Jerry Kopel

Amendment 13, the "Petition Rights" amendment is really "Petition Fraud". You've seen the language before. It was Amendment 12 by Douglas Bruce in 1994 and voters overwhelmingly rejected it.

The right to petition government is in our constitution and has been exercised by the people for eighty-six years. If you've lived in Colorado for a few years you know you can look forward to voting every general election on new laws and constitutional amendments.

Some are put there by the legislature and many by petition. This year eight of the 12 proposals on the ballot got there by petition and without Amendment 13 having been passed.

But the pushers of "13" want to slash and burn the present system.

Sixty days for the secretary of state and the petition opponents to check on whether there are 54,242 valid petition signatures? Cut it to seven days! Thirty possible days for a court hearing? Cut it to 14 and have the time start running even if you don't have a trial date! Use "random sampling" as evidence to spot invalid signatures?

Not under 13!

Put the burden of proving invalidity of signatures on the secretary of state and petition opponents? Too easy. Make them use criminal law even though it's a civil matter. Make them prove "bad" signatures "beyond a reasonable doubt", the standard required to execute or imprison murderers. No place else in civil law is such a standard imposed.

Under "13", the only time you are going to stop petition fraud is if the perpetrators are stupid enough to put down the names in alphabetical order and in the same handwriting.

Pushers of "13" think all government is bad, from the largest to the smallest, from the legislature to that tiny recreation district, all 1,991 "government entities". Any type of non-appropriation "legislative policy" (that's their word) has to wait 91 days before becoming effective, except for nine "policies" per year. If there is a major disaster requiring immediate action, and you have already used up your nine, it's tough luck!

Amendment 13 loves red tape. It sets up time frames around petitions and election dates, so that government, especially local government, cannot move ahead on a project for up to eighteen months. You don't have to toss grenades to stop government. You can smother it in tape.

But Amendment 13 does love your tax money. It forces government to print their petitions, and if the cost is more than one dollar per hundred signature folder, YOU pay for it. If there are lawsuits arising from "13" and plaintiff wins, he or she gets attorney fees and court costs from YOU, even if government wasn't a party to the action.

Worst of all, "13" makes sure your future ballots will be full of more legislative issues. Any statute passed by voters can only be changed by voters, even if its just removing a comma or conforming to a court decision. After March 1, you can't change a petition law or regulation without putting it on the ballot. And worst of all, fraudulent petitions will make it on the ballot.

If you want representative government, a petition system that works, and not a lot of bad luck, vote "No" on "13".

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel