Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Colorado Takes Historic Step as Carroll Assumes Speakership

The Centennial State took a pioneering step this morning as the General Assembly opened with African-American men at the helm of the Senate and House.

Rep. Terrance David Carroll, D-Denver, a former police officer, minister and lawyer, was formally installed as speaker of the House before a packed gallery and to the enthusiastic applause of members from both parties.

Over in the Senate chamber his counterpart, Sen. Peter Groff, a lawyer and educator, was again chosen by his colleagues to be president of the Senate.

The pomp in the House began with stirring and emotional renditions of the National Anthem and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by Mary Louise Lee and the presentation of the colors by two members of the Colorado Army National Guard.

Outgoing speaker Andrew Romanoff launched the 2009 session of the legislature, as has been his custom, by injecting some humor into the proceedings.

“Pursuant to the Constitution, and the power now waning in me, I do hereby now call the House of Representatives to order for the 67th General Assembly of the state of Colorado,” outgoing speaker Andrew Romanoff said. Romanoff then joked that House Chief Clerk Marilyn Eddins would be “appointed for life.”

The House erupted into a standing ovation when new majority leader Paul Weissman, before moving for election of a new speaker, congratulated Romanoff on his service.

So did the Republican leader. “A special thank you for how you conducted the business of the house these past four years, Rep. Mike May of Parker said. “Thank you for your friendship.”

May seconded the nomination of Carroll as speaker. No one opposed Carroll.

Upon taking the podium Carroll congratulated Romanoff for his service and presented him with the gavel and “Bruce base” used during his tenure at the podium.

“Members, thank you for your vote of confidence,” Carroll said in his first comments to the House. “II look forward to living up to the confidence you have placed in me by electing me as speaker of this body.”

“I am honored and humbled to lead this chamber as its 34th speaker,” Speaker Carroll said in his opening address. “The people of Colorado have granted all of us a unique opportunity at this critical time in history.”

Carroll’s historic day was observed by a panoply of former African-American legislators, including ex-Sen. Penfield Tate, Denver clerk and recorder Stephanie O’Malley, ex-Sen. Regis Groff, former Rep. Rosemary Marshall, former Rep. Wilma Webb and former Denver mayor Wellington Webb.

Carroll paid homage to Romanoff and former majority leader Alice Madden for “working endlessly to move this state forward.”

“Both parties, and indeed the entire state, benefited from Andrew Romanoff’s and Alice Madden’s capacity to consider various, and at time competing, viewpoints,” he said. “Their thoughtful management of this chamber translated into transformative policies that have benefited all of Colorado.”

Republicans joined twice in a standing ovation for Romanoff and Madden.

Carroll, who is in his final term as a state representative, succeeds term-limited Andrew Romanoff in the speaker’s chair. Romanoff, who played a key role in helping Democrats win the majority in both houses of the General Assembly in 2004, was term-limited. He had recently been considered a contender for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Democrat Ken Salazar.

Groff commences his second session as Senate president. During his opening address to the Senate Groff said his status as the chamber's president, and Carroll's as House speaker, are not so much a reflection on them as on the state and those elected to the General Assembly.

"It is yet another stitch in the great fabric that is the history of this remarkable state," Groff said. "The historic uniqueness of what is happening in the Senate and House today is not a testament to Speaker Carroll or me, but a testimonial to Colorado and her people and members of this General Assembly."