"We came a long way and have a long way to go" could be the theme for this legislative session. With Governor John Hickenlooper (D), Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and President Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City) all looking at their final session, reflection and ambition united the message from each.
Wednesday Speaker Duran and President Grantham along with their colleagues in the minority parties, Sen. Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) and Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), faced their respective chambers exposing a familiar divide. The question of how to spend state revenue signified an early point of friction, even as both sides abjured the bitter national political environment and local sexual harassment and assault scandals while recalling bipartisan cooperation at the end of the 2017 session.
"We can point with pride to what we achieved for Coloradans... which was widely acclaimed as the most productive in recent memory. We proved that we don't just talk about not being like Washington D.C. We proved by our actions that here in Colorado, we can work together to get things done," Speaker Duran said.
Her priorities will focus on the middle class and the under-served. Early proposals have circulated that will boost money available for affordable housing, address family leave policies, help families pay for child care and protect consumers from identity theft. Additionally, focus will remain on driving economic growth in rural Colorado and curbing opioid addiction, goals that GOP leaders share.
Republican priorities were outlined in the opening day speeches, but also in the slate of introduced bills Wednesday, like those that expand rural broadband, dedicate more money for transportation and bring back the Colorado Energy Office respecting an all of the above energy portfolio. Expected as early as next week are bills that will bring reform to the Public Employees Retirement Act (PERA) and more efforts to unwind portions of SB17-267, the omnibus bill from last session that, among other things, reclassified the Hospital Provider Fee.
The Governor addressed the chamber yesterday, possibly setting the stage for what many politicos believe will be a Presidential run. His priorities are not out of line from those set by leaders in the General Assembly, but are very ambitious. He hopes to find resolution on PERA reform, transportation funding, oil and gas wells that have been orphaned, the opioid epidemic, major education reform, building out broadband in rural areas and addressing the impact of the Gallagher amendment on state and local taxes. But those aren't all. His most significant recommendation? A tax increase to generate enough money to compensate for the $25 billion in transportation needs and he also hinted at urging voters to look at a new way to fund schools.
More to come as the legislative session unfolds and priorities truly begin to take hold. Legislators are taking the day off on Monday to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who the House spent commemorating on Friday afternoon.
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