Democrats control agenda at Capitol

DENVER — If past years are any measure, when the state’s 100 lawmakers return to Denver today to open the 69th session of the Colorado General Assembly, all talk will be about being bipartisan.

And if past years are a measure, that won’t last long as lawmakers begin to debate such political hot-potato issues as civil unions for same-sex couples, lower college tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants, and the granddaddy of all contentious fights, gun control.

Unlike the last two sessions, when Republicans controlled the Colorado House and the Democrats the Senate, such partisan fights were limited. When such partisan bills were introduced into one chamber or the other, they quickly died, oftentimes in the first committee they were assigned.

That won’t happen this year.

Now that Democrats control both chambers and have a friendly Democratic face in the governor’s office, they will have full control over the agenda.

As a result, the only bills that are likely to die such quick deaths will be those sponsored solely by Republicans.

Still, incoming House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said he hopes to minimize those partisan battles.

“Our members have worked hard since the end of the election to come up with ideas around economic development and working together, that’s why you see a lot of bills where there are co-prime sponsors,” he said at a Tuesday press conference about four bills designed to boost economic development in the state, all of which are backed solely by Democrats. “We’ve been trying to get the policy right, and we think we’re there on most of these.”

No, Mr. Speaker, you’re not, said House Minority Leader Mark Waller.

The Colorado Springs Republican said that while he’s confident some of the bills the Legislature approves during the 120-day session will be with bipartisan support, Democrats aren’t exactly clamoring for GOP lawmakers to sign onto their measures.

Democratic discussions about collective bargaining for state workers and changes in education spending are only some of the issues they plan to push that Republicans find extremely concerning, Waller said.

“You can’t put the words ‘jobs’ and ‘the economy’ in the bill title and expect it to be truly a bill that promotes opportunity or jobs and the economy,” he said. “One of the things we’re going to do as a minority is we’re going to hold them accountable for what they do, and we’re going to demand transparency in the process.”


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