Direct Democracy’s Disaster

Source: John Straayer, State Legislatures, Vol. 33 no. 3, March 2007
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Through the initiative process, Colorado recently passed a law with loads of unintended consequences.

Colorado’s Amendment 41 carried the short title, “Standards of Conduct in Government,” and passed with 62.6 percent of the vote. A constitutional amendment, 41 was intended to restrict gift-giving by interest groups and lobbyists to elected public officials and others in positions of public trust. It was also designed to prevent legislators from immediately becoming lobbyists after their terms of office.

But its consequences to date include issuance of official opinions to the effect that scholarships for children of public employees and performance awards for employees are probably illegal; the resignation of more than a half-dozen legislators; questions as to whether the newly elected governor may legally recruit legislators for positions in his cabinet; and the curtailment of Capitol breakfasts, which had been enjoyed by legislators, staffers and student interns for decades.

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