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When one party rules

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Totalitarianism adj. imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed.

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

--Abraham Lincoln

Colorado is one of 25 states that allow citizens to place initiatives on the state ballot. This process allows voters to bypass state lawmakers and approve state constitutional amendments by a majority vote of the people. Now however, with one political party in total control of our state government, arrogant politicians are trying to change what "We the people" have decided at the ballot box.

For example:

Amendment 23, passed in 2000 with 53 percent of the vote and enacted as Article IX, Section 17 of the Colorado State Constitution, requires public schools K-12 be funded at inflation plus 1 percent until 2010-2011 and by inflation thereafter. Republican state Rep. Keith King introduced a legislative proposal to overrule voters and cut education funding hence circumventing our vote. Republican state Treasurer Mike Coffman (and probable candidate for governor in 2006) also doesn't like what "We The People" enacted and recently unveiled his plan to dramatically change Amendment 23 by eliminating its mandated annual funding increase to public schools. By the way, Coffman also wants changes in constitutional mandates on residential property taxes (the Gallagher Amendment) and the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR).

Amendment 27 (campaign reform), passed by 66 percent of voters last November, amended the state constitution to make it illegal for a corporation or labor organization to make contributions to a candidate. Republican state Rep. Rob Fairbank who opposed this campaign reform subsequently proposed HB1132, which made key changes that dismantle Amendment 27. The Republican-controlled House and Senate approved HB1132 and our Republican governor signed it into law last March 25. The new wording now says that nothing in the state constitution shall prohibit a corporation or labor organization from making a contribution to a candidate. This one elected official has now successfully rewritten portions of voter-approved Amendment 27. "It's not my fault that they put a piece of trash on the ballot," said Fairbank about Amendment 27.

In 2000, voters approved the Homestead Act, a property tax exemption for senior citizens. The exemption from property taxes applies to homeowners aged 65 or over. But ... SB 265 was introduced this year by two Republicans, passed by Republicans and signed into law by our Republican governor. There is now no property tax relief for seniors until 2007.

The hot topic in Colorado lately is the court ruling on school vouchers. The Republican right wing keeps trying to convince us that a single court decision changed what our legislators have legally enacted.

Well, it is true that our Republican-controlled House and Senate legally passed a voucher bill this last March and Republican Gov. Bill Owens signed it into law, but remember this: "We The People" of Colorado have continuously said no to school vouchers. In 1990, a school voucher amendment failed to make the ballot due to a lack of signatures. In 1992, vouchers did make it on the ballot but voters heavily rejected them 66 percent to 34 percent. In 1998, voucher proponents again tried but Colorado still soundly rejected vouchers 60 percent to 40 percent. A poll conducted in February 2003 by Harstad Strategic Research found that 60 percent of Colorado residents continue to oppose school vouchers.

With total control of our government though, Republicans went around the will of the majority and approved a voucher bill anyway. A few weeks ago, on Dec. 3, Denver District Judge Joseph Meyer ruled the Republican state Legislature violated the state constitution and voided their voucher bill. Hopefully states' rights supporters will fend off any federal attempts to overturn Judge Meyer and this issue will remain in control of Coloradans.

These are but just a few examples that show what happens when one political party rules a state and it becomes a totalitarian regime.

Steve Plutt lives in Lake George.


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