Lawmakers open 2015 session agreeing on education funding, but not on TABOR

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(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
<p>State House members applaud outgoing Democratic Colorado House Speaker Rep. Mark Ferrandino during the opening session of the 2015 Colorado Legislature, at the Capitol, in Denver, Wednesday Jan. 7, 2015. </p>

Economic opportunity, education funding, business development: Whatever issues you care about, there’s a good chance the 70th Colorado General Assembly will try to do something about them in the coming months.

The lawmakers convened Wednesday with Democrats still in the majority in the House. But the Senate is now under Republican control, for the first time in a decade. Compromise will be key to getting bills passed.

The parties do seem to be on the same page in at least a few big areas, including boosting school funding and expanding workforce development programs.

However, Senate President Bill Cadman brought an agenda that also includes more polarizing ideas, like cutting regulations on business.

"Rolling back costly, useless regulations will make us more competitive. And if we are not sharpening our competitive edge in every place we can, we are losing it in every place we don’t," said, while also warning of coming fights over what the state should do with its growing state tax revenue.

"We are about to face one of the best problems we have had in this legislature in a long time. It’s called prosperity," Cadman said.

As soon as this year, Colorado may start sending money back to residents, as required by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Senate Republicans have said those refunds must go out. But Some Democrats want to ask voters to instead put the money into full-day kindergarten.

In the House, Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst warned that too few Coloradans are benefiting from the growing economy.

"Our middle class Colorado families are standing uncomfortably close to standing at the edge of the cliff," said just the second woman to hold the post of speaker. "Only one emergency away from sliding right back to where we were in the depths of the Great Recession."

Hullinghorst said lawmakers are drafting bills to try to address the affordable housing crisis. Another idea Democrats are floating is to cap interest rates for credit cards and student loans.

Hullinghorst also responded to recent protests over police killings in New York and Missouri. She says her caucus is looking for ways to improve relations between law enforcement and the public.

"This is an issue of public safety, fairness, civil rights, and the very values that make us Coloradans and make us Americans," she said.

Lawmakers are still working on possible police reform bills, but there’s plenty more for them to consider. By the end of opening day, more than 40 bills had already already been introduced, with hundreds more still on the way. Here's a look at some of the most notable:

Hullinghorst said she hoped the split assembly would be able to govern effectively.

"There are those who say split legislature will place challenges in path," she said. "I prefer to see them as opportunities to work together for all of our constituents."