Initiative reform is an annual issue in the legislature. Voters rejected Referendum O in 2008. While Ref. O contained some good elements to incentivize the statutory initiative process, the changes intended to discourage constitutional amendments were too onerous and would have had unintended consequences. First, Ref. O would have changed the deadline to submit proposed constitutional amendments, making it more difficult for organizations to be responsive to the action (or inaction) of the legislative process. Second, Ref. O was anti-democratic because it established geographic signature requirements, allowing one part of the state to become a gatekeeper and prevent proposals from advancing, even if there is strong support elsewhere. The real impact of Ref. O would have been to establish onerous requirements that discourage grassroots groups from using the initiative process while doing nothing to stop well-funded, often out-of-state, special interests from amending the Constitution.
The problem with Colorado’s current process is not that it is too easy to amend the Constitution, but rather that there is no incentive for groups to go the statutory route. Given the nature of the initiative process, which is to deal with issues that elected officials will not, it is not surprising that many groups choose to run constitutional amendments. In 1996, Colorado Common Cause tried to limit campaign contributions by initiating a statutory measure. While the measure passed, the next year it was gutted by the legislature and forced us to return to the ballot with a constitutional amendment in 2002.