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What laws did voters make on the 2020 statewide ballot?

Nov 16, 2020

Now that Colorado's 2020 election is completed. we can draw some insights from decisions that voters made on the 2020 statewide ballot measures.

Voters approved establishing a state paid family and medical leave insurance (FAMLI) program

58% of voters supported passage of Proposition 118 providing Colorado's employees with up to 12 weeks of paid FAMLI leave starting in 2024 for bonding with a new child, caring for illness affecting themselves or a family member (includes persons with a family-like bond), military duty of a family member, and "safe time."   

Starting in 2023, Colorado's employees will pay half of FAMLI premiums and organizations with 9 or more employees will pay the other half. FAMLI uses a sliding scale that provides up to 90% of weekly wage replacement with a $1,100 cap for higher wage workers. FAMLI also provides this wage replacement for employees who work for organizations that provide federal Family and Medical Leave (FMLA).

Colorado Nonprofit Association took a position supporting the passage of Proposition 118 as this change would allow many of Colorado's employees (including nonprofit employees) to take leave for important personal and familial needs without risking their jobs or total loss of income. The program will result in stronger families and increase economic mobility particularly for employees in lower wage jobs who often come from BIPOC populations.

Many employers, including nonprofit organizations, will have to increase the amount of leave that employees can take. Although this could mean using cost savings to hire temporary workers or shifting job responsibilities, this change is likely to increase job retention and satisfaction. 

Voters supported some measures to increase resources for state and local governments but not others

With support from 58% of voters, Amendment B repeals the "Gallagher Amendment" from the constitution. Since 1982, Gallagher has required the state to maintain a property tax assessment ratio of 45% residential to 55% non-residential (includes commercial property). Over time, this complicated formula has resulted in a declining assessment rate for residential property and in commercial property owners paying a disproportionately high share of all property taxes.

The passage of Amendment B maintains the residential assessment rate at 7.15% and the non-residential rate at 29% and voters must approve future rate increases. Because property tax revenues provide funding for local schools, fire departments, health districts, and other special districts, failure of B would have results in budget cuts to these essential local services. This is why Colorado Nonprofit Association supported this measure.

68% of voters approved Proposition EE to increase current taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products and establish new ones on vaping products. Proceeds will increase funding by $275 million per year when fully implemented for tobacco prevention, K-12 school funding (especially rural schools), and affordable housing (including legal protections from evictions). As taxes deter tobacco and cigarette use, tax revenues will decline as will costs to healthcare system associated with use. The Association supported EE to increase funding for healthcare, schools, and housing.

56% of voters also supported permanently reducing the state income tax rate down to 4.55%. The passage of Proposition 116 means about a $150 million reduction in income tax revenues for Colorado while providing a $40 per year tax reduction for households with income of $50,000 per year.

With 53% approval, Proposition 117 requires voter approval of government-run business (known as enterprises) if they are projected to raise over $100 million in fees over their first five years of existence. Examples of current state enterprises include tuition for public colleges and universities, entrance fees for parks, employer premiums for unemployment insurance, and more. Colorado has typically formed enterprises to fund certain state services via specific user fees instead of taxes on all Coloradans. Proposition 117 may affect current enterprises if they no longer meet the definition of an enterprise (e.g. generating more than 10 percent of revenues from government funding.

The Association opposed Proposition 116 and 117 because they reduce state revenues needed to deliver essential public services. With reduce government spending, nonprofits will likely face increased demand for services with reduced resources.

Voters approved changes to several state voting laws

With 52% in support, voters approved Proposition 113, a measure to enter Colorado into a multistate compact to award the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. The compact only takes effect once enough states join to equal 270 electoral votes. Currently, the states that have joined the compact account for 196 electoral votes. While entering the compact is unlikely to have much effect on the day to day operations or most nonprofits, proponents view this change as a big step for the principle of "one person, one vote" and away from the origins of the electoral college related to slavery.

63% of voters also approved Amendment 76, which amended the constitution to say "only a citizen" can vote rather than "every citizen." This subtle change expressly prohibits laws allowing voting by non-citizens. Amendment 76 may have a substantive impact if it overturns some laws championed by nonprofits to pre-register and prepare Coloradans to vote by age 18. Otherwise, passage of Amendment 76 will have little actual impact on Colorado law because no state or local laws permit voting by non-citizens and this seems unlikely to change.

Voters weighed in on several other key issues affecting the work of nonprofits and communities served

  • Voters said no to penalizing doctors for performing abortions after 22 weeks gestational age (41% yes). Many nonprofits weighed in on both sides of this measure. 
  • Voters narrowly approved Proposition 114 (51%), which establishes a plan to reintroduce grey wolves west of the continental divide. Various nonprofits took stances on the issue due to impacts on the state's ecology. 
  • Voters also approved Amendment 77 (61%), allowing Blackhawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek to decide on permitted casino games and bet limits within their communities. 77 also adds flexibility on how community colleges use their share of gaming proceeds.
  • The Association supported Amendment C allowing nonprofits to obtain bingo/raffle licenses within the first three years of existence and allowing nonprofits to paying game workers (52% approval). However, 55% approval is required to amend the constitution.