Colorado State Personnel System, Referendum A (2004)

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The Colorado State Personnel System Referendum, also known as Referendum A, was on the November 2, 2004 ballot in Colorado as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure would have created the following changes in the state civil service system:

  • Modifying he merit principle
  • Exempting certain positions from the system
  • Modifying the number of eligible applicants from which an appointment is to be made
  • Modifying the residency requirement
  • Expanding the duration of temporary employment[1]

Election results

Colorado Referendum A (2004)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No1,080,13660.81%
Yes 696,007 39.19%

Election results via: Colorado Secretary of State

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1][2]

Amendments to sections 13, 14, and 15 of article XII and section 22 of article IV of the constitution of the state of Colorado, concerning reform of the state civil service system, and, in connection therewith, modifying the merit principle, exempting certain positions from the system, modifying the number of eligible applicants from which an appointment is to be made, modifying the residency requirement, expanding the duration of temporary employment, specifying the rule-making authority of the state personnel board and the state personnel director, allowing the general assembly to reallocate the rule-making authority of the state personnel board and the state personnel director, authorizing a modification to the veterans' preference, and making conforming amendments.[3]

Arguments in favor

The following arguments in favor of Referendum A were provided in the state Blue Book:[2]

1) The constitution needs to be updated to allow the state's workforce to keep pace with the work environment of the 21 st Century. The state personnel system has not changed significantly in the past 85 years. This proposal increases the flexibility of the personnel system by eliminating unnecessary detail from the constitution and allowing the legislature to adjust the system to respond to changing circumstances. Colorado is one of only 15 states whose personnel system is tied to the state constitution. Requiring a vote of the people every time an aspect of the system becomes outdated or unworkable is inefficient.

2) Taxpayer money should be used to hire the best candidate for a job. The current personnel system favors people who are the best test takers, not necessarily the most qualified candidates. This proposal helps ensure that the best candidate is hired by expanding the pool of eligible candidates and allowing a more effective comparison of desired job qualifications.

3) This proposal allows a governor's administration to select about 140 more individuals who share the governor's values to carry out the administration's policies. The state personnel system has grown from about 1,000 employees in 1916 to over 31,000 in 2004. However, the ability of a governor and the administration to appoint high-level state administrators has not changed. With this proposal, future governors will be able to get off to a quick start on their policy initiatives because senior personnel from past administrations can be easily replaced.

4) The state will spend taxpayer money wisely if it can hire well-qualified employees and improve the use of service contracts, resulting in an efficient personnel system that provides high quality services. Further, all state contracts will continue to be subject to current purchasing, financial, employee conduct, and disclosure requirements. These requirements protect the new system against awarding contracts as political favors.[3]

Arguments Against

The following arguments against Referendum A were provided in the state Bluebook:[2]

1) This proposal gives governors and their appointees too much power to control state government. Each administration will be given about 140 additional appointments. Also, the governor-appointed executive director of the Department of Personnel and Administration will now have policy-making authority over areas of the personnel system that the State Personnel Board has traditionally overseen. Those areas include hiring, job classifications, compensation, performance standards, and voluntary departures. The proposal also allows the legislature to shift further power from the State Personnel Board to the executive director. Making the personnel system subject to annual changes by the legislature could disrupt the personnel system. These changes combined may make the state personnel system less predictable and vulnerable to abuse.

2) Comparing applicant qualifications, rather than testing, could be manipulated to allow state employees to be hired based on their political connections and not on merit. Testing candidates to determine the best candidate for a job is the most efficient and fair way to hire employees.

3) More contracting with private companies could shift jobs out of Colorado to other states and countries. Also, there is no guarantee that unregulated contract workers will provide services to the state in the most cost-effective manner. State contracts awarded by appointees may lead to abuses if contracts are used as political favors.

4) This proposal could result in more political appointees. More political appointees in management positions may not lead to better state government. Instead, institutional knowledge will be lost as experienced senior personnel system employees are displaced by appointees who may not have the necessary skills to perform the job. Estimate of Fiscal Impact This proposal is not expected to significantly affect state or local expenditures.[3]

Campaign finance

Coloradoans for Effective Government spent $1,150 in support of the measure.[4]

See also

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