On opening day, Colorado legislative leaders focus on economy

Photo: Morgan Carroll Senate President
Senate President Morgan Carroll, left, recieves the gavel from President Pro Tem Lucia Guzman during the opening day of the 2014 Colorado legislative session.

On the opening day of the 2014 legislative session, party leaders laid out their plans for bills on education and recovery from floods and fires.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) said Colorado is doing better economically than it was last year.

"Colorado is making progress," Ferrandino said. "But an unemployment rate of 6.7% isn't good enough. We must not reduce our effort to facilitate a broader, more sustainable recovery."

Ferrandino and the new president of the Colorado Senate, Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), outlined an economic agenda that includes increasing incentives for companies to create jobs, expanding a grant program to help develop advanced industries and enhancing the state’s worker training programs.

For their part, Repubilcans are calling for less regulation of small businesses.

"New regulations even with the best of intentions take enormous amount of time and resources to navigate," House Minoirty Leader Brian Del Grosso (R-Loveland) said. “Businesses do not need another competitor in the form of government getting in the way and erecting their barrier to success."

Republicans will introduce a small business bill this year to require state agencies to issue warnings instead of fines for first time violations.

Carroll became the Senate president this year after the former officeholder, John Morse, was recalled from his Senate seat this fall in large part because of his votes for new gun restrictions.

For inspiration, Carroll pointed to the great seal of the United States, which includes the inscription "out of many, one."

"This motto is who we are as Americans," Carroll said. “It is who we are as Coloradans -- we are one from many. We are all individuals with different life experiences, coming from different parts of the state or country. Our diversity and differences are a source of strength, and we are here united to serve one goal --to diligently act as public servants for the people of Colorado."

Carroll said spiraling college tuition costs and student debt loads threaten the American Dream.

"What we are talking about is squeezing out economic and life opportunities for an entire generation," Carroll said. “This is an unsustainable trend that threatens to weaken our economy.”

Carroll also asked: “Shouldn’t the next generation have the same or better opportunities than we did? This is about their freedom to succeed. It is about our freedom to succeed."

That's why Senate Democrats are making Senate Bill 1 an act to attempt to make college more affordable.

Carroll said her party supports investing more than $100 million in higher education for financial aid and for a cap on tuition rates.

Helping communities and residents recover from floods and fires is a priority for Carroll – and it’s also a priority for Republicans.

Some options include removing red tape to speed repairs of roads and bridges as well as waiving property taxes on destroyed properties.