Ballot Proposals: Making an informed vote

To help you better make an informed vote, here’s a breakdown of all the ballot proposals that will appear on your ballot this year.

Denver Catholic Staff
Amendment A

Amendment A would repeal a constitutional exception on the ban of slavery that allowed for slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. In other words, in Colorado’s constitution, there is still a provision that keeps slavery legal in certain circumstances. This is one of two ballot proposals Colorado’s bishops have taken an official stance on, which is to vote “yes” on Amendment A, effectively removing that exception and outlawing slavery in all circumstances.

Amendment V

Amendment V would lower the required age to serve in the Colorado General Assembly as a representative or senator from age 25 to 21. It also adds female pronouns to section 4 of article V of the Colorado Constitution.

Amendment W

The Colorado Constitution currently requires county clerks to write separate retention questions on the ballot for each judge or justice standing for retention. Amendment W would change that language so that county clerks can write a single ballot question for each level of courts, which would shorten the ballot.

Amendment X

Amendment X would remove the definition of “industrial hemp” from the Colorado Constitution and instead require that industrial hemp have the same definition as in federal law. Federal law does not allow states to define industrial hemp as of May 2018. Industrial hemp is comprised of parts of the cannabis sativa plant containing low levels of THC and is used for a variety of products. This amendment was designed to provide the state legislature with more flexibility in regulating industrial hemp.

Amendment Y

Amendment Y would create a 12-member independent congressional redistricting commission that would be responsible for redistricting Colorado’s seven U.S. House districts. The commission would include four members from the state’s largest political party, four from the state’s second largest political party, and four that are not affiliated with any political party. The final map would require the approval from eight of the 12 members, including at least two members that are not affiliated with a political party, as well as the Colorado Supreme Court. The amendment also requires that the districts be competitive, meaning they have a reasonable potential to change parties once every 10 years.

Amendment Z

Amendment Z mirrors Amendment Y, except applies it to state legislative redistricting. The independent state legislative redistricting commission would be subject to the same processes and approvals as outlined in Amendment Y.

Amendment 73

Amendment 73 is a ballot initiative that would establish a tax bracket system rather than a flat tax rate and raise taxes for individuals earning more than $150,000 per year, raise the corporate income tax rate, and create the Quality Public Education Fund. The Quality Public Education Fund would fund preschool through 12th-grade public education and increase base per-pupil funding to $7,300 and increase funding for the following programs: special education, English language proficiency, gifted and talented, and preschool.

Amendment 74

Amendment 74 is a ballot initiative that would require property owners to be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations. It was submitted as a response to proposed setback requirements for new oil and gas development (see: Proposition 112). While Colorado law already compensated property owners for any property that was taken or damaged, this amendment would ensure property owners are compensated if the value of the property is reduced because of government law or regulation.

Amendment 75

Amendment 75 would mandate that if any candidate for state office directs (by loan or contribution) more than one million dollars in support of his or her own campaign (or candidate committee), then every candidate for the same office in the same primary or general election may be entitled to accept five times the aggregate amount of campaign contributions normally allowed.

Proposition 109

Proposition 109 proposes authorizing $3.5 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects, including bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs, and requires that the state repay the debt from the state budget without raising taxes.

Proposition 110

Proposition 110 would authorize CDOT to issue bonds up to $6 billion to fund transportation to be repaid through a sales tax increase with a maximum repayment cost of $9.4 billion. It would increase the state sales and use tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent for 20 years starting Jan. 1, 2019. Revenue generated from the increased sales tax would be allocated to three different funds and be spent on bond repayment, state transportation funding such as highway construction and maintenance, municipal and country transportation projects, and mass transit and paths for walking and biking to reduce vehicle usage.

Proposition 111

Proposition 111 is an initiative that would reduce the annual intern rate on payday loans to a yearly rate of 36 percent and eliminate all other finance charges and fees associated with payday lending. The bishops of Colorado recommend voting “yes” on Proposition 111.

Proposition 112

Proposition 112 is an initiative that would mandate new oil and gas development projects, including fracking, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings such as homes, schools, hospitals and other areas designated as vulnerable, which is five times the distance of what’s currently required. This would effectively ban oil and natural gas development in Colorado, and it’s highly likely that its passage would cost tens of thousands of jobs, both inside and outside of the oil and natural gas industry, which would have a negative effect on the economy.

Know your candidates

There are several Church-approved online resources at your disposal to better educate yourself on the gubernatorial candidates and where they stand on issues.

Colorado Republican Party

National Republican Party

Colorado Democrat Party

National Democrat Party

Colorado Family Action Voter Guide

Faithful Citizenship 

COMING UP: From Columbine to Christ: “Not only did God lead me out of Columbine, he was leading me to himself.”

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Every school day for almost two years, Jenica Thornby would spend her lunch hour in the library at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Every day, except April 20, 1999.

“I was sitting in my art class when all of the sudden I had this urge to leave school. I remember thinking, there is no way I am going to be talked into staying.”

Thornby found her friend that she always studied with and talked her into leaving too. As they drove away in a car her father had bought her just a week earlier, behind them they saw hundreds of other students running out of the school. Thinking it was maybe a fire drill, Thornby kept driving.

Back inside the school, two students had entered with guns, where they would kill 12 students and a teacher, and wound over 20 more people before taking their own lives.

In the days that followed, Thornby would learn that many of the casualties took place in the library, where on any other day she would have been sitting.

“I remember thinking, I always went to the library, and the only reason I wasn’t there was because I had this urge to leave. That was really hard to wrap my mind around, and so I really wondered, ‘What gave me that urge, why wasn’t I there?’”

Two decades later, Thornby is now Sister Mary Gianna, a religious sister of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the 20th Anniversary of the Columbine massacre, she shared her story with the Denver Catholic of how God led her out of her high school that day, and through a series of events, led her into a deep relationship with Christ.

Sr. Mary Gianna DLJC poses for a portrait at the Columbine Memorial on April 18, 2019, in Littleton, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

SEARCHING FOR FULFILMENT

Sister Mary Gianna said growing up in Texas, California and then Colorado, she had loving parents, but as a family they did not practice any religion or faith.

After the school shooting, like many of her classmates, Sister Mary Gianna struggled coming to grips with what had happened. Coupled with emotional scars from bullying in her teenage years and other insecurities, she said she tried desperately just to fit in.

“I started drinking and going to parties, thinking if I was in a relationship, then I’ll be happy,” Sister Mary Gianna recalled. “I was searching for fulfilment.”

But near the end of her junior year a classmate of hers who seemingly had everything going for him committed suicide, and Sister Mary Gianna said her senior year she hit rock bottom.

“If he was in so much pain and suffering and took his life, what do I do with all my suffering and all my pain?” Sister Mary Gianna said she asked herself. “I thought I was going to take my own life by my 18th birthday.”

It was that year that a friend invited her to come to a youth group at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, where Sister Mary would meet a youth minister named Kate.

“I remember seeing something different in (Kate),” said Sister Mary Gianna. “She was so bright, so full of life. I could tell that she had something in her life that was missing in mine.”

Sister Mary Gianna said Kate and the youth group introduced her to a God that loved her, and that had a plan for her life.

“I felt like I was junk to be thrown away, and (Kate) would tell me you are made in God’s image and his likeness, and if God created you, how can you call yourself junk?” recalled Sister Mary Gianna. “I realized God did have a plan, and I love the words of St. Augustine: ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in God,” and I realized not only did God lead me out of Columbine, he was leading me to himself.”

RCIA, NET and DLJC

After high school graduation, with the support of her parents Sister Mary Gianna chose to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville, where her freshman year she went through RCIA and was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil of 2002.

After college, she spent a year with NET (National Evangelization Team), sharing her testimony with teenagers across the country. At the same time, through the encouragement of others, she began to consider religious life.

“I felt God wanted to use me to lead others to Christ as my youth minister had led me to Christ,” said Sister Mary Gianna. “And I felt God was calling me to share how he had worked in my life, my personal testimony.”

Sister Mary Gianna said words in a book by Father Benedict Groeschel really impacted her.

“He wrote, ‘Instead of asking God why something happened, ask him, what would you have me do?’” Sister Mary Gianna said. “So instead of reflecting on my life and why did this happen or that happen, I began to ask God, ‘What would you have me do?’”

In 2010, Jenica Thornby entered religious life as a member of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, was given the name Sister Mary Gianna, and last year on August 4, 2018, took her final vows. She now serves at The Ark and The Dove retreat center in Pittsburgh.

CHAIN REACTIONS

Standing in the center of the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park, Sister Mary Gianna is drawn to the plaque that remembers Rachel Joy Scott.

Sr. Mary Gianna DLJC poses for a portrait at the Columbine Memorial on April 18, 2019, in Littleton, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Rachel was one of the first students shot on April 20, 1999, and after being wounded, one of the gunmen reportedly asked her if she still believed in God, to which Rachel replied, “You know I do,” before the gunman shot her in the head.

“Unfortunately the two boys talked about how they wanted to start a chain reaction of death and violence and destruction,” Sister Mary Gianna said. “However, Rachel had a theory that if one person could go out of their way and show compassion and kindness, we would never know how far it would go, it just might start its own chain reaction.”

Sister Mary Gianna said Rachel’s story has become an inspiration to her, and coincidently, Rachel’s family played a role in her own conversion. Sister Mary Gianna said the day after the shooting she was at a friend’s house and her friend’s mom told Rachel’s aunt about how she had left just before the shooting began. Sister Mary Gianna said Rachel’s aunt replied, “God must have a plan for your life.”

It was one of the first seeds planted in Sister Mary Gianna’s heart, that started to grow, and as Sister Mary Gianna continued to say ‘yes’ to God, led her to the life she has today.

“Even when I didn’t know God that day at Columbine, he led me out of school, he protected me,” said Sister Mary Gianna. “He loved me so much that he drew near to me and has shown me this path of life.”

“Even in the midst of tragedy, God can bring good, God could bring life out of death. The worst tragedy was Jesus being put to death on the Cross, and it led to our salvation. And even in the midst of this tragedy of Columbine, God could bring good.”