A snowstorm caused some delays for the opening day of the Colorado General Assembly today. The House began just after its scheduled time of 10 a.m. but not all members had made it to the Capitol. The Senate pushed back its start time to 11 a.m.
Legislative leaders mostly stressed creating jobs and working together, although Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, a Republican from Colorado Springs, took Democrats to task for a partisan approach to redistricting.
Democrats and Republicans also disagreed on Medicaid funding and a property tax for seniors.
House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, a Democrat from Denver, said both parties should work as partners to pass legislation. He referred to a recent headline that predicted a “massive partisan brawl” during this year’s session.
“To assume that we will fail – as many do – is to wander into a trap of mediocrity,” Ferrandino said. “It affirms the cynics’ deepest doubts and neglects the spirit of service that stirred us to run for office in the first place. And if we fall down on our responsibilities, it is Colorado families who will ultimately be hurt.”
House Speaker Frank McNulty, a Highlands Ranch Republican, agreed.
“I’m under no illusion that this session will be easy. In fact, everyone thinks the odds are against us,” McNulty said. “Colleagues, the fact is we can succeed. We need look no further than last year to see what can be accomplished when Republicans and Democrats work together.”
McNulty did say, though, that Republicans want a property tax break for seniors to be reinstated. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper recommended suspending the break another year to help balance the state budget.
McNulty said helping the oil and gas industry develop in the state would create jobs. He also stressed reducing regulations and rules that burden small business.
"Burdensome government regulations and blind restrictions have a stranglehold on Colorado’s path to economic recovery,” McNulty said.
Ferrandino said House Democrats will focus on creating jobs. But he added that strong schools are important to the state’s economic health too.
“Education is the best economic development tool we have in our toolbox,” Ferrandino said. "As a person who struggled with a learning disability, I know firsthand the impact of a strong public education system.”
The House chamber included one sign that both parties can agree on something. Every desk had an orange Mile High Magic towel on it, celebrating the Broncos playoff victory last Sunday.
Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer said many bills this session will try to improve Colorado’s business climate.
"The task is formidable, and some say one state cannot affect a recession in a global economy," Shaffer said. " I say they’re wrong."
Cadman agreed with the focus on economic development. But he also brought up Republicans’ anger at last year’s redistricting process. Democrats drew new maps that put some Republican incumbents in the same district.
"We must strive to heal those political wounds of 2011 and rebuild relationships," Cadman said. "Our significant challenges will require working together and across the aisle."
In a gesture of bipartisanship borrowed from one of Colorado's U.S. senators, some state lawmakers say they'll find seats across the aisle for tomorrow’s State of the State address by the governor.