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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Colorado Ballot Measures 
25th-Oct-2008 04:48 pm
1895 Colorado map
Here are my current positions on the initiatives and referenda on the Colorado ballot this year. Since I don't have a TV and haven't dug through the web on these issues, most of my information comes from the blue book. If you think there are considerations I've overlooked, please comment. If I learn something that changes my mind, I'll update this post. If you don't have time to read this post, please just vote NO on 48, the "personhood" amendment.

Note that amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 have been retracted in a deal to oppose amendments 47, 49, and 54. Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 will be on the ballot, but votes won't be counted. 47, 49, and 54 will be counted, but "business" has joined with "labor" in opposing them.

Amendment 46 (constitution): Discrimination and Preferential Treatment by Governments
Summary: Essentially, this is an anti-affirmative action measure. Position: While I think society should provide opportunities for everyone to succeed regardless of innate group association, I will vote NO on this measure. Sometimes, the best way to provide equal opportunity is through programs which focus on a specific group. For instance, I think CU's Minority Engineering Program is great. It provides scholarships and a supportive social structure for minorities to study engineering. Not only do minority communities by having engineers and other professionals, the engineering profession benefits when we have coworkers from diverse backgrounds. It's my impression that the MEP would become illegal under this measure, but it's hard to be certain because, as the blue book notes, the terms "discrimination" and "preferential treatment" are not defined in the measure. Even if you oppose affirmative action, you should hold out for an initiative that defines what it prevents.
Amendment 47 (constitution): Prohibitions on Mandatory Labor Union Membership and Dues
Summary: Would let employees choose not to pay union dues. Position: This would create a free rider problem. Unions represent workers in collective bargaining processes. Even employees who didn't pay dues would benefit fro successful union action. But if everyone can benefit without paying costs, people will stop paying and then the union won't be able to afford to work on workers' behalf. I will vote NO on this measure. Everyone in a union shop must pay union dues in the same way that everyone who lives in the state pays state taxes.
Amendment 48 (constitution): Definition of Person
Summary: Defines "person" to include a fertilized human egg. Position: This is an attempt to make abortion illegal through lawyers arguing about terminology. Position: This is an absolutely terrible idea. If you think abortion should be against the law, support an initiative which does exactly that. Don't try to end abortion by writing a counterintuitive meaning of an English word into the constitution. My support for abortion rights is far from the only factor that led me to decide that I will vote NO on this measure. Fertilized eggs would be covered by the section of the constitution which grants (according to the blue book) "the right to defend against threats to safety, the freedom to make independent decisions, the right to work and obtain economic goods, and the right to survive." Without the capability of volitional action, a fetus is incapable of acting on these rights. Our society believes in all sorts of fundamental rights which are only applied to certain classes of people. Voting is a fundamental right, but you have to be 18 to exercise it. We believe people should be able to decide their own actions and the course of their lives, but people declared legally insane have these rights restricted. Even if we want to call a fetus a person, we still need to decide what rights it should or shouldn't have. The measure also applies to the section of the constitution granting equal access to courts. How can you assemble a jury of a fetus's peers? The measure applies due process to fetuses. There must be a fair hearing before detaining a person. So if a pregnant woman is arrested, does the hearing need to charge the fetus with a crime too?

48 makes "person" mean "any human being from the moment of fertilization." It does not, however, define "human being." The way I use "human being," it does not include fertilized eggs. In my lexicon, human beings are different from human fetuses and human corpses. Fuzzy cases include newborns and stroke patients in a permanent vegetative state since they aren't engaged in the existential process of authentic being. Philosophy aside, here are some counterintuitive conclusions this amendment could engender:

  • A fetus gets an inalienable right to property. What does it mean for four cells to own something? What happens to the property if there's a miscarriage?
  • A fetus gets an inalienable right to happiness. How do you tell if a fetus is happy?
  • A pregnant mom gets in a car in Ft. Collins, CO. There are now two people in the vehicle. She drives less than an hour north to Laramie, WY. Now there's only one person in the car. She drives an hour south and all of a sudden there are two people in the car!
  • A woman has sex right before her period. The sperm fertilizes the egg, but it doesn't embed in the wall of the uterus before it's expunged through her vagina. The woman is now guilty of involuntary manslaughter!
  • A pregnant woman is injured in a car crash and the trauma causes a miscarriage. She's guilty of involuntary manslaughter!
  • If any woman of child-bearing age is killed, the murder trial must attempt to find out if she had sex in the several weeks before the incident and whether a microscopic group of cells was growing in her uterus.
  • A business charges "$5 per person." Is it allowed to ask any woman of child-bearing age if she's pregnant and charge $10 if she says "yes?"
  • Is a pregnant woman allowed to attend an "18 and older" concert?
  • An unmarried couple conceive a child. While pregnant, the woman shoots the man in a domestic dispute. As his closest relative, the fetus inherits the man's property. The fetus later dies in a miscarriage and the woman inherits its property. Legal fun for all!
Amendment 49 (constitution): Allowable Government Paycheck Deductions
Summary: Restricts allowable paycheck deductions for local government employees, including union dues. Position: I think government employees should be paid in a way similar to private-sector employees. I will vote NO on this measure. If a group of local government employees agree to be part of a union, deducting union dues from their paycheck is an easy and natural way to make that happen.
Amendment 50 (constitution): Limited Gaming in Central Creek, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek
Summary: Lets gambling towns vote to increase hours, bettig limits, and allowed games. Also requires statewide approval for increases in gambling taxes. Also directs new tax revenue from increased gambling to community colleges and gambling towns. Position: I have mixed feelings about gambling. It can be addictive, hurting people who are already in a bad economic situation. But plenty of Coloradans who don't have a gambling problem enjoy spending an occasional evening playing poker or blackjack and having a tasty dinner at the casino buffet. Since this amendment lets the gambling towns vote to make the changes (I assume they will approve it), I am leaning towards a YES vote, but I need to do more research. Please comment if you have a good argument on either side of this measure.
Amendment 51 (statutes): State Sales Tax Increase for Services for People with Developmental Disabilities
Summary: Increase sales tax from 2.9% to 3.1% to pay for increased services to people with developmental disabilities. Position: I support state services for the developmentally disabled, but I'm not sure this big of a tax increase is the way to do it. If it were a constitutional amendment, I would vote against it. Since it would amend statute, I'm more inclined to vote for it because the legislature could vote to change it if it proved a problem down the road. I am undecided on this measure and need to do more research. Please comment if you have a good argument one way or the other.
Amendment 52: Use of Severance Tax Revenue for Highways
Summary: Require increases in state tax revenue be spent on I-70 and other highway projects. Position: Percentage-wise, this would reduce (percentage-wise) the amount spent on water projects, mining regulation, low-income energy assistance, and wildlife conservation. It's also potentially in conflict with amendment 56, which I like more. I will vote NO on this measure. If it amended statute, I would consider supporting it.
Amendment 53 (statute): Criminal Accountability of Business Executives
Summary: Withdrawn by the submitters, this would have made businesses and CEOs legally accountable for the actions of their companies. Position: In principle, I could support something like this, but if it was sloppy it would be disastrous. I would probably vote no on this measure if it mattered.
Amendment 54: Campaign Contributions from Certain Government Contractors
Summary: Prevent certain government contractors from making political contributions. Position: While I think it's a good idea to prevent contractors (single-source or not) from donating to the campaigns of officials who employ them, this measure goes too far. If someone does work for the Montezuma County Coroner, they shouldn't be prevented from donating to a candidate for Colorado Governor. I will vote NO on this measure.
Amendment 55 (constitution): Allowable Reasons for Employee Discharge or Suspension
Summary: Enumerate the allowable reasons to fire someone, making Colorado no longer an at-will employment state. Position: It's already illegal to fire someone for reasons like race and sex. As I understand it, this would have prevented a company from firing employees during a reorganization for efficiency or change of business focus. I would vote no if it weren't rescinded.
Amendment 56 (statute): Employer Responsibility for Health Insurance
Summary: Require employers provide health insurance to employees and their dependents. Position: My thoughts about health care deserve a separate post, but I think having heath care tied to employment is a dumb idea. This measure might have extended coverage to some people who currently don't have it, but I think Barack Obama has a better plan for doing that. I would vote no on this measure if it weren't rescinded.
Amendment 57 (statute): Additional Remedies for Injured Employees
Summary: This measure would go above and beyond federal worker's compensation requirements. Position: I don't see a reason Colorado should have different workers comp rules than the rest of the country. I would vote no if it weren't rescinded.
Amendment 58 (statute): Severance Taxes on the Oil and Natural Gas Industry
Summary: Reduce state tax credits on oil, gas, and mining and spend the money on college scholarships, wildlife, renewable energy, transportation, and water projects. Position: I think companies which extract nonrenewable resources from Colorado should make significant payments to cover that loss to future state residents. I think spending oil and gas taxes on renewable energy projects so that when the oil is gone we'll be ready to handle it. I also like that this measure amends state statute so the legislature can adjust it if it proves a problem in the future. I will vote YES on this measure. Even if oil and gas companies were put off on current extraction by these taxes, I wouldn't mind. These are finite resources which only exist in certain places, so at some point the commodity price will make the projects profitable even with higher taxes.
Amendment 59 (constitution): Education Funding and TABOR Rebates
Summary: Aims to resolve the conflict between TABOR's restrictions on increased government spending with the constitutional requirement to increase spending on education each year. Position: TABOR restricts the freedom of the voters' representatives in government to address issues through the budgeting process. This measure should ensure education is well funded without requiring budget crisis negotiations when the state goes into a recession. I will vote YES on this measure.
Referendum L (constitution): Qualifications for Serving in the State Legislature
Summary: Reduces age limit for serving in the State House and Senate from 25 to 21. Position: If this measure helps just one smart and energetic person go straight from doing awesome stuff on a college campus to doing awesome stuff in the legislature, I think it'd be worth it. I will vote YES on this measure. Youth engagement in the political process is a good thing. If anyone's worried that 21-year-olds aren't mature enough for such a position, rest assured that there are plenty of checks and balances which minimize damage by a single legislature's immaturity. And Douglas Bruce has demonstrated that one can be well over 25 and still be an immature legislator.
Referendum M (constitution): Obsolete Constitutional Provision Relating to Land Value Increases
Summary: Remove an old tax exemption for property value increases due to planting trees and shrubbery. Position: Reading through the constitution is hard enough when all the text is relevant. This law doesn't fit with the way property appraisal and assessment is currently done and currently has no effect. I will vote YES on this measure.
Referendum N (constitution): Obsolete Constitutional Provisions Relating to Alcohol Beverages
Summary: Remove an alcohol law now covered by federal regulation and also repeal some obsolete laws from when Colorado was a hotbed of temperance. Position: The one possible practical outcome is that the state could amend the law to allow bars to serve just alcohol, no food. (That, apparently, is what distinguishes a bar from a saloon.) I will vote YES on this measure.
Referendum O (constitution): Citizen-Initiated State Laws
Summary: The goal is to make it harder to amend the constitution and therefore encourage initiatives to amend state statutes which can be further amended by the legislature if wording was unclear or situations change. It also makes it harder for the legislature to immediately change citizen-initiated laws. Position: I voted for the anti-lobbyist initiative two years ago, but it turned out to be worded with major unintended consequences. If it changed state statute, the legislature could amend it to more accurately reflect the spirit of the law. I will vote YES on this measure. When constitutional amendments make specific requirements about tax and spending, the state can get into serious budget problems when economic situations change rapidly. This happened to Colorado a few years ago. It also seems to happen to California every year. Let's keep the basics in the constitution and leave the details to state statute. This will also make it harder for Colorado Springs fundies to propose constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, define a single cell as a person, and so on.

Quick Reference:

  • 46: No
  • 47: No
  • 48: No
  • 49: No
  • 50: Probably yes
  • 51: Unsure
  • 52: No
  • 54: No
  • 58: Yes
  • 59: Yes
  • L: Yes
  • M: Yes
  • N: Yes
  • O: Yes
Take that, longest ballot in the country!
26th-Oct-2008 02:07 am (UTC)
I'm in favor of Amendment 50, except for this clause: "require statewide voter approval for any gaming tax increase if new gaming limits are adopted by any gaming town." What the hell is this supposed to be? We need a statewide referendum if one little casino town wants to increase taxes by 1/10th of a percent? Seems like the casinos are trying to sneak through bullshit, packed up with other stuff I support. If this clause did not exist, I would support this one. With the clause, down it goes.

I'm a little more conservative than you are with respect to Amendment 51. It's not that I don't feel bad for retarded people, and I do think we as a society have a responsibility to take care of them. I just think this is the wrong way to do it - feels like a special interest handout. Also, I don't like that it's a sales tax. If someone came to me and said, "Care to bump our state income tax $30/yr to help the retarded?" then I'd say "hell yes." But sales taxes are regressive as they disproportionally tax people of lower income. Good idea, bad implementation.

And just to say it again, as so many people have before, Amendment 48 is madness. It would define ectopic pregnancies as legal people. Meaning, saving the life of the mother would be equivalent to murder. I'm half expecting these idiots to put a measure on the next ballot giving sperm person-hood...
26th-Oct-2008 02:22 am (UTC)
I can't in good conscience vote for any sales tax increases in CO no matter whether they're for a good cause or not at this point, living in a city with a 10% tax right now... It's pretty insane.

But basically I agree with your votes and I am undecided on the same measures.
26th-Oct-2008 03:14 am (UTC)
Just thought I'd chime in in favor of 51. Angi (Russell's spouse) works for the state providing services to people with developmental disabilities, and I see how stretched they are. In addition, I recently went to a conference on developmental disability (pimping for some biomedically-oriented research we hope to do) and learned that there's a relatively large population being cared for by their aging baby boomer parents. These people are going to start requiring more and more outside care. So those are the two main reasons I voted for it.

Also, I lol'ed at some of your 48 scenarios. I hadn't thought of some of them. Whenever I think, "Something like that just can't possibly pass," I remember Amendment 2.
26th-Oct-2008 05:42 am (UTC) - Opposition websites
Passing along this link to an opposition site with information about Amendment 47:


And, another site with info about Amendments 47, 49, and 54:

26th-Oct-2008 07:16 am (UTC) - Yes on 51
I feel pretty strongly about this one, seeing as I have a severely autistic son. Mine is the first generation that can expect to be outlived by their severely disabled children. Between improved medical care and de-institutionalization, a lot of disabled people have normal life expectancies now. The nightmare for parents of disabled children is, "What will happen when I can't take care of him any more?"

At this point, most disabled people, even the severely disabled, can expect to be on waiting lists for services for the rest of their lives unless the courts take custody. Many out-of-home placements are initiated because the parents don't have the resources to keep the child at home. I know that, when my son was at home, I was getting $100 a month to take care of him. His foster family now gets $6000/month, plus he was on private insurance with me and is now on Medicaid. When he was living with me, he got very aggressive and I spent 11 hours with him in the hospital emergency room only to be told my insurance didn't cover any place that would take an aggressive non-verbal adolescent. When Social Services took him, he had Medicaid and so could be placed. Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the money to get him the services he needs at home rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars more per year to see that he gets those services in government placement?

Consider that the statistical likelihood of a non-verbal person in out-of-home placement being sexually molested at least once in any given year is higher than 95%. (Kempe Foundation) That doesn't even count other abuses, like group-home workers taking home the clients' personal belongings and groceries as "perks", or locking them in their rooms for long periods as a "time out" and faking the log books required for discipline like that.

Also, studies have shown that for every severely disabled person who receives intensive early intervention, an average of a quarter million dollars is saved over that person's lifetime due to services they don't need later.

With improved medical intervention, more infants and others who would have died are, instead, surviving but with intensive needs. Also, the rate and severity of autism spectrum disorders is increasing rapidly, now affecting more than 1% of boys. Colorado is currently way below the national average for funding to persons with disabilities.

In Boulder a few years ago, a group of parents of disabled children sued the city to force them to provide services - and won. Similar lawsuits in other places have had similar results. If there isn't enough to go around, the squeaky wheels are getting the oil (with funds spent by the government and/or schools on the legal proceedings), while others get nothing.

It's funny to me that people who vote "yes" on 48 tend to vote "no" on 51. Apparently it is wrong to kill a fetus, but letting a disabled person suffer without needed care, or a family be destroyed for lack of support services, is hunky-dory. The primary definition of "right" appears to be "whatever doesn't cost me money."

In my opinion, "yes" on 51 is the logical extension of "no" on 48. Do we, as a community, support an individual's right to a basic quality of life, and degree of personal empowerment?

Or I suppose there's the Ayn Rand/Practical Darwinism approach that says that anybody who can't survive on his own can, and probably should, die. But I hope we can afford to be a little more humane than that.
26th-Oct-2008 08:39 am (UTC) - Re: Yes on 51
My uncertainty isn't about the need for expanded services for developmentally disabled individuals. My concern is if this is the best way to do it. As other comments have noted, sales tax is harsh. (At least it doesn't apply to food, energy, medicine, and gas.)

Could you outline the services this measure covers? The blue book says "The state administers the overall system; twenty local nonprofit agencies throughout the state determine a person's eligibility and arrange and provide services. Services are generally provided in the community or in the family home, and vary based upon the person's specific disability and needs." Is the state program the only funding source for those nonprofits, or do they seek outside funding? How is the program currently funded? Are there organizations which provide similar services which are not part of the state program? Are the waiting lines the reason your son was not on Medicare, or is that totally separate?

I don't think 51 and 48 are strongly connected. One can oppose 48 because it's a legal nightmare and oppose 51 because they're opposed to sales tax; in neither case do they take a position on fetal rights or the value of care for the disabled. When voting, I think it's important to distinguish supporting an issue and supporting a particular law. Similarly, I think it's important to distinguish between supporting a party or point of view and supporting a candidate for office.

The rate and severity of autism spectrum disorders is increasing rapidly, now affecting more than 1% of boys. As presented, that statistic isn't particularly helpful in this matter. High functional autism kids don't strike me as needing much in the way of state services, just education on how to adapt. Do you have a link to more detailed statistics? I think the best way to summarize that information would be a severity vs. frequency graph.
26th-Oct-2008 07:05 pm (UTC) - Re: Yes on 51
Autism is a broad spectrum, and the definition has broadened somewhat. I'd have to check with the Autism Research Institute, the local Autism Society, or the Community Centered Boards to get detailed statistics on severity and what that means in terms of needs. It's not just "severity" because, like Down's Syndrome, some have more intense medical involvement while some are medically sound but are severely impacted with respect to cognitive development, or communication ability. Each of those areas has its own therapeutic price tag.

Home and community services to persons with developmental disabilities (including autism, Down's, and others) are overseen by Community Centered Boards (CCBs). I think Aurora's is called Developmental Pathways, Denver's is Denver Options, and I think Weld County's is called Imagine. A caseworker meets with each family or individual and tailors a plan to meet their specific needs. They give referrals to other services and respite providers, buy equipment, and provide funds for therapy, respite, or activities. They may sponsor some group homes or co-living arrangements (pay non-disabled roommates to live with disabled adults).

I'd have to check, but I think they get some federal monies as well as a state budget. I don't recall ever hearing anything about the CCBs fundraising or relying on donations.

Education and some therapeutic services (those determined to be necessary for the child to have reasonable success in achieving academic objectives) are provided in and funded by the schools. In Colorado, public schools can bill Medicaid for services Medicaid pays for, given to students who have Medicaid. This has been a problem because it gives the schools financial motive to make abuse allegations against parents of the severely disabled students who do not have Medicaid, because the children automatically get Medicaid when taken into the custody of social services. There is also a waiver program for disabled children whose parents would not usually qualify for Medicaid (for example, the income cut-off to qualify for Medicaid for a family of three might be $21,000, but a severely disabled child might have $15,000 or more per year in medical expenses), but the application process is long and difficult and usually results in getting placed on a waiting list. The last I heard, Colorado only made 200 of these waivers available statewide, and most people, including social workers, don't know about them.

There are private organizations such as ARC/ACL, Catholic Charities, Easter Seals, Special Olympics, and a variety of camps, which provide various services. One of the things the CCB does is help families identify these resources and apply for them. Each has their niche and their own application process. In my experience, my son was "too special" for most of these programs and services.

Finally, the state Social Services/Department of Human Services is funded separately from the CCBs. Once a child or adult is in state custody, there is a funding mandate and federal money is received on a count of people in out-of-home placement. This gives the social workers a financial incentive to take custody away from parents, and also gives parents an incentive to place their kids in residential care as that may be the only way they can get services.

I should note that State Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon strongly supports Amendment 51, however it could be worth noting that he is dating Betty Lehman, whose son Eli Cohen is severely autistic. (He went to an early intervention program with my son.) I don't know if that makes Senator Gordon more aware or less objective or both.

Yeah, you're right: my musings on the 51/48 connection were getting a bit abstract and didactic. Sometimes I get rolling and forget to stop.
26th-Oct-2008 07:44 pm (UTC) - Re: Yes on 51/ Personal notes
When T was younger, we had a caseworker from Developmental Pathways. She came out every six months and asked me what our challenges were and what kind of help I needed. Then I wouldn't hear from her until she came around to do it again six months later. Every month they sent me a check for $100 "for respite or recreation". I couldn't find a recreational program that would take my son - even those for special needs kids. ("Your son is very special.") And I couldn't find a respite provider who would watch him. I recall my caseworker once suggesting that I use the money for "a really great kite." Without respite providers, I couldn't have any kind of social connections (no job, no church, no participating in parent groups or training), and my daughter couldn't have any friends over. We were socially isolated.

Developmental Pathways did pay for a metal barrier for the car, which saved our lives during T's more violent phase, when he would get upset while we were driving and grab me by the hair or grab the steering wheel. They wouldn't pay for it up-front; they agreed to reimburse me, but I didn't have the money. I went to PetsMart, explained the situation, and the manager agreed to give me the gate and receipt, and let me return with the check from DP later. Sometimes you get an angel.

I got sick of getting no response to my pleas for help. I requested a new caseworker and had pictures taken of myself with the scratches, bite marks, and bruising all over my face and arms. I took them down to Dev. Path. and left them for my new caseworker with a short, to-the-point letter that said something like, "Please help me!" I think I got a call referring me to a Social Service worker. I called for her. She called back and left a message that they only had money for people who beat their kids.

My mother paid for me to have Lasik surgery, because when T would attack me, he would often break my glasses, or I'd get hurt trying to retrieve them after he'd knocked them off instead of getting myself to safety. That might seem like a luxury, but it was a lot more relevant to being safe while taking care of my son than "a really great kite".

While money is needed, you can't use it to pay for services that aren't there. What we need is recruiting and incentives for people to become teachers, paras, and other care providers for those with special needs. I don't know if any of the Amendment 51 money is going to be spent on that.

As for Medicaid, I was married to Bix when T was growing up. Bix would have a job and insurance coverage. Then he'd lose the job and I'd apply for Medicaid, which would take about a month to process and have different providers. Then Bix would get a new job and we'd have new insurance, which would cover different things with different providers. Then he'd lose that and I'd apply for Medicaid again. When we had private insurance, I'd apply for the Medicaid Waiver, but part of that process is applying for Medicaid and getting a denial letter, so each time Bix lost his job and we qualified for Medicaid, it would kick T off the waiting list for the Waiver, and the next time we qualified, I'd have to start all over again. It was impossible to have any continuity of care for him.

That anecdotal shows why Medicaid services for children with disability should be stable and available regardless of living situation, but doesn't relate to what Amendment 51 would do, as far as I know.

The truth is, I can't tell you if your money would be going to provide roommates to help people with moderate disabilities live independently, or to provide really great kites to severely disabled kids. Those decisions happen at the individual CCB level. Thanks for making me think.
26th-Oct-2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
I've voted already (absentee) and we only had one ballot question, pertaining to taking on 400 million dollars in debt to cover improvements to water systems. I can think of some good ways for our state to spend 400 million dollars, but our water system is doing all right now, so I hit that with a big NO.

There's actually a law out there that education spending has to go up every year? That's a big ouch, I could see that really hamstringing the budgetary process.
27th-Oct-2008 12:38 pm (UTC) - Amendment 50
Check out http://KeepVegasOut.com/ before you decide on Amendment 50. There are lots of reasons to vote no, but really only one to vote yes: You want to use the Colorado Constitution to help casinos make more money.

28th-Oct-2008 09:03 pm (UTC) - Amendments 47, 49, and 54
Passing along this link to a site with information about Amendment 47:


And, a site with info about Amendments 47, 49, and 54:

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