Amendment 34 deserves scrutiny, not adoption
Competing for voters’ attention with a presidential election, a close and strident Senate race and amendments on hot-button issues, Amendment 34 might not register on radar screens.But the proposal, which would change the state constitution to remove limits on the damages property owners can collect for construction problems, merits as much careful consideration as proposals concerning renewable energy and Colorado’s electoral vote.Supporters say the amendment protects property owners and their rights under the state constitution by ensuring full compensation for faulty construction and that reviewing each case in a court of law is fairer than the current arrangement. Opponents say removing the limits will drive up the cost of insurance for builders – and ultimately could drive up the cost of housing and drive builders out of the market, maybe crippling the construction industry.An adage stipulates that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But a different rule of thumb might be more prudent to follow: Make sure it’s broken before trying to fix it. Amendment 34 addresses House Bill 1161, which the Legislature passed last year after much debate.Amendment 34 also creates repercussions for solving building problems in the future by affecting the types of laws the Legislature can pass, which seems to be one of the primary reasons for voting against it: The Legislature is the proper place to address the issue, not the state constitution, and lawmakers need flexibility to address evolving issues. The proposal shouldn’t be part of the state constitution – at any rate, not yet.We recognize that not every lawsuit to address construction problems is a nuisance lawsuit, and property owners need a way to address problems. Yet the lawsuits have the potential to damage a construction industry that’s vital to the economic health of the Roaring Fork Valley. That could translate to higher housing costs in an area that needs more affordable housing.Amendment 34 provides an answer to a problem that needs answering – just not the right answer.Amendment 34 provides an answer to a problem that needs answering – just not the right answer.
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