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Marijuana possession was hotly contested at the town hall meeting at the Denver University campus Tuesday night.
John Suthers, the state’s attorney general, debated with Mason Tvert, representing the organization SAFER choice, on Amendment 44. This amendment, if passed in November, will make legal the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for persons 21 years of age and older.
The debate was one of five that discussed seven of the issues voters in Colorado will decide in November. Co-hosts of the event were KUSA, the NBC affiliate in Denver, and DU. The moderator of the evening was Adam Schrager, a reporter at KUSA.
Amendment 43 is the proposal to change the Colorado Constitution to define marriage as solely a union between one man and one woman. Jeff Crank, candidate for U.S. Congress, spoke in favor of Amendment 43.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Crank. “We have the right as a society to determine what marriage is.”
The Rev. Phil Campbell, director of ministry studies at the Iliff School of Theology, represented those opposed to it.
“This amendment doesn’t belong in the constitution,” Campbell said. “Constitutions are in effect to give people rights, not deny them.”
In a similar issue – Referendum I – Carrie Gordon Earll, senior policy analyst at Focus on the Family, debated Sean Duffy, representing Coloradoans for Fairness. The Referendum would change the Colorado statutes to create a new legal relationship called domestic partnership. Further, it would define the criteria to enter into domestic partnerships and specifies that these partnerships are not marriage.
“The law is broken,” Duffy said, speaking in favor of the ballot issue. “We need basic civil rights for same sex couples.”
“The Referendum is the equivalent to gay marriage,” Earll said. “It is a major overhaul of the statutes, not a minor tweak.”
Amendment 39 and Referendum J both deal with school district spending requirements, an issue that Lee Kunz and Adele Bravo discussed at the town hall meeting. Kunz, who is a candidate for state board of education, argued in favor of both issues but believes Amendment 39 will put more money into the classroom.
“In education, one size does not fit all,” said Bravo, a second-grade teacher at Louisville Elementary School who was the Colorado Department of Education’s teacher of the year. “It is all about the kids, and kids have different needs.”
Kunz, a former professional football player and local businessman, said he believes the administrations of the schools are retaining too much money. These issues before the voters will set a percentage that must be spent in the classroom. Bravo countered by saying that money for school counseling and other programs outside of the classroom will suffer if these issues pass.
Coloradoans will also vote on whether to raise the minimum wage this election. Discussing Amendment 42 were Linda Meric from 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women and Christine O’Donnell representing the organization Respect Colorado’s Constitution.
“This is a tough issue for Colorado voters, because this is a feel-good piece,” O’Donnell said. “If this passes, it will be devastating to small business.” O’Donnell said, adding that 92 percent of businesses in Colorado are small businesses.
Amendment 38, which will appear on the upcoming ballot, deals with a person’s ability to petition the state and have issues brought to a vote by the people of Colorado. Jessica Peck Corry of the Independence Institute spoke in favor of the amendment.
Corry said government lawyers who prepare the blue book have lied and are biased in support of the legislature they serve.
“People should not have to hire lawyers or pay money to get amendments on the ballot,” Corry said as an example of why she thinks this amendment should pass. “Our proposal is a common-sense answer to the petition system. This will bring democracy to Colorado.”
Her opponent in the debate was Andrew Romanoff, Colorado’s speaker of the house.
“It is silly to think that there is a conspiracy to deceive voters in the blue book,” Romanoff said. “If this passes, the next blue book will simply be a 1,000 words for and a 1,000 words against each proposal instead of providing voters with an educated choice.”
The entire debate can be seen on Saturday at 6 p.m. on KUSA. Information on all of these initiatives can be found on the Colorado Secretary of State election center Web site, http://www.elections.colorado.gov/DDefault.aspx?