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Feb 20, 2011 6:52 PM by Matt Stafford

Legislators debate changing the state constitution, again

With the current rules, Colorado is one of the easiest states in the country to change its constitution. Colorado's state constitution has changed 81 times in the last 44 years; however, lawmakers are making another push to changes that.

"Most of those changes have happened in the last 20 years," explains Sen. John Morse, a Democrat from Colorado Springs Senate District 11. He says the constitution should be more stable and we should be making changes in our statutes instead.

Lawmakers tried a similar attempt in 2008 -- Referendum O -- but it didn't pass. However, Morse thinks there's momentum for it this year; he's co-sponsoring Senate Concurrent Resolution 1.

SCR 1 would make some changes to make the initiative process more stringent, like:

   *Requiring that 70 percent of signatures to get an initiative on a ballot be gathered equally from across the state.

   *Increasing the amount of votes needed when those proposed constitutional changes go to the voters; from 50 percent to 60.

   *Making it more difficult to a change a citizen-initiated law by requiring two-thirds approval of the House and Senate; instead of just a majority as it is now.

"I'm not suggesting that we do away with the initiative process; I'm suggesting we make it thoughtful instead of ridiculous," says Sen. Morse. He's concerned that because Colorado's constitution is so easy to change, outside interest groups use it as a test to see if policies will pass.

"We're having to spend so much money, on both side of whatever issue, just to try to keep things stable in Colorado," explains Sen. Morse.

However, Senator Kent Lambert, a Republican from Colorado Springs Senate District 9, sees it differently. His view comes straight from the constitution itself.

"It says (Article V, Section 1) the first power hereby reserved for the people is the initiative," Sen. Lambert reads from his copy of the constitution.

"The reason we have an initiative in Colorado is to balance the power of the legislature with the power of the people," Lambert says, explaining his view. "We're going away from majority rule in the state of Colorado if you support SCR 1."

"I think really the opposite is true," says Sen. Morse. He believes the vote of someone's legislator has more pull than a singular vote at the polls.

If the resolution makes it through the legislature, state-wide voters will make the final decision.

SCR 1 passed a vote in the Senate on Friday, and then it's scheduled to come up again for a 3rd reading Monday. If it passes in the House too, voters will get a chance to choose for themselves next year.

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