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Let The Season Begin, The 2015 Colorado Legislature Is Now Open

Bente Birkeland
Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) is holding outgoing speaker of the house Mark Ferrandino's (D-Denver) bedazzled gavel. Former Senate President Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) gave it to Cadman as a joke.

One hundred lawmakers from across Colorado converged on the state capitol Wednesday for opening day of the annual 120 day legislative session. Freshman lawmakers from both parties were officially sworn in and both chambers have new leaders.

Much of the day's attention was focused on the Senate, where Republicans gained the majority for the first time in a decade. For all their gains, newly elected Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) gave a rather subdued speech – talking less about policy and more on building trust and civility among lawmakers.

"I've seen it bring out the best in people when relationships prevail over partisanship," said Cadman. "There are countless opportunities to make a point, very few to make a difference."

But Cadman did outline some goals. He wants to roll back costly useless regulations, improve school safety, and reduce student testing. One expected debate will center on refunds mandated by the Tax Payer's Bill of Rights or TABOR. With the economy recovering those kick into gear.

"The people of Colorado made that decision, they made that decision for themselves," said Cadman. "Their constitution tells us it's their money, they want it back and we should give it back."

The Republican Party only holds a one-seat majority in the Senate. Former Majority Leader Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) said it was a tough loss.

"We all know elections have consequences, and the consequences for those with a D after their name is not as good as those with R after [their] name," Heath said.

While the GOP gained control in the Senate, the Democrats are still in control of the House – and Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) was sworn in as the first Democratic woman speaker, and only the second female speaker of the house in state history. She wants to prioritize building up the middle class and protecting the environment.

"The health of our people and our economy depends on a healthy environment," said Hullinghorst. "I ask us all to keep working together to preserve our world-renowned Colorado quality of life – by continuing our commitment to renewable energy and by giving special consideration to the upcoming recommendations of the governor's bipartisan oil and gas task force."

The one thing absent from opening day was mention of controversial topics such as gun control policies and renewable energy mandates, although those debates will happen in the coming months. The start of the session is always a cordial time but no less busy, Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal reports that 111 bills were introduced in the legislature on the first day.

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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