CHEYENNE—In a total reversal of ruby red Wyoming, neighboring Colorado voters embraced the Democratic blue wave in the general election.
In Colorado, Democrats now control the state Senate and maintained control of the state House of Representatives.
Democrat Jared Polis won the governorship to become the first openly gay governor in U.S. history. Voters also voted in Democrats for attorney general and secretary of state.
The Democratic party in Colorado now has the same trifecta of power that Wyoming Republicans have enjoyed for years. It is amazing that two states that share a border can be so markedly different politically and culturally.
The difference extends to the election laws. Colorado law makes ballot access relatively easy compared to Wyoming’s, which is notoriously difficult.
The neighbor state allows citizen-initiated ballot questions to change the state Constitution; Wyoming does not.
Wyoming allows only legislatively referred constitutional amendments to appear on the ballot.
In the 2018 general election, Colorado voters had more than a dozen ballot questions to approve or deny; Wyoming had no statewide ballot issues.
Because of the Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) adopted in 1992 and modified in 2006, voters must approve tax increases above the amount allowed for inflation and population growth.
In the 2018 legislative session in Wyoming, Rep. Chuck Gray of Casper sponsored a TABOR-type bill for Wyoming, but it was not considered in the short budget session.
It is likely to pop up again next year in the Legisature’s general and budget session.
In 2016, the Colorado General Assembly, perhaps alarmed by the number of constitutional amendments that were approved, raised the voting requirements for passage to 55 percent of votes cast rather than a simple majority.
About half the issues on the ballot this year were passed by voters.
The ballot initiative of most interest to Wyoming would have required new oil and gas and fracking projects to be set back at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings. Current limits in Colorado are 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.
The proposal, known as Proposition 112, was supported by environmentalists and opposed vigorously by oil and gas companies.
It was a costly campaign totaling about $33 million. Of that total, opponents spent $31.7 million while supporters paid out $1.6 million, including $567,000 to collect the 98,492 signatures needed to get the question on the general election ballot.
Colorado voters also said no to a related proposal, Amendment 74. This initiative would have changed the state constitution to let property owners sue local governments over regulations, such as new drilling rules, if those measures lowered property values or reduced revenue for landowners.
This campaign on Amendment 74 cost more than $19 million, with $11 million from the supporters and $8 million from opponents.
The influence of the TABOR amendment was manifest in the failure of a handful of tax and spending proposals.
Colorado, like Wyoming, is facing difficulty finding enough money for education.
Colorado voters didn’t help when they rejected an amendment to increase the state income tax to raise money exclusively for pre-primary and secondary education.
They also rejected two companion highway construction proposals.
One would have authorized the state to bond up to $3.5 billion for highway and bridge projects. The second would increase the sales tax to pay off the highway construction bonds.
Colorado voters also rejected an amendment to expand campaign fund limits. It would have allowed candidates to collect five times the amount of individual contributions allowed when another candidate in the same election loans or contributes at least one million dollars to his or her own campaign.
Voters felt 25 is young enough as the minimum age requirement to serve in the Colorado Assembly. The failed amendment would have reduced the requirement to 21.
One amendment that gained a supermajority vote corrects an embarrassing earlier omission. The change removes language in the Colorado constitution that said slavery and involuntary servitude are allowable for punishment of a crime.
Another proposal that passed lowers the finance charges on payday loans to no more than 36 percent of the annual percentage.
Two separate amendments were adopted to create independent commissions for congressional and General Assembly redistricting to amend and approve district maps drawn by nonpartisan staffs.
The idea is to get politics out of the post-census redistricting task.