Amendment S: That other issue on your election ballot

This Tuesday, voters in Colorado and around the nation will put an end to a contentious Presidential campaign that has the potential to shape the future of the nation. There are other things on the ballot, of course, which include Congressional races, confidence votes on each of Colorado’s Supreme Court justices, and a first-of-its-kind marijuana legalization initiative. There is one more statewide initiative, known as Amendment S, and upon first glance it is almost impossible to tell what this amendment will actually do.

As most voters’ minds are, or perhaps should be, effectively made up on the major issues by now, a focus on this obscure amendment is the most educational thing this column can accomplish. Amendment S seeks to overhaul the state civil service program, which is the process by which new government employees are hired. Currently, job candidates are determined by a written test, with the top three test-takers qualifying for interviews. The amendment would increase the number of interview candidates to six, but it would also enable factors other than test scores to determine the candidates for a position, in effect reducing or eliminating the importance of the test in favor of “comparative analysis.” It would also increase the number of state jobs that are directly appointable by the governor’s office, bypassing the test and interview process entirely. The amendment would further give veterans a direct advantage on the skill tests, enabling them to gain state employment more easily than at-large civilians. It also would accomplish a number of minor housekeeping issues, such as term limits on the State Personnel Board and residency requirements for state facilities near the state’s boundaries.

This is effectively a grocery-list amendment, and a number of its provisions are universally supported by political commentators, but there are a few contentious points that need to be addressed. The amendment seeks to make it easier for changing administrations to control government employment, through increased direct appointments and making the hiring process more subjective. Proponents argue that this will increase government efficiency and enable a new governor to more clearly set his own agenda; opponents counter that this could lead to political cronyism, increased partisanship in the civil service, and a potential spoils-system situation in state employment. The amendment was unanimously approved by the state legislature, indicating strong bipartisan support, although critics argue that because it gives more power to those same officials, that support is not unexpected. The requirements for the civil service are what they are in order to prevent direct political control of minor government posts. Support of this amendment should hinge on whether one feels that this is a sensible obstruction or not. Those who see efficiency and action as the most important factors in government would be advised to vote for this measure, while a more libertarian view would generally oppose the amendment as a needless expansion of executive power. As always, information is the most important factor in any election, and hopefully this column will shed light on this obscure ballot initiative.

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