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Voters to pick commissioner, decide fate of sales tax hike
From Silverton Standard, the place where you can write!
Posted on November 01 2012, 2:23pm by Mark Esper in Local News category
 
San Juan County voters will decide the fate of a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase to support emergency services when they go the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
And voters will elect two county commissioners, with unaffiliated incumbent Terry Rhoades facing a challenge from Democrat Scott Fetchenhier. Incumbent Commissioner Pete McKay, a Democrat, is unopposed.
The proposal to raise the county’s sales tax rate from 4 percent to 5 percent was placed on the ballot by county commissioners.
It would raise about $136,000 a year to provide better compensation for Silverton Ambulance Service volunteers, increase the service’s paid staff and keep up with the rising costs of medical supplies and other equipment.
Money may also be used to support the Silverton-San Juan Volunteer Fire Department and San Juan County Search and Rescue.
If approved by voters, it would raise the total sales tax rate in Silverton from 7.9 percent to 8.9 percent come Jan. 1.
County officials say the measure is needed to keep the ambulance service at current levels.
 “We do a good job with the very limited group that we have,” said Kyle Mesich, director of the ambulance association. But with rising costs and increasing regulations, the ambulance may be unable to stay between the ditches in the near future.
The ambulance service operates on a $160,000 annual budget, with some $91,000 of that split between the town and county governments, and another $60,000 from patient billing.
Some 75 to 80 percent of ambulance calls are for nonresidents. County commissioners theorize that a sales tax increase, which largely targets those visitors, would be a more appropriate way to provide more money for the ambulance than a property tax increase.
In the race for county commissioner, Rhoades, 57, is hoping for a sixth term, but he will have to defeat Fetchenhier, 54, to earn it.
McKay, 62, has served four terms and is facing no opposition this year.
On the presidential ballot are 16 candidates. President Barack Obama, who won San Juan County with nearly 55 percent of the vote in 2008, is being challenged by Republican Mitt Romney.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R- Cortez, is hoping for a second term in Congress. He is being challenged by Democrat Sal Pace of Pueblo.
J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, is also hoping for a second term, but he will have to defeat Mike McLachlan, a Durango Democrat.
 
State ballot issues
San Juan County voters will also help determine the fate of three proposed state constitutional amendments, including one to legalize marijuana.
Amendment S is a relatively noncontroversial change that would allow more flexibility in state personnel rules. 
Amendment S would modify the state charter, which is where the personnel rules are ensconced. The state’s personnel system has not been updated in more than four decades.
The amendment would allow up to six finalists for a job, for instance, instead of the three allowed now. It would give temporary workers the ability to be on the payroll as long as nine months, instead of just six months. It will give military veterans expanded preference in the hiring process so those who have served the nation will have a better chance of landing a state job.
It would also allow governors to fill up to 325 jobs with what are called political appointees.
The amendment would allow up to six finalists for a job, for instance, instead of the three allowed now. It would give temporary workers the ability to be on the payroll as long as nine months, instead of just six months. It will give military veterans expanded preference in the hiring process so those who have served the nation will have a better chance of landing a state job.
It would also allow governors to fill up to 325 jobs with what are called political appointees.
Amendment 64 would make the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older. It would establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and allow for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. 
Amendment 64 removes all legal penalties for personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and for the home-growing of up to six marijuana plants, similar to the number allowed under current medical marijuana laws, in an enclosed locked space. 
The initiative creates legal marijuana establishments — retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities — and directs the Department of Revenue to regulate a system of cultivation, production (including infused products), and distribution.  Under the provisions of the measure, the Department will license marijuana establishments at the state level, and should it fail to act, localities will be permitted to issue such licenses.  
Localities will have the right to ban marijuana establishments through either their elected representative bodies, or through referred or citizen-initiated ballot measures.
The general assembly will be required to enact an excise tax of up to 15 percent on the wholesale sale of non-medical marijuana applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store or product manufacturer.  The first $40 million of revenue raised annually will be directed to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. This new tax must be approved by a majority of voters in a statewide general election in accordance with the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). The general assembly will also be required to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.
Amendment 65 proposes amending the Colorado Constitution and Colorado statutes to instruct the Colorado congressional delegation to propose and support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that allows Congress and the states to limit campaign contributions and spending and  instruct the state legislature to ratify any such amendment?passed by Congress
The measure does not directly affect current state or federal campaign finance laws, or create campaign spending limits. Instead, it amends state law to encourage Congress and the state legislature to take steps to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow greater limits on the role of money in state and federal elections. The measure also expresses the intent of voters that state law should establish mandatory campaign spending limits, rather than encourage voluntary spending limits.
 
The San Juan County Clerk’s Office reports that as of Tuesday afternoon, 96 people have voted early and 138 have voted by absentee ballot. Early voting ends on Friday. The county now has 659 registered voters, compared to 618 in 2010 and 591 in 2008.
 
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