Ignatius goes off on initiatives

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In a tutorial on the responsibilities of the Colorado legislature, Jim Ignatius combined the lecture with his opposition to Amendment 64, which would legalize and regulate marijuana. The amendment would allow anyone 21 or older to possess and consume up to one ounce of marijuana.

As a preliminary to the vote by Teller County commissioners to pass a resolution opposing the amendment, the commission chair railed against citizens' initiatives and the ease at which amendments are added to the state constitution.

“As much as the legislative process is wrong and angers many people because of its slowness, my main reason for agreeing with this resolution is because of that,” he said, referring to his support for the legislative process.

A bill presented to the Colorado legislature is subject to lobbying on both sides of an issue. “All this gets hashed out, all these intended and unintended consequences,” Ignatius said.

If Colorado voters were to legalize marijuana, the legislation would go against prohibition of the plant by the federal government. “That drove our position over the last two years because we're not really sure what to do, because two massive governments don't agree,” Ignatius said.

When a bill goes through the “meat grinder” in the legislative process, the issue gets solved one way or another, Ignatius said.

The number assigned to the amendment highlights the ease at which the Colorado constitution can be amended, Ignatius said. “We've got 63 amendments already, many of them in conflict; it almost takes a constitutional convention to unwind all this stuff,” he said. “I vote against every amendment unless it's taking an amendment off because these bills need to go through the legislative process. That's how stuff is fixed.”

On a roll and getting more worked up, Ignatius continued. “What we do is legislate by sound bite. It's unfortunate, because you get a 15-second, or a 30-second sound bite; it's who can raise the most amount of money,” he said. “But all these issues are not being addressed if you don't put them through the legislature.”

For emphasis, Ignatius added. “Amendments stink. They are just horrible in the way the legislative process is supposed to work,” he said. “That's my main reason for agreeing with the resolution.”

In Colorado, a citizens' initiative is approved if the petitioner collects 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for the Secretary of State in the preceding general election. This year's petitioners collected enough approved signatures, 86,105, to proceed with the initiative.