Ballot initiatives don’t deserve our support

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By Greg Romberg

Two ballot initiatives that we’ll see on this year’s ballot are proof positive that people from a variety of political perspectives are more than capable of coming up with remarkably bad ideas.
Opponents of fracking and people who want to restrict governments’ ability to take actions that restrict use of private property in any way — groups that you would be hard pressed to put in common — both have initiatives on the ballot that are much too extreme and should be defeated.
The anti-fracking folks are supporting Proposition 112, which would require 2,500-foot setbacks on any oil and gas development.
The anti-government actions group are supporting Amendment 74, which would require governments to pay people for any action they take that reduced the fair market value of any property.
While it’s reasonable to be concerned about the impact of oil and gas development in our neighborhoods and overreaching governments who improperly take our property, each of these proposals go too far and don’t deserve our support.
Proposition 112 goes too far because the huge setback requirement would, for all intents and purposes, eliminate the production of oil and gas operations in our state. It would put thousands of people out of work and decimate the tax bases of governments all over Colorado.
As you’ve likely seen in television ads, it’s being opposed by a variety of groups and individuals who don’t often see things the same way. Both major party gubernatorial candidates are opposed.
Amendment 74 is too extreme because it says that any reduction in value caused by a governmental action requires payment. While we should all have empathy for people whose property values are reduced by a governmental action, this approach simply goes too far, much too far.
There is already a well-established body of law about when a taking has occurred and how people who have suffered are to be reimbursed for the improper action. Both the beauty and the curse of such case law is that all governments are subject to the worst actions of any other government as each new ruling for taking property improperly effectively becomes the law for everyone else moving forward.
If Amendment 74 is enacted, taxpayers will be on the hook for land use and other decisions and will tie the hands of governments to do the things we expect of them.
These two measures show an inherent flaw in the initiative process. These proposals can be placed onto our ballot without input from anyone but its own proponents. There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the issues addressed by Proposition 112 and Amendment 74.
If the issues had gone through a public process and been subject to the give and take of a process involving people on all sides of the issue, it’s possible that more nuanced suggestions that wouldn’t be so extreme might’ve been developed.
But as they stand, neither proposal deserves our support. Both should be defeated.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.