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A Look Ahead At The Upcoming Legislative Session

Stephen Butler
Flickr - Creative Commons

Going into the 2014 legislative session, Colorado Democrats are still in the majority at the capitol. With an election year looming, party leaders – including Senate President-elect Morgan Carroll – say they want to focus on creating more jobs.

No pushes for major public policy changes, or introductions of new gun control legislation, or repeals of gun laws already in place. All of that and more were part of the 2013 session, leading to combative legislative work and an historic off-year election.

“Well it’s been a difficult year for all of us,” said Senator Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora). “But really our number one job is moving forward, reaching out to the state.”

Carroll replaces former Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) who was recalled last September over his support for stricter gun laws. Two other Democrats also lost their jobs for supporting the laws, one by recall and the other by resignation.

Another setback the Democrats suffered was the overwhelming defeat of Amendment 66. The statewide education initiative would’ve increased taxes by a billion dollars to pay for reforms in K-12 schools and reduce class sizes. Carroll says given the defeat she doesn’t think Democrats will propose significant education policy changes.

“We’ve had a lot of reforms that have happened in this state and most of them did not come with the funding to pay for them,” said Carroll. “I think what we’re hearing fairly consistently is don’t do any radical changes especially if they don’t come with the funding to pay for them. Nobody likes unfunded mandates.”

Carroll says her main goal will be improving the state’s economy and helping citizens deal with the aftermath of devastating floods and wildfires. While Democrats want newly approved gun laws to stay in place, Republicans say they’ll work to repeal them and believe Democrats overreached.

They went beyond what anybody would’ve thought was a rational reform and I’m against them all and I think they should all be repealed for one reason or another,” said Senator Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch).

Governor John Hickenlooper says he won’t repeal any of the current gun laws on the books.

His biggest hope for the 2014 session is that partisanship takes a backseat, and Colorado becomes a national model on how to work together.

“If we can do things in a bipartisan way here, I guarantee you they will work out better, we’ll get better outcomes and solutions and then other states will follow us,” said Hickenlooper. “And then who knows, if we can do that in our legislature then Congress will follow.”

Given the tumult of the off session and the looming 2014 elections, all bets are off. Even as both sides say they want to forge a consensus, the Governor admits his bold ambitions could easily be thwarted.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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