Colorado lawmakers returned to the state capitol on Wednesday for the start of the annual 120 day legislative session. As Bente Birkeland reports, Democrats handed over control of the Senate to Republicans for the first time in a decade.
One hundred lawmakers from across Colorado converged on the state capitol Wednesday for opening day of the annual 120 legislative session. Freshman lawmakers from both parties were officially sworn in and both chambers which have new leaders.
Much of the day’s attention was focused on the Senate, where Republicans gained the majority for the first time in a decade. For all their gains, newly elected senate president Bill Cadman (R- Colorado Springs) gave a rather subdued speech – talking less about policy and more on building trust and civility among lawmakers.
“I’ve seen it bring out the best in people when relationships prevail over partisanship, said Cadman. “There are countless opportunities to make a point, very few to make a difference.”
But Cadman did outline some goals. He wants to roll back costly useless regulations, improve school safety, and reduce student testing. One expected debate will center on refunds mandated by the Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights or TABOR. With the economy recovering those kick into gear. Cadman doesn’t think the state should keep the money.
“The people of Colorado made that decision, they made that decision for themselves. Their constitution tells us it’s their money, they want it back and we should give it back,” said Cadman.
The GOP only holds a one-seat majority in the Senate. Former majority leader Rollie Heath (D- Boulder) said it was a tough loss.
“We all know elections have consequences, and the consequences for those with a D after their name is not as good as those with R after name.
But Democrats are still in control of the House – and Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D- Boulder) was sworn in as the first Democratic woman speaker, and only the second female speaker of the house in state history. She wants to prioritize building up the middle class and protecting the environment.
“The health of our people and our economy depends on a healthy environment. I ask us all to keep working together to preserve our world-renowned Colorado quality of life – by continuing our commitment to renewable energy and by giving special consideration to the upcoming recommendations of the governor’s bipartisan oil and gas task force,” said Huloinghorst.
The one thing absent from opening day was mention of controversial topics such as gun control policies and renewable energy mandates. Although those debates will happen in the coming months, the start of the session is always a cordial time.