Colorado voters have much to consider this November with a lengthy list of ballot initiatives. There are thirteen statewide measures in total and Denverites will be facing nine local initiatives, the longest ballot in the city’s history; many of which have implications for health equity in Colorado. Center for Health Progress staff analyzed some key measures for the state and for the city of Denver; below are the measures we endorse or oppose.
We SUPPORT Amendment A, a referendum from the legislature to the voters to remove from the state constitution the existing exception to slavery and involuntary servitude for punishment of crimes. The exception is also known as the “punishment clause,” and allows people convicted of a crime to be forced to work without pay or restitution. The United States incarcerates more people than any other industrialized country (including historically repressive countries like Russia and China). This trend has continued unchanged since Reconstruction, with black males being grossly over-represented among the justice-involved. Mass incarceration has fueled health inequities across the country and in order to build more equitable systems in Colorado, there can be no exceptions for slavery at any time, any place, for any reason.
We SUPPORT Amendments Y and Z, in order to decrease partisanship in the redistricting process and increase the accuracy of representation in the political process. Voting is a critical civic activity to ensure that the interests of communities are represented, and can have a positive physical and mental health impact on the participants. Civic engagement is tied to whether a community is able to receive the resources they need from their government, and this is determined by how the districts are created. Amendments Y and Z get us closer to building more equitable systems of political representation in Colorado.
We SUPPORT Amendment 73, Great Schools, Great Communities, which would increase funding for public education in Colorado, specifically for full-time kindergarten, early childhood education, English-language learners, and special education. It also directs legislators to pass a new school finance law to fund school districts more equitably. Colorado decreased its public education spending during the recession, which led to per pupil spending (PPS) falling well below the national average, where it remains today. Teacher pay in Colorado remains low and school districts across the state have had to cut five-day school weeks to four just to keep schools open. Public education is too important to be under-funded, as access to quality education is necessary for our children to be healthy and lead successful lives.
We OPPOSE Proposition 109, a statewide measure that would require the legislature to redirect dollars in the state budget to transportation projects without any new funding. This is a dangerous measure that would force legislators to make cuts in our already-tight state budget, likely gutting education and health care, in order to make infrastructure investments. We support transportation investment for Colorado, but not at the expense of educating our children and providing health care. Read more from the No on 109 Campaign.
We SUPPORT Proposition 110, a statewide measure that would raise roughly $6 billion for transportation, including fixing roads and bridges and making investments in multimodal transportation options, such as public transit, bike lanes, and sidewalks. It also creates a citizen advisory commission to prioritize projects. We support strategic investments like this in important infrastructure for Colorado.
We SUPPORT Proposition 111, a statewide measure that would cap the annual percentage rate (APR) on payday loans to 36% (from an average in the state of 126%), reducing the amount of interest and fees a borrower would be expected to pay on a loan. Payday loans are exempt from banking laws that protect consumers from excessive interest rates and fees, leading to the often predatory practices associated with the industry. These lenders are over-saturated in black and Latino neighborhoods due to the financial insecurities caused by the racial wealth gap, and an enduring lack of traditional banking options in these communities. Though this proposition would not address the underlying issues that create the racial wealth gap, capping interest rates and fees is a necessary first step to achieving equity. In addition to supporting this initiative, we must continue the work on economic security and opportunity for people of color.
We SUPPORT Ordinance 301, Caring 4 Denver, a local ballot initiative that would raise an estimated $45 million a year to support mental health and substance use services for children and adults, create suicide prevention programs, and increase supportive services, such as affordable housing and case management. Behavioral health is an essential component of overall health, and this investment will help make it a priority for this community.
We SUPPORT Ordinance 302, Healthy Food for Denver Kids, a local ballot initiative that would increase nutrition education and access to healthy, nutritious food for children in Denver. The initiative would provide an additional revenue source for nonprofits in the form of grants to support healthy food programs and education programs. Food access is a critical social determinant of health, yet one in seven children in Denver went hungry this month because their families cannot afford three meals per day. This is unacceptable; having regular access to nutritious food in childhood is an important factor in supporting growth into healthy, successful adults.