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Monkey Business

Majority rule

The government is merely a servant – merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. – Mark TwainIn August, Ned Lamont defeated incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. The news media focused on Lieberman’s consistent support of President Bush and the Iraq War as the main reason for his defeat.No matter what their reasons were, the Democrats chose Lamont as their candidate, and Lieberman is ignoring it. He will run as an independent in the senate race. Lieberman is no more of an independent than President Bush or Sen. Ted Kennedy. It’s his way of staying in the game – in my opinion, he’s a sore loser.The Republicans want Lieberman to run as an independent because he lines up with them – on issues other than the war in Iraq.And there is a band of Democrats who apparently believe that loyalty to their colleague outweighs the majority vote of their constituents. The Rocky Mountain News recently called Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar one of a “handful of national Democrats vowing to campaign against the (Connecticut) party’s nominee, Lamont.”What a slap in the face to all voters.It’s obvious that our elected officials think they know what’s best for the masses. It’s a movement toward authoritarianism, and it’s stifling.John Dean, who served as President Nixon’s White House lawyer during the latter days of his term and was among those charged with obstruction of justice during the Watergate scandal, has written a book, “Conservatives without Conscience.” He talks about “conservative authoritarianism,” referencing many of today’s leaders as “conservatives without conscience who are capable of plunging this nation into disasters the likes of which we have never known.”Authoritarians operate on fear-based agendas. Authoritarianism can manifest itself in subtle forms, like Salazar meddling in Connecticut politics, ignoring the wish of the voters. That pompous attitude nationwide is weakening democracy in America, and it is one reason I support legislation that allows citizens more control over government.Coloradoans will vote this fall on an amendment that streamlines the people’s right to petition their government. The amendment simplifies the cumbersome petition process, without negating the necessary petition requirements. And it extends the process to all government entities.As usual, opponents of Amendment 38 are misrepresenting certain aspects of the amendment. And those against Amendment 38, which includes a majority of the Colorado business community, say the amendment mocks representative government.Hmmm … I don’t think an amendment that extends more power to the people is mocking representative government. I think the authoritarian politicians have made a mockery of the system, as they compromise the masses to cater to special interests.GOP candidate for governor, Bob Beauprez, supported Amendment 38 before the opposition persuaded him to change his tune. The opposition: special interest groups.The naysayer is fearful that petitions will limit the powers-that-be, whether it’s government or big business. But petitioning is a process, and that process culminates in a majority vote.”There are limitations on representative government, and the bulwark is in favor of freedom,” said Doug Campbell, a Denver area lead proponent of Amendment 38.Doug and I discussed the amendment highlights. For details, I strongly suggest you check out the Amendment 38 Web site at 38 calls for a uniform petition process throughout Colorado. Requirements for signatures would be guided by the state requirements, which is 5 percent of the secretary of state vote count. Today, individual cities require signatures based on the number of registered voters. “Those requirements can vary from 7 to 20 percent depending on the cities,” Doug said. “The voter roles are overstated, and it’s four to six times harder to do a city petition than to do a statewide petition.”Amendment 38 also extends the petition process to all government entities. Currently, the process applies only to the state and the city governments. The Constitution, however, in reference to the petition process, reads “municipalities,” which, Doug said, in accordance with law dictionaries, means all government entities that provide municipal services, which would include counties and school and special districts. Petitions have been left in the dust in Colorado because they had nowhere to go, Doug said.Amendment 38 reduces the chance of minor technicalities that block petitions from getting to the ballot. One elderly Colorado woman had collected 4,400 signatures, which were all tossed out because she did not include her middle initial on the affidavits she signed. Doug said Amendment 38 gives the benefit of the doubt to the signatures. Those who challenge a signature must bear the burden of proving it invalid, he said.This amendment also expands the circulation period to 12 months, which is a boon to grassroots organizations that don’t have the finances to pay professional circulators. Doug said some states allow four-year circulation periods, and two states have no time period.And I like this one: Amendment 38 limits the verbose lawyer language akin to ballot titles. I’d like to see that mumbo-jumbo lawyer jargon off the table period.Amendment 38 requires single subject status on each petition. In the past, courts have thrown out petitions because they’ve been judged as containing two or more subjects. Doug said the ruling to keep disparate subjects off the same initiative has been “sliced very thin.” The Supreme Court tossed out a petition that addressed both water usage and water board elections – not exactly disparate subjects, one would think.Amendment 38 gives more leeway to people who want to challenge laws instituted by legislative bodies. Since 1932, the Colorado Legislature has been allowed to declare a new law an emergency, which does not allow for public input. The ruling came after the Legislature passed a tax on margarine to boost the dairy industry, Doug said. Through a petition referendum, the tax was voted down. Legislators didn’t like the outcome and allowed that a declaration of emergency be applied to some bills.Doug said that 75 to 80 percent of the Colorado laws are declared an emergency. Legislators placed an emergency “status” on the law naming the trout as the state’s official fish. Amendment 38 allows for 12 emergency measures per year and doesn’t include appropriations measures, Doug said. Or fish.Amendment 38 requires that all petition elections be held during regularly scheduled November elections. No more costly special elections.I’ve just touched on Amendment 38 – it’s important to study it before you make your decision.Despite my cynicism, I still hold on to a ray of hope – that in the end, a majority of people will make decisions based on what’s right for everyone. The true voice in this country is not radical; it’s not anti-government; it’s not based on fear – it’s middle of the road. Giving citizens added control is a good thing. Lest they forget, it’s about “we, the people.” 38 Web site at

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