From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
The same folks who tried to carve out a portion of Colorado to create a 51st state have ditched that effort for something new. While two Phillips County men have given up on the idea of seceding from the state, they announced plans Thursday to start collecting signatures to remake the Colorado House. Under their plan, instead of the 65 House districts being based on an equal number of residents, it would be reduced in size and require one representative from each of the state’s 64 counties. That way, each county in the state would have equal representation in the 100-member Colorado Legislature, they said.
“Many of the citizens and local officials out here are upset with how various legislation seemed to be ramrodded through with no concern for anybody else’s thoughts or views,” said Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer. “I don’t think any of us were enamored with secession, and thought it was extreme, so we began to look for another alternative. That’s what we’re seeking to put on the ballot.”
The other man, Phillips County Commissioner Joe Kinnie, said this alternative would ensure that the entire state, and not just the metropolitan areas of the Front Range, from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, have an equal say in the goings-on at the Legislature.
The two, who stress they are speaking as citizens and not in their official capacities, said things will only get worse for rural Colorado, the Western Slope included, as population continues to grow in the Front Range metropolitan corridor.
“Rural Colorado, we don’t have a voice,” Kinnie said. “There’s no equal representation. It seems every time we have a census, we get reapportioned and lose more and more of our legislators.”
They said the issue isn’t about the political makeup of the Legislature, which currently is controlled by the Democratic Party.
“It’s a representation issue,” Schafer said. “Regardless of the party, we want a voice. Every part of the state has unique needs and concerns, and we don’t get heard regardless of whether our representatives are Republican or Democrat. They cast us aside.”
The measure they are pushing is identical to a proposed constitutional amendment offered by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, during the legislative session that ended last week. That measure, HCR1001, was killed on a 7-4 party-line vote in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. All 11 members of that panel, including the four Republicans who favored the idea, represent urban parts of the state.
The effort grew from last year’s attempt to secede from the state primarily from northeast Colorado counties, which was sparked because of gun-control laws and new rural renewable energy standards that were approved during last year’s legislative session. Eleven counties, including Moffat, had a question on their ballots last year urging their county officials to pursue the 51st state idea. Of those, however, only five passed. As a result, backers of the idea started working on this alternative.
Schafer and Kinnie said they know they have a monumental task of collecting about 100,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. They actually only need at least 86,105 registered voters, but such efforts routinely shoot higher in case some signatures are declared invalid. The measure and the petitions to get the idea on the November ballot already have been approved by the Colorado Titling Board. The deadline to submit signed petitions to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is Aug. 4. Because of that short timetable, the two are seeking as much help as they can get from around the state because they have no money to pay for signature gatherers, and plan to reach out to anyone who will help circulate the petitions.
“This is entirely a grassroots effort,” Schafer said. “We only have until August, so we don’t have a lot of time.”
More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.