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Haven’t voted yet? Our guide to Colorado’s 2021 election

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A Colorado voter drops their ballot off at a ballot box. (KDVR)

DENVER (KDVR) — Chances are you haven’t returned your ballot yet, unless you’re part of the 3% in Denver that already has. With Election Day next Tuesday, our team has you covered on the issues you’ll see in your ballot.

Statewide initiatives

The proposals this year deal with three main things: state money, marijuana sales taxes and property taxes.

Amendment 78: Spending state money

The first item on this year’s ballot is Amendment 78.

It would give state lawmakers a say in how state money outside of the budget is spent, rather than going through the state treasury. It would open the door for public hearings to be held on the state spending custodial money.

“The biggest example is COVID money,” said Michael Fields of Colorado Rising Action. “The governor spent $1.6 billion of COVID money without the approval of the legislature. When you look at how we spent it, a lot of it was on education. You can agree with how we spent it, but the fact that he was able to do that without that input from legislators, there was a lot of push back from legislators at that time.”

It requires 55% of the vote to pass.

Proposition 119: Increase marijuana taxes

Up next is yet another proposal about pot.

Through Proposition 119, supporters want to see a 5% increase in marijuana sales taxes by 2024 to fund $137.6 million toward school learning programs. It would also create a separate state agency to manage the program.

Opponents say that is unnecessary, saying the state Department of Education is already receiving marijuana tax dollars and federal aid to help with learning losses from COVID.

“If this Proposition 119 wins, the money would go directly to this independent agency without the oversight like [the Colorado Department of Education] has, and it would be used to contract with private providers, and those providers would be certified by this unelected board,” said Judy Solano with the No on Prop 119 campaign.

It requires a simple majority vote to pass.

Proposition 120: Reduce some property taxes

The last measure, Proposition 120, deals with property taxes.

Supporters want to reduce rates for multifamily housing and lodging properties by more than $1 billion overall statewide, but thanks to a bill passed at the Capitol this year, supporters think it could end up in a legal battle if enough voters say yes.

“By passing SB21-293, they said: ‘We’re going to do a temporary cut for right now, we’re going to change some definitions around and say that your ballot issue applies to multifamily or lodging.’ Which were totally made-up categories by them, not us citizens bringing forward this initiative,” Fields said.

The legal battle over that language would happen after the election. Voters have until Nov. 2 to turn those ballots in.

It requires a simple majority vote to pass.

Denver ballot initiatives

Denver voters will see a number of issues on their ballots, including marijuana sales tax increases for pandemic research, provisions concerning the Park Hill golf course, unauthorized camping and more.

Measures 2A-2E: $450 million bond package

Voters will decide the fate of a series of future development projects in the city of Denver with an overall price tag of $450 million. If the package advances, it would finance more than 80 projects addressing city facilities, housing and sheltering, transportation and parks and recreation.

Transportation projects would close six miles of sidewalk gaps, create another 16 miles of bike lanes and address transportation safety in neighborhoods.

City facilities could get maintenance and upgrades, including a new $160 million arena at the National Western Center. The city would build and expand libraries in the “unserved and underserved” neighborhoods of Westwood, Globeville and Hampden.

Parks and recreation projects would include new playgrounds, athletic fields and public restrooms, along with some reconstructions and renovations.

Housing and shelter projects would include $30 million for a new homeless shelter and $7.4 million to buy the 48th Avenue Shelter operated by Denver Rescue Mission.

Measure 2F: Residential living

Earlier this year, Denver City Council passed an ordinance to expand the number of unrelated adults who can live together under one roof. Their goal was to help service settings like nursing homes and shelters, but opponents of the ordinance fear it has unintended consequences that could lead to a big shake-up in the city’s landscape. So, they decided to put forward a referendum to repeal that option on this year’s ballot.

“Our council passed an ordinance in February called the group living ordinance to expand housing options to allow unrelated adults to share the cost of housing, to make it a little easier to do care for our seniors, for those with disabilities and others who need a little special help,” said Denver At-Large City and County Councilwoman Robin Kniech.

If 2F gets enough “yes” votes, there would be a waiting period before the city council could revisit the issue. Supporters said that would give the council more time to come up with a better solution while opponents argue it could kick out people who moved into multi-family households earlier this year after it passed.

Measure 2G: Citizen oversight board powers

This charter change would allow the citizen oversight board in Denver to appoint the independent monitor with the consent of city council. Currently, the mayor appoints the independent monitor.

Measure 2H: Move general election

Currently, general election day in Denver is the first Tuesday in May of odd-numbered years. This provision would move that date up to the first Tuesday in April for mayor and city council elections.

Initiative 300: Marijuana tax for pandemic research

This initiative would increase marijuana sales taxes by $7 million per year starting at the beginning of 2022. The money would go towards “pandemic research for advanced technologies” to try and stop the spread of airborne viruses in places like schools, businesses and hospitals.

The money would go to the University of Colorado Denver CityCenter for research in areas like personal protective equipment, sterilization and disinfection and design features for physical spaces.

Initiatives 301-302: Park Hill Golf Course

Two measures dealing with conservation easements will be on Denver’s ballot this year.

The easements are open spaces, preserved and protected by the City of Denver – 155 acres of land at Park Hill Golf Course is under this buffer.

One measure is asking voters around the city to allow the public to decide if the property can be developed in the open space.

The other wants to give voters the power to remove the protection of an easement on the property.

The course has been a staple in the community for decades. Supporters on both sides of the argument say the way Denver votes will determine its future.

Initiative 303: Unauthorized camping

An initiative on this year’s ballot wants to speed up the time it takes the city to clean up street corners and call in private enforcement if the city will not get it done in a timely fashion.

But that initiative is now facing major pushback from the city. The Denver City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit over one portion of the initiative they say violates a federal order. The lead proponent of the initiative thinks there is more to the lawsuit than that.

“First of all, I think this is absolutely ridiculous. Let’s start with that,” said lead proponent on Denver ballot initiative 303, Garrett Flicker. He is questioning the timing of a lawsuit from the city against a part of his ballot initiative.

The complaint filed in Denver District Court is against the provision in the measure that reads: “The initiative allows for the filing of complaints with the city and then requires the city to take enforcement action within 72 hours.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said that cannot happen because of a court order.

“Must move in within 72 hours when you see a tent, well absolutely — we want to move within 72 hours. But we are under a federal court order which says you must give a 7-day notice before you clean up an encampment. So it would violate federal law almost immediately,” Hancock said in an interview with FOX31.

Initiative 304: Sales tax reduction

Voters could reduce Denver’s sales tax rates if they vote “yes” on initiative 304.

“It’s been a massive tax increase in recent times,” Independence Institute Director of Fiscal Policy Ben Murrey said. “(Initiative 304) would decrease (sales tax rates) by about 6% from where it is now. So we’ve had a 32% increase in three years and they’re asking, ‘Hey why don’t we lower it down 6% from its current level?’ I don’t think that’s radical.”

The tax cut would likely derail the city’s budget, with a shortfall in revenue that would instead stay inside Denver taxpayer pockets.

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