State Sen. Steve Fenberg will be Colorado’s next senate president as Leroy Garcia prepares to step down

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State Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg at a signing ceremony for SB21-260 on Thursday, June 17, 2021, underneath Interstate 70 at the bottom of Floyd Hill, beside Clear Creek. The transportation funding bill passed this legislative session is projected to raise $5.4 billion by the 2031-32 fiscal year.

The upcoming resignation of Sen. Leroy Garcia is setting some changes in motion for the Colorado legislature.

Garcia announced last week that he is taking a job at the Pentagon. He'll walk away from his position as a senator, including his role as senate president, which he's held since 2019.

On Wednesday, Democrats picked state Sen. Steve Fenberg, 38, of Boulder, as their next president. Fenberg currently holds the second-ranking position, majority leader, in the senate.

"I don't take myself too seriously, but I take the job very seriously. This is the honor of my life to serve in this role, and I couldn't be more proud," Fenberg said, sitting for an interview in his current, sunny, but not-quite-spacious, office.

Fenberg was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. Last year, he was involved in bills on a wide array of topics, including transportation funding; gun control; and utilities, including renewable energy. He will not officially become president until he is elected by the full Senate later this month, but with the support of his caucus in hand, the outcome of that vote is practically guaranteed.

He said that Democrats will remain focused on the same priorities Garcia laid out at the beginning of session, including housing, behavioral health, education and air quality.

"We have the opportunity to invest massive amounts of resources into some of the biggest existential problems facing us. And I look forward to sort of helping the caucus and the Senate in general to tackle those issues," he said, referring to the federal relief money the legislature is preparing to spend.

The formal role of the president is, in large part, to manage the day-to-day business of the Senate. The president holds the gavel and "presides" over the chamber. Fenberg also will be charged with keeping discussions on track and preserving "order and decorum."

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic state Sen. Dominik Moreno is Chair of the Joint Budget Committee, March 4, 2021.

With Fenberg's pending move to president, his old job as majority leader opens up. Democrats picked state Sen. Dominick Moreno to take that position. The majority leader is like a captain for the majority party, with responsibilities that include picking committee members and setting the schedule.

Moreno was first elected as a representative in 2012, and later won his seat in the senate in 2016. He is vice-chair of the Joint Budget Committee, where he gained a reputation for navigating thorny financial issues. His focus last year included the management of federal funds, a failed effort to reduce arrests for low-level offenses, a law that expanded renters' rights, and more.

Garcia's seat in Senate District 3, meanwhile, will be filled by a Democratic vacancy committee in the Pueblo-based district. Their choice will serve out session, but the seat is up for election in the fall.