Bradford will lead House local affairs panel

Rep. Laura Bradford was the only Western Slope lawmaker to get a leadership role Tuesday in the new GOP-controlled Colorado House.

The House speaker-to-be, Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, named Bradford, the second-term Collbran Republican, chairwoman of the House Local Government Committee.

Although committee chairs don’t have the same kind of power as their congressional counterparts, Bradford will have a stronger voice when the Colorado Legislature meets for the 2011 session, when the GOP will control the 65-member House by the narrowest of margins, 33-32.

Bradford’s committee deals with measures that affect property rights, city and county governance and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which dispenses grant money to local governments.

“Local governments cannot take anymore unfunded mandates and suffer the consequences of a state program only to find the funding gone a year or three down the road,” she said. “They’re left on the hook to fund something that originally was supposed to be funded by the state.”

Bradford acknowledged that committee chairs don’t have a whole lot of say, but she plans to use what authority she has to make sure bills pertaining to local government go to her 11-member panel.

“If it belongs in local government, it better go to local government, and that (McNulty is) not playing politics with bills,” she said. “Our narrow majority is going to come into play. We don’t have a big club. We barely have a wooden baseball bat when it comes to that slim majority. So, leadership needs to behave.”

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who won re-election last week to another four-year term, is expected to continue her role as chairwoman of the Senate counterpart panel, the Local Government and Energy Committee.

By law, legislators are limited to introducing five bills during each session. One of the few exemptions is for committee chairs, who can introduce many more as long as they are directly related to the committees they lead.

As a result of being a chairwoman, Schwartz has sponsored numerous bills dealing with renewable energy in her four years in the Senate. Bradford, too, will be able to sponsor more measures, but she thinks they will be focused on helping local governments encourage business development and create jobs.

That’s partly why she also hopes to remain on the House Business Affairs & Labor Committee, which McNulty plans to rename the House Economic and Business Development Committee.

That and other name changes concern House Democrats.

“These are troubling deletions,” said Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo. “With the removal of the words like labor and human services, I’m concerned that working families and the neediest among us, including children who require protective services, are being shunted aside for special interests.”


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