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Colorado 2021 Election: Some Ballot Measures Create Controversy, Confusion

DENVER (CBS4)- Off-year elections tend to be sleepers. Not Colorado's 2021 election, which takes place on Nov. 2. There are three statewide measures and more than 125 local ballot questions. One of the local initiatives is being challenged in court before the election even happens.

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Denver's City Attorney has filed an eleventh-hour challenge to a question on the November ballot. Initiated Ordinance 303 would require the City to clean up homeless encampments within 72 hours. The City Attorney says because the City allocates resources among many competing priorities, it has control over the timing and manner in which it responds to citizen complaints. The City wants the Court to void the 72-hour requirement and has asked for an expedited hearing.

One of the statewide ballot questions has also created controversy as well as confusion for some voters.

If you read the ballot language to Proposition 120, it asks if the residential property tax rate should be lowered from 7.15% to 6.5% and non-residential from 29% to 26.4%.

But, if you read the blue book, it says the reductions only apply to multi-family and lodging facilities like duplexes, triplexes, apartments, hotels and motels. After the title board approved the language in Proposition 120 for the ballot, the state legislature passed a law to, in effect, block the will of the voters should the measure pass by changing the definition of residential and nonresidential to omit single-family homes, farms and commercial property. Proponents of the measure say if it passes, they'll sue to ensure the original definition applies and court precedent is on their side. Typically, the law that passes last is the law that stands.

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Proposition 119 is a clearer question. It asks if the tax on recreational marijuana should increase from 15% to 20% over the next 3 years, and the money - an estimated $138 million a year - be directed to a program for K-12 students that pays for out-of-school tutoring, emotional or physical therapy, and career and technical training. It would also divert $20 million a year from the State Land Trust to the program. Low-income students would get priority for the funds that are capped at $1,500 per student per year.

An analysis by Common Sense Institute found the program could provide two and a half hours of tutoring a week for about 95,000 students if each one received the full $1,500. Students would choose from a list of providers certified by a new state board appointed by the governor.

The final statewide measure - Amendment 78 - was prompted in part by a CBS4 investigation that found the governor's office controls millions of dollars in private donations with no oversight. That money along with legal settlements and federal grants would be appropriated by the state legislature.

At the local level, money questions rule the ballot. Nearly 40 cities are considering tax measures. While most are sales tax increases, Denver is considering a cap of 4.5%. Ten cities are also considering housing measures ranging from increased taxes on short-term rentals to more spending on affordable housing and limits on how many people can live in one place. Five cities are deciding whether it's now time to let pot dispensaries to set up shop in their communities.

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According to the Colorado Municipal League, since voter approval was required for tax measures in 1993, 61% of those at the local level have passed.

You should have received your ballot in the mail by now and you have until November second to return it.

Additional Resources

Denver voters can track their ballot status online by signing up at

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