Categorized | Featured Stories, Legislative

Atmosphere Mostly Light On First Day Of Session


Photo: Jamie Cotten, Law Week Colorado
New Rep. Pete Lee, left, and returning Rep. John Kefalas, both Democrats, are sworn in at the Capitol on Wednesday.

By Jake Strickler, STATE BILL COLORADO

Wednesday’s 68th General Assembly of the Colorado House of Representatives began on a somber note as Denver’s Archbishop Chaput spoke in honor of the victims of last weeks’ tragic shooting in Arizona before leading the assembly in Morning Prayer.

The weight of that event, though noticeably present, did not stop the morning’s speakers from adopting a lighthearted and optimistic attitude toward having fresh blood and new ideas with which to confront the problems facing this state and the rest of the nation.

Before swearing in the representatives for this term, Chief Justice Michael Bender expressed his thanks for “having this indoors,” the first of several references to the bitter cold that has fallen upon Colorado over the last few days. The atmosphere within the chambers, in contrast, was warm and congenial. As outgoing Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll announced the nomination and confirmation of Republican Frank McNulty as new Speaker, one representative jokingly yelled out, “How about a hug?” The two obliged the request to applause and laughter.

After a brief recess in which a committee was formed to notify the Senate of the House’s readiness to move on to the afternoon’s joint session, the quips kept coming. Majority Leader Amy Stephens apologized for the delay while chuckling that the “Senate is slower than molasses.”
After the recess, the tone became more sedate and reflective as the representatives got down to business.

Dominant concerns

With the reading of the nominations to this session’s various committees, the dominant concerns of this term were immediately identified: energy policy, job creation, healthcare reform, education, and the struggling economy.

McNulty’s opening remarks confirmed and addressed all of these concerns. The message was clear from the beginning: “Coloradans are struggling.” He communicated his desire for all representatives, new and returning, to have absolute, unwavering focus on solutions to the above problems. He also emphasized the need for ideological unity, referring to the transfer of power from the Democrats to the Republicans’ current one-seat majority in the House: “Philosophical disagreements should not distract us from the important challenges at hand.”

After expounding further upon the urgency and gravity of the issues being faced, McNulty invoked the pioneer spirit that built this state and expressed his belief that the same resourcefulness and determination will help Colorado and Coloradans work through current hardships.

Incoming Minority Leader Sal Pace’s remarks were in general agreement with McNulty’s. After getting in one jab (“Thanks for keeping my podium warm for the next two years”), Pace was quick to take up McNulty’s call for unity among the parties. After characterizing “the peaceful and orderly transfer of power from one party to another” as a “true spectacle of democracy,” Pace called for all representatives to “turn down the rhetoric” and “work together on behalf of all the people of Colorado.

“If we invest a little up front, we’ll save a lot down the road,” was the central message of Pace’s remarks. If party differences can be laid aside and this energy redirected into solving problems, this term’s representatives can work to “ensure that every action we take under this dome is intended to leave things better for the next generation, and for those children in this gallery today.”

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