repeal large-capacity ammunition magazine prohibitions. 

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Limit On Local Housing Growth

The initiative aims to taper residential housing growth to 1 percent, starting in 2019 in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld counties. The petition was refiled for the 2018 ballot as a proposition rather than an amendment to the state constitution. 

Propositions can be changed by the state legislature once passed, one aspect proponent and Golden resident Daniel Hayes wasn’t thrilled about.

“If they change something the people voted for, they run the risk of backlash,” he said. 

The petition was filed with the title board last year, but Hayes said that after the passage of Amendment 71, which changed the standard for getting constitutional measures on the ballot by adding a geographic requirement for signatures, meeting those standards became particularly difficult. 

“People didn’t realize they’re giving all the power to the legislature. It takes away the power of the public to legislate,” Hayes said.

A motion for rehearing that alleged the initiative violated the single subject requirement was denied. The proposition is currently before the Colorado Supreme Court.

“We’re watching our quality of life go down,” Hayes said. “You drive through Castle Rock and all you see is Burger Kings and box department stores. Good jobs are created by slower-growing communities.”

Oil and Gas

This measure would increase the severance tax rate, eliminate the property tax credit and cut the stripper well exemption in half in addition to other adjustments. 

Proponents Andrew O’Connor and Mary Henry failed to get an initiative on the ballot last year. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck shareholder Jason Dunn represents the industry on the measure. 

“We’re challenging those measures along the way,” Dunn said. 

In Colorado, oil and gas severance tax is progressive, and the rate increases with the volume of sales. Colorado law exempts stripper well oil production — a well that produces 15 barrels of oil or less a day — from severance tax. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission charges 0.7 to 1.5 percent tax on production. Wyoming collects 6 percent severance tax. 

O’Connor, who announced his campaign for Lafayette City Council a few months ago, cited health concerns for individuals living near oil and gas development and said he is pursuing the measure to preserve the state’s natural resources. 

“They’re getting away with murder,” O’Connor said. “They’re not paying their fair share.”

The initial fiscal impact report on the measure found that next year, it would increase state revenue by $148 million. That number bumps up to $307 million for 2019. 

“That’s money we could really use right now. Part of that money would be used to help people who are affected by oil and gas,” O’Connor said. The measure provides for revenue to fund medical care for individuals whose health has been affected by oil and gas production and all-day kindergarten in Colorado.

The title board approved the measure Thursday. Opposing counsel has seven days to file a motion for rehearing. 

Measure 97 was also submitted to the legislative council last month. The rule would require all new oil and gas development to be at least 2,500 feet from structures.

 The measure seeks to implement buffer zones around occupied and vulnerable areas like homes, schools and hospitals. 

The review and comment hearing was held Thursday and the title was approved.

Transportation

Though some have undoubtedly grown weary of the issue, transportation promises to make a comeback in 2018. Last filing session, several initiatives were put forth concerning bonds and taxes to cover the $9 million deficit for construction costs estimated by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Last year, the Independence Institute and Colorado Contractors Association introduced a handful of petitions on the issue. 

Some aimed to increase the state sales tax, which subjected the initiatives to TABOR regulations, while others advocated for $2.5 million in bonds for road construction and maintenance. 

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, in coalition with 70 other organizations, plans to pursue a ballot initiative on transportation funding this year.

Gun Control

The measure aims to repeal provisions concerning large-capacity ammunition magazines. Since 2013, a person selling, transferring or possessing a large-capacity magazine has been considered a misdemeanor. The statute also makes it a felony to possess these magazines during a felony or crime of violence. 

— Kaley LaQuea

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