From marijuana decriminalization to new taxes, voters were surprisingly open to change in the Nov. 6 election. Below, we take some of the biggest measures that passed and ask stakeholders what comes next.
The first thing to come after the passage of Amendment 64, the story went, was for Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign it within 30 days. But the governor had other ideas.
He and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers spoke with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday, seeking more clarity on the federal reaction. Here's a statement regarding the 11-minute call from Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown, as reported in Westword: "Everyone shared a sense of urgency and agreed to continue talking about the issue."
While that's nice, it doesn't help people waiting to grow their six plants (three flowering) or to possess their ounce of cannabis. And it really doesn't help state legislators who are charged, along with the Department of Revenue, with creating regulations for that new industry. And it truly doesn't help entrepreneurs trying to figure out whether to jump into the retail-marijuana game when it becomes an option in 2014.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. For now, basic legality is the question. It's one that the 4th Judicial District is sorting out (see CannaBiz, here) even as the U.S. Attorney's Office for Colorado does the same. The latter has issued a statement saying that while its enforcement of the federal Controlled Substances Act will be unchanged, it's "reviewing the ballot initiative and [has] no additional comment at this time."
Next on the ballot but topically a world away, Amendment 65 instructed "Colorado's congressional delegation to propose and support ... an amendment to the United States constitution that allows congress and the states to limit campaign contributions and spending." The ballot initiative passed with 73 percent support that came from across party lines and all sectors of the state, notes Elena Nunez with Colorado Common Cause.
"This is the first step in what will be a long-term effort to stand up to big money in politics," says Nunez. "The fact Colorado voters said that this is important provides us important leverage with the delegation to advance a constitutional amendment. The many groups that came together in support of Amendment 65 will be working to request that of the delegation and hold them accountable."
When it comes to the extension of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority dedicated sales tax, the PPRTA board has a little time to figure out its next step: The .55-cent tax won't go into effect until January 2014, when the first version of the tax expires. Between now and then, El Paso County Commissioner and board member Sallie Clark says, she and colleagues will work on establishing a pecking order for priority projects to be funded by the tax, which won by a 4-to-1 margin.
In general, Clark says, the board looks at how much money PPRTA has (if sales tax returns are low, smaller projects might be preferable), member governments' preferences, safety concerns, whether a given project is "shovel-ready," and whether a project has other funding to offset costs.
The stretch of West Colorado Avenue known as "No Man's Land" will likely be among the first projects, because there are safety concerns; it's expected to be ready to go by 2014; and several member governments list it as a top priority and are willing to pitch in money.
By last Friday, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa had already spent two days drafting job postings made possible by County Issue 1A. Those postings will lead to the hiring of 130 sworn personnel for patrol and the Criminal Justice Center.
A 22-week academy begins in January with 35 to 40 hopefuls. Meanwhile, Maketa will run a parallel track to hire officers from other departments; they'll undergo a four- to five-week academy before hitting the streets. Thirty new detention deputies will be on the job by summer or next fall, he says, and by summer the normal patrol of seven to nine officers per shift will swell to 10 to 12.
Other spending won't be as visible but is crucial to safely running the jail, such as installation of a new camera system and dishwasher.
Maketa says he fashioned 1A, through which a .0023 percent sales tax will raise $17 million annually, based on criticism of a 1-percent sales tax proposal in 2008 that failed. He was specific about how the money would be spent, isolated it to the Sheriff's Office alone and limited its duration to eight years.
Maketa has also vowed to report progress to voters, and says he'll issue progress reports, periodically announcing hires and purchases made with the new tax money.
Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder says Manitoids will see benefits in early 2013 from the Manitou library joining the Pikes Peak Library District via Issue 2B. For one thing, they'll be allowed to access all of PPLD's databases online. Another bonus: Manitoids will be able to order materials from PPLD and pick them up at their hometown library.
Issue 2C, also approved, will allow the city to keep about $370,000 in excess tax funds, collected for a park project, to spend on its parks. Snyder expects a chunk of the money will be used to finish the master plan for Soda Springs Park. The city will likely launch a public process to decide on changes for the busy park's stage area, which has attracted vandals, homeless people and drug users, but nevertheless remains a popular amenity.
Security Fire Protection District's property tax increase of 3.325 mills, which will raise about $550,000 annually, will fund the addition of nine paid firefighters. That means fire companies will respond with two paid firefighters instead of just one, along with a volunteer most of the time, says Chief Ski Stambaugh: "Our goal is to have three people on a truck."
The nearly 2-to-1 vote will allow him to have new personnel hired as early as March.
A similar majority approved Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District's 3-mill property tax increase, which will bring in more than $1 million a year. About half the money will reinstate operational spending previously cut during the recession, such as funding for training, uniforms and personal protective equipment, and maintenance on the district's three stations and seven apparatus, Battalion Chief Bryan Jack says. The operations money also will allow the district to use a federal grant to add six more firefighters to the 36-person force. The other half will go into a capital fund, which was tapped to cover the operational cuts.
For Southwestern Highway 115 Fire Protection District, the nearly 4-to-1 victory of a measure that will raise property taxes by 6 mills will bring in $70,967 per year for salaries and operations.
(The election wasn't as kind to Fountain's proposed 5.25-mill property tax to build, equip and staff a fourth fire station. "Our response times are going to continue to get worse, because we're getting busier and busier," Fire Chief Darin Anstine says. "Without more firefighters and paramedics, everyone is going to feel the impact of us getting busier and not having enough staff.")
Finally, Calhan's 1-percent sales tax to fund maintenance and repair of roads and bridges tax squeaked by — 162 votes to 155 — and will raise roughly $50,000 annually.