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KUNC's guide to Election 2012 in Colorado and the Colorado vote. Additional guides include a detailed look at Amendment 64, Amendment 65, and a look at Amendment S. You can find our archive of national election coverage here.

Amendment 65 and Amendment S

Yes on S Campaign

This election, Colorado voters will decide on three statewide ballot questions. In addition to a measure to legalize marijuana recreationally, there’s an initiative to update state workforce rules, and a largely symbolic campaign finance question.

Editor's Note: This story is the 1st in a two-part look at Amendment 65 (this story includes a look at S as well). You can also review our series on Amendment 64.

Amendment S may not be as controversial as legalizing marijuana, but it would shake up the state personnel system by changing the rules for hiring and retaining employees. Governor John Hickenlooper says the 40 year old rules are outdated and clumsy.

“Remember the catchy phrase is yes on S. The strong alliteration, we spent a lot of time on that.”

Among other changes, amendment S would double the number of candidates that can interview for a state job. It would also expand the types of tests used to evaluate new hires – and it would put in place a permanent hiring preference for veterans.

“This is something all Coloradans, whether they are Republicans or Democrats should unite behind,” says former Republican Governor Bill Owens. “Because it will allow Governors and others we ask to lead the state to do a better and more efficient job.”

Every state lawmaker voted in favor of the changes and supported sending the measure before voters in November. But Governor Hickenlooper says it still faces a big hurdle.

“By reading the language of the initiative title it’s confusing enough that a lot of people, we surveyed them, felt inclined against it without knowing anything about it. We have to get the word out.”

Getting the word out may be difficult in a year that’s largely been focused on raising money for statehouse races and the presidential race. Money and politics is the reason behind the final measure on the ballot, amendment 65. The amendment would direct Colorado’s congressional delegation to support constitutional changes to campaign finance laws.

Elena Nunez is the executive Director of Colorado Common Cause which is backing the proposal.

“It’s voter instruction. So the goal is for the voters to express their will to the congressional delegation and say this is the action we want you to take. It will send a strong statement.”

Nunez hopes the barrage of attack ads this election season will sway voters to support amendment 65. She says ultimately Common Cause wants to reverse the impacts of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United.

“Our goal is to advance a federal constitutional amendment that says we can set limits on spending and create a level playing field so all voices can be heard regardless of wealth. Right now if you want to be heard you have to write a big check.”

But others worry campaign finance limits would restrict free speech. Ryan Call is the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. At a recent forum he said there’s no reason to undo Citizens United.

“The solution is not to impose more government regulations and more censorship on speech, but rather to make sure folks have the opportunity either in an individual way or if they want to bind together with like minded citizens, to have their point of view expressed and let that marketplace of ideas decide.”

Opponents also say the measure is nothing more than an opinion poll, and shouldn’t be on the ballot. It is largely symbolic because voters can’t bind a member of Congress to vote a certain way.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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