Saturday, January 10, 2009

Colorado Independent Posts Worthy Story About State's KKK Past

In light of the events at the Capitol this week, during which two African-American men were installed as leaders of both chambers of the General Assembly, it's interesting and valuable to recall that Colorado has not always been a very tolerant place.

Cara DeGette's story posted Friday at Colorado Independent about a dark time in the history of the Centennial State is therefore especially worth reading.

DeGette's story owes much to a report done for the Colorado Springs Independent in 2003 by veteran journalist Ed Quillen. DeGette quotes part of that piece in her story:

After the general election of 1924, the governor, Clarence Morley, was a Klansman, taking his orders from Dr. John Galen Locke, the Grand Dragon of the Colorado Realm. Benjamin Stapleton, the mayor of Denver, consulted the Klan when making appointments. U.S. Senator Rice Means was elected with open Klan support. The state House of Representatives had a Klan majority.

Klansmen marched and burned crosses in small towns throughout the state, from Great Plains through the mountains to the Western Slope. A city council, or the mayor’s office, or the police and sheriff’s departments, or the county government — many fell under the Klan’s control.

Numerous cities and towns were infiltrated by Klan activities, Quillen noted, including Denver, Pueblo, Grand Junction and Canon City. “Only one major city escaped,” he noted, and that city was Colorado Springs.

The General Assembly eventually defeated the Klan's legislative agenda and the group's influence on the state's politics waned after Morley's single term in the governor's chair.

It's Sen. Lundberg, R-Berthoud

Rep. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud got a promotion today as a Larimer County GOP vacancy committee appointed him to replace former Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins.

The vote was 86-42, with Lundberg outpolling Army veteran and businessman Mike Lynch.

The veteran legislator from rural Larimer County was chosen despite opposition from Johnson, Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, and many local elected officials, who maintain that the Republican party must move toward the center to regain the political edge in the state.

But the GOP activists at the vacancy committee meeting rejected that view.

Quoted in a story by the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Sue Rehg said the GOP needs to stay on the right.

"Right on schedule, several groups of GOP centrists started wagging their fingers at values voters, blaming them for every lost opportunity on Nov. 4," Rehg said. "The answer, they claim, is not to become a more conservative, Reagan-esque party, but to acquiesce on the GOP's core issues in favor of energy and environment. Republicans are in the wilderness not because they spent the last six years embracing (limited) government and moral values, but because in so many areas the two parties have become almost indistinguishable."

So did several state senators, including Greg Brophy, R-Wray.

"His experience, common sense and fiscally conservative approach to problem solving is exactly what these times call for," Brophy said. "He will make a difference.”

Lundberg himself urged the vacancy committee to appoint him because of his conservative views.

"The problems our party has experienced have not been because our principals need to change, but because we haven't lived up to them," he said. "Some say that we should run to the middle to get ahead of the crowd. I disagree."

Lundberg, who is an evangelical Christian, denies that human-caused global climate change is occurring, opposes legal abortion and domestic partnerships and marriage rights for gay couples, is an advocate for tax reduction, and argues for expanded production of oil, oil shale, and other petroleum products. He was a leading opponent of Referendum C, which gave the state a five-year break from the revenue ratchet-down effect of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, in 2005.

Lundberg, who has been a member of the House since January 2003, was in his last term as a representative. He had previously made an unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1998 and served for six years as a member of the board of directors of Colorado Christian University.

His appointment creates a vacancy in House District 49. A GOP selection committee from that district will meet next weekend.

Ray Walter of Windsor and BJ Nikkel of Berthoud have announced their desire to be chosen as Lundberg's replacement.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chief Justice Makes Modest Requests During Biannual Address to Assembly

Colorado Supreme Court chief justice Mary Mullarkey came to the House chamber on Friday for her biannual "State of the Judiciary" address and she did not ask for much.

The veteran jurist, who has been on the court for more than 21 years, urged the General Assembly only to provide some additional probation officers, facilitate improved service at courhouses and provide a few million dollars for furnishings in the new courthouses and courthouse additions.

In 2007 and 2005 Mullarkey sought quite a bit more for the judicial branch, asking the last time she spoke for 63 new judges and enhanced security for courthouses and four years ago for 12 new judges and 104 other new judicial branch employees.

There was a minor controversy surrounding the chief justice's biannual address because some GOP legislators, including Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, have accused the state's highest court of having a bias in favor of the Democratic party. Gardner and several other Republican lawmakers asked Mullarkey to address those allegations in a letter sent to the veteran judge earlier in the week, but Mullarkey did not do so during her speech.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gibbs Misses Ritter Speech, But Definitely Has Excuse

Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, was not at the Capitol this morning when Gov. Bill Ritter delivered his State of the State address to the gathered senators and representatives.

That would normally be considered a political faux pas, but the wildlands firefighter from the West Slope will likely be given a pass.

Gibbs worked in a crew fighting the fires raging north of Boulder Wednesday night and early Thursday morning deep into the wee hours.

The Olde Stage fire , which burned about 1,400 acres, was finally suppressed on Thursday after forcing the evacuation of several hundred people.

Ritter: Set Aside Partisanship, Focus on Jobs, Roads and Healthcare

Gov. Bill Ritter came upstairs to the House chamber this morning and told legislators gathered in joint session that their priority this year should be to create jobs, build roads, and continue efforts to improve access to healthcare.

The occasion was the annual "State of the State" address, and in Ritter's third opportunity to deliver it he also asked the General Assembly to put aside partisanship so that solutions to the state's "tough" financial situation can be found.

"In this legislative session, in this tough economy, we'll need to make tough choices, we'll need to collaborate and listen to one another as we chart a Colorado way forward," Ritter said. "Our challenges need more than just Democratic ideas or Republican ideas. We need uniquely Colorado ideas."

During his 33-minute address Ritter hit on several familiar themes in addition to discussing the Centennial State's possible $604 million budget shortfall this fiscal year and $385 million difference between anticipated revenues and expenses in the coming year.

"We've used the budget the past two years to set Colorado on a forward path," Ritter said. "Now, in these tough times, we must focus on the bare fundamentals and delay some investments we know will make Colorado stronger eventually."

The "investments" the governor was talking about will, if agreed to by the Senate and House, hit wide swaths of the state.

"Unlike the previous recession, our options are more limited this time," Ritter said. "Therefore, everything will be on the table. We'll work to protect life, safety and public health, and we won't abandon our obligation to provide safety-net services. However, we will touch many other important public services. This will be hard on the public and hard on public servants like those of you here today: lawmakers, judges, mayors, county commissioners and school board members."

The governor also said, though, that he anticipates receiving help from the federal government after President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated later this month.

"Together with the new administration, together with out new senators and our entire congressional delegation," Ritter said, "we will create a stronger partnership with the federal government and work side-by-side on the challenges we face."

Republicans applauded Ritter's acknowledgement that difficult budget choices will have to be confronted while simultaneously knocking him for counting on Washington, D.C.

"“The state is facing difficult challenges in this economy, and the governor’s speech indicates that he is beginning to realize the extent of those challenges. It is clear that Colorado is not immune to the effects of this national recession.

“We are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to protect jobs, help stabilize the economy, and make our roads and bridges safer," Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, the House minority leader, said. "However, the governor’s plan appears to rely almost solely on the hope of federal handouts and on increased fees for already-struggling Colorado families."

“Now is the time to tighten our belt and make the difficult choices that are required to balance the budget, just like Colorado families are doing. It is not the time to create new programs, increase government mandates, and increase the burden of hardworking Coloradans.”

Ritter has already taken some steps to ease the state's financial woes, freezing state hiring and cut funding for preschool and kindergarten programs and college capital construction projects. He hinted strongly in his speech that state employee compensation will be cut, too.

"We've asked state employees for their ideas, and we will ask them to sacrifice, too," Ritter said. "As I announced before, employee compensation will be part of the solution."

The governor did not hesitate to point out that Colorado's budget woes have something to do with the revenue straightjacket imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and asked the General Assembly to consider ways of loosening it.

"There is also an opportunity here a chance to address TABOR and the constitutional and statutory straightjacket that makes modern, sensible and value-based budgeting an impossibility," Ritter said. "Last year, former House speaker Romanoff started the conversation, and we need to keep it alive. We need to talk about life after Ref C whether and when to extend it. We have a chance to find a better way forward, a Colorado way forward."

Republicans leaped all over that statement, accusing Ritter of being out of touch with the state's electorate.

Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, was quoted in the Denver Post as saying that "bad Chinese air" must have got to the governor on a recent trade trip.

"I don't know if the governor was in Asia during the election," Kopp told the Post. "The citizens roundly rejected dismantling the only provision in the constitution that protects taxpayers."

Ritter returned, for the third year in a row, to his "New Energy Economy" theme, arguing that his programs to expand production and use of renewable energy have significantly helped the state.

"In my first State of the State, I said the New Energy Economy must be our calling card to the future," Ritter said. "In two short years, we've created thousands of jobs, quadrupled our wind power and made Colorado a global research leader. We introduced the New Energy Economy to our president-elect and the rest of the country, and now we're introducing it to the entire world."

The governor also appeared to endorse the use of bonds and increased user fees to pay for the state's transportation needs. The proposal, called "FASTER" or "Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery, was developed in part by his transportation review panel.

"For the short-term, we'll need to put safety and maintenance first, by looking at fees and bonding to fix old bridges and old roadways," Ritter said. "For the mid-term, we'll need to be even more creative, looking at public-private partnerships and other financing options. And for the long-term, we'll need to craft a sustainable funding formula that's responsible, fair and affordable."

On health care Ritter made a bold proposal to impose fees on hospitals in order to increase the amount of matching funds paid to the state by the federal government.

"Our provider fee partnership with the hospitals is a bright light that will not only help the uninsured, but slow the escalating cost of health care for struggling businesses as well," Ritter said.

The administration says the fee could generate $400-600 million per year, which would be matched by Washington. Those dollars would, in turn, be available to reduce "underpayments" to hospitals and physicians and expand Medicaid coverage to as many as 100,000 more people.

The governor's jobs focus was evident throughout the speech. He used the word 18 times.

Ritter also asked the General Assembly to pass legislation that would:

1. Ratify strong new regulations by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that toughen environmental standards on energy drillers;

2. Require all new single family homes to make available to buyers a "solar-ready" option allowing use of the sun for electricity needs, help rural schools build solar and wind energy production facilities, and mandate disclosure of utility bills upon sale of a house;

3. Create a tax credit applicable to creation of new jobs;

4. Ease the barriers to high school student efforts to obtain college credits;

5. Revive the Colorado Credit Reserve Program, which helps businesses obtain access to capital; and

6. Provide for financing for consumer renewable energy projects.

The governor closed with a plea for cooperation across party lines, arguing that effective and responsive government will not be possible without it.

"One hundred years from now, I want Coloradans to look back and see this as the turning point the point when we set aside partisan politics and worked together as Coloradans and built a New Energy Economy, a modern transportation system, and the country's best education system," Ritter said. "In his election night remarks, President-elect Obama reminded us of the words of Lincoln: 'We are not enemies, but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.'"

"We will need to work together as responsible leaders to make the difficult choices necessary to weather this storm. We must not give in to partisan politics. We must not let cynicism win out over hope. We must not let fear win out over faith."

Republicans later released a YouTube video response to Ritter's address, in which Sen. Mike Kopp of Littleton and Rep. Amy Stephens of Monument said the GOP would be happy to work with Ritter but opposed the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission efforts to crack down on pollution created by oil and gas extraction and would not support increases in fees or efforts to convince the public to approve tax increases.

The text of the governor's speech is available here.

The GOP video response is available here.

Ritter to Deliver "State of the State" Address Today

Gov. Bill Ritter will deliver the annual "State of the State" speech to a joint session of the House and Senate this morning at 11 am.

The speech can be viewed live online or on Comcast channel 165.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sen. Penry's Comments

Here are the remarks delivered by Senate minority leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, during this morning's opening ceremonies:

"Thank you Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader and fellow members for this opportunity. It is an honor to stand before you.

"Mr. President, recognizing that Democrats control all of the levers of government here in Colorado – the Executive Branch, the House, the Senate – I’d like to begin this session by moving that the 67th General Assembly adjourn, Sine Die.

"Mr. President. I was joking. I withdraw that motion.

"I speak for each of my colleagues in the Republican Caucus when I say: we’re present, we’re voting, we’ve got a full agenda, and a full commitment to moving this great state of ours forward.

"Mr. President, the Senate Republicans are ready to get to work.

"Before I go any further, I want to join the President in welcoming our new Senators. Serving behind these desks, in this room, with all the opportunities and responsibilities that entails, is a tremendous honor. And so congratulations to you all.

"In particular, I want to take a moment to introduce the newest Republicans in this body – Senators Keith King, Mark Scheffel and Al White. All will add smarts and savvy to the General Assembly.

"And to the families of all of our members – especially the spouses and children of Colorado’s Senators – your service deserves recognition too. I’m reminded of the time I was walking in a 4th of July Parade when I spotted an elderly gentleman who was wearing a faded hat that read: WWII veteran. When I saw him, I scooted over, reached out my hand and said, “Thank you for your service to America, Sir.” Before the man could respond, his wife jumped in and said, “What about me? I paid the bills and raised the kids while he was running around Europe!”

"And so it is for many of you, the spouses and children of the men and women in this body. Your service takes a different form, but it is no less important or real. In that vein, I would like to acknowledge my wife, Jamie Penry. Mr. President, this will not surprise you: I don’t hold the gavel in my household, either. Jamie does. And we are so blessed to have two great children. My six year-old-son Chase, and
my two-year-old daughter Emme.

"I would like to also introduce my parents – Dan and Linda Penry. They taught me to dream and to work. And last, I want to acknowledge you, Mr. President. Your able and gracious and humble approach not only serves your own caucus but also distinguishes this entire body.

"A lot has been said about the historic significance of President Groff’s rise to the Presidency of the Colorado Senate. President Groff has shattered barriers. The same, of course, is true of Terrance Carroll, the new speaker of Colorado’s House, as it is to an even greater extent for the man from Illinois who will soon raise his right hand and take the Oath of Office for the Presidency of the United States.

"Now let me state the obvious: as a proud Republican, it’s no secret that my very strong preference would have been for 2009 to witness the christening of a President named McCain, a statehouse speaker called May, and a new Senate president from a place like, say, Grand Junction.

"But even in this Hall where party differences tend to dominate more than they ought, even here, we are Americans before we are partisans.

"And as Americans, it is important that we acknowledge with national pride what the electoral rise of men named Obama, Groff, and Carroll says about the progress of equality in our Republic.

"Even as we recognize the historic political events unfolding before our eyes, we also feel the grip of a very different and more troubling reality. And that reality is this: Colorado, like America, has fallen on very difficult economic times. These tough times paint the backdrop for much of what we do in the next 120 days. And these tough times will beckon the best-thinking – and tough choices – by us all.

"Unfortunately, we face these challenges at a time when confidence in government has scarcely been lower. The public has grown contemptuous of a political process that seems endlessly pre-occupied with the next election cycle – it’s called the permanent campaign, and the public is permanently sick of it.

"Members of the Colorado Senate, I know that we can take a time-out from the fast world of the permanent campaign and do the hard work of governing, of making tough choices, of leading. Let’s worry about 2010 sometime a little closer to 2010, and spend the next 120 days focused on the very real challenges of today.

"And there’s plenty that needs our focus.

"Our first and highest focus should be summed up in a single word. Jobs. Ronald Reagan once said a recession is when someone you know loses their job. A depression is when you lose yours.

"We may not but in a depression, but that’s small solace to a Mom or Dad who lost their job.

"These difficult circumstances should frame our mindset for the debates ahead. For every bill, every amendment, every rule and every regulation that comes before this body, the question should be asked: is it is good for our economy, will it promote job growth, will it make Colorado an attractive place for job creators? This question can be called the jobs test, and if any bill or amendment or rule fails it, we should have the good sense to fix it or defeat it.

"This General Assembly surely won’t agree on everything, but when it comes to the economy we should agree on this much: first, this legislature should do no harm. That means that this General Assembly should put the breaks on efforts to extend the influence of organized labor in our government and our economy. The protracted fights between labor and business in this state have been a catastrophic waste of resources and valuable political capital. Let’s focus our energy and efforts this year on creating jobs, not reliving the old fights of a bygone era.

"Resolving ourselves to do no harm also means that we should take a bipartisan approach to reviewing the Administration’s new natural gas regulations. Some of these new rules are warranted, but a handful of onerous and overreaching provisions are not. They will conspire with broader economic forces to kill jobs and reduce energy production at a time when Colorado – and America – need a lot more of both.

"Two years ago, thanks to a bipartisan agreement brokered by then-Senate president Joan Fitzgerald, this Governor was given a historic, bipartisan mandate to modernize rules that regulate energy exploration in Colorado. Colleagues, the terms of that bargain have not been met. In the next 120 days, this legislature should restore our compromise of two years ago.

"The final area where this legislature might feel a tug to enact policies that make things worse is in the area of taxes and fees.

"Now there isn’t one person in this room unaware of the difficult budget choices before us. We all get it. And yet we cannot ignore that many businesses and many families have a balance sheet or a check book that look at least just as bad. And in these perilous economic times we should be careful not to balance government’s budget in ways that knock the budgets of families and business out of balance.

"Many of you have probably read about the budget fight in New York, where their Governor – David Paterson – proposed 137 new taxes and fees to bring that budget in balance. Almost nothing was spared the governor’s revenue bulls eye. He even proposed new fees on soda pop – a so-called fat tax – and a new tax on iPod downloads. Cash-strapped families and businesses, understandably, have greeted Governor Paterson’s plan with red-hot outrage.

"Now again, I’m not here to say we are going to vote against every fee that comes along no matter what. There are many government services where a user-pays fee-based system is appropriate and fair. But as the first Senate Republican leader to own an iPod, and as a dad who needs an occasional Mountain Dew because his daughter kept him up all night, count me as a 'no' vote on both the iPod fee and a fat tax.

"And you can also count Republicans as a 'no' against the budget if it relies on new taxes and big fees to spare government from making the tough choices it needs to balances its budget.

"Now let’s go back to that jobs test for one minute. I just talked about measures we should fix or avoid, but I want to close by focusing on some meaningful job-creating measures this General Assembly can and must take.

"There’s another side to that jobs test, and that’s this:

"If a bill or an amendment or a rule improves the economic health of this great state – if it promotes jobs – let’s move forward together.

"As a first order of business, let’s come together and find a way to fund our critical road and bridge needs.

"Under the arcane rules of our budget, our roads and bridges receive the last dollar of general fund when times are good, and they are the first funding victim when times turn bad.

"Let’s not use a bad economy as an excuse for continuing to treat our roads and bridges as a second-class budget priority.

"In that vein, our first objective should be fixing the most unsafe bridges. There’s more than 120 of them, and they need to be repaired yesterday.

"So let’s not wait. Yesterday, Rep. Mike May and I outlined a plan that would get those unsafe bridges repaired in 2009 using the same innovative financing tool that this General Assembly used to build new prisons and finance the construction of new schools and college buildings across the state.

"By leveraging a small portion of the billions in equity Colorado has in its state buildings, and dedicating a fraction of the state’s general fund and severance tax collections, the state of Colorado can quickly and conservatively put more than a half a billion dollars and thousands of Coloradans to work fixing unsafe bridges.

"Our bridge plan has three primary benefits.

"First, it’s the only plan out there that gets significant new transportation investment into our struggling economy quickly – by late this spring. That means the bridges get fixed quicker, and our contractors get to work sooner.

"Second, our plan leverages existing assets and resources. Colorado has billions in capital assets that are literally just sitting there. Republicans say let’s put those assets to work in a way that helps meet the very real needs of this state.

"Third, this financing approach works. We know it. The legislature and the Governor have used it to fund other critical state projects many times before, and the courts have validated it.

"A final footnote on the transportation issue: we believe strongly in the approach I have just outlined, but we know that Governor Ritter, Senator Gibbs and Senator Romer, and Representative Rice and Representative McFadyen and many others have ideas of their own. And we welcome those and the opportunity to work together in good faith. But let’s not wait for January to become February to become the waning hours of the session before we forge a transportation agreement. Let’s do it now, in
the opening hours of these 120 days. Let’s show that government can make positive change and quickly.

"There will be a number of other proposals from Republicans that will improve the jobs situation in Colorado.

"We believe the best way to kick-start economic recovery is to cut taxes on business investment and job growth. President-elect Obama made the same argument earlier this week, and we agree. Senator Kopp will introduce a bill to eliminate an outdated surcharge on business. And Senator Scheffel is introducing legislation to exempt thousands of businesses from the job-killing business personal property tax. Rather than throwing money at new programs that may or may not work, let’s build on the bipartisan successes of last year and exempt a new round of businesses from the job-killing, business personal property tax.

"Energy is fertile ground for Colorado jobs too. Republicans in the House and Senate will introduce a package of bills that, together, implement an “all of the above energy” strategy in Colorado – more wind, more coal, more solar, more natural gas, and, yes, nuclear, too.

"And finally, Mr. President, we are eager to continue to press the cause of reform and standards and choice in our schools. Talk of a good economy is just idle bluster without strong schools to train our kids.

"Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, Fellow Senators, between now and the moment that someone comes to this microphone to move – in earnest – that we adjourn Sine Die, there’s much to be done and the stakes are high for Colorado.

"The only thing to do now is to get started, so let’s.

"Thank you Mr. President and Members of this Senate."

Groff's Opening Comments to Senate

Here is the text of Senate president Peter Groff's remarks during opening ceremonies today:

"Mr. Majority Leader, Mr. Minority Leader, Senate colleagues, distinguished guests, friends and my family. Let me begin by thanking the Senate for my election as president of the Colorado Senate for the 67th General Assembly.

"It has been an honor to serve as your president and I am humbled that you would elect me again to lead this august body. I again pledge to work with all of you on both sides of the aisle to continue to build a better Colorado -- one we can be proud to leave our children and one we can be proud to present to the nation and the world. Thank you for this tremendous responsibility and honor.

"I want offer my congratulations to Speaker Terrance Carroll on his election just moments ago. It is yet another stitch in the great fabric that is the history of our great state. 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 the 67th General Assembly.

"Let us welcome our new members. Senators, please stand when I call your name:

"Senators Morgan Carroll of Aurora, Joyce Foster of Denver, Rollie Heath of Boulder, Evie Hudak of Arvada, Linda Newell of Littleton, Mark Scheffel of Parker, Keith King of Colorado Springs, Al White of Hayden and Mary Hodge of Brighton.

"Welcome to the Colorado Senate. Strive to never lose the feeling you felt when you entered this historic chamber this morning -- if you can maintain that feeling our state will be better after your service. I also offer congratulations to the families and friends who were the foundation for your victories -- now say good bye for the next 119 days.

"Much has been made of the challenges we will face over those 119 days -- a precarious economy, rising unemployment, crumbling bridges, a broken education system and thousands of Coloradans without health care.

"The mountainous challenges we face today pale in comparison to the struggles faced by the pioneers who came to the foot of our majestic rocky mountains to build a life and a state with a vision that would not be diminished in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

"Driven by a collective yearning to conquer any and all barriers that stood in their way, Colorado’s pioneers faced and vanquished every challenge -- whether it was a rocky and unfamiliar terrain, unrelenting and unpredictable weather, deceptive people and practices or a dismissive government the pioneers soldiered on not to be deterred. Making the decisions that would build this magnificent state.

"Colorado’s foundation is based on this pioneering spirit. When these pioneers first came to this region in search of land and opportunity, they found a rugged terrain but also the best land possible for agriculture. They found a land with endless possibilities, but possibilities dependent on hard work and determination - not unlike the landscape we see before us as we head into this next session. Since even before Colorado was a state, Coloradans have been used to hard work and tough decisions.

"We sit in this grand house built by the children and grandchildren of those pioneers -- some five and a half generations later we are the descendants of their land and decisions facing daunting challenges of our own -- with tough decisions of our own to make.

"The decisions made by the pioneers shaped the future of Colorado. The decisions we will make over the next 119 days will also shape the future -- but this time it is for our children and grandchildren who will be the beneficiaries.

"These decisions will begin a new chapter in Colorado’s history -- one that must be written by all of us: Democrats and Republicans; farmers and businesspeople; urban dwellers and suburbanites; by engineers and teachers. The decisions we make will be difficult ones, but we have made tough and difficult decisions recently and while we have made progress we still have work to do.

"Despite decisions and investments we have made in our efforts to create the new energy economy and assist small businesses which has placed Colorado in a much better economic situation than many states face -- we are not immune from the national financial crisis -- we face a tremendous budget deficit of $604 million, we now have 43,000 people in our unemployment insurance system and saw $48 million paid in unemployment benefits in November - the highest unemployment rate in the history of state. In the first three quarters of 2008 there were almost 30,000 foreclosure filings, and according to the Food Bank of the Rockies, nearly half a million people rely on food banks and the last six months that number has increased by 20% or 91,000 people.

"Despite the decision in the closing hours of our last session to introduce a late bill to repair 122 structurally deficient bridges and handle other transportation needs -- that effort failed and we crossed our fingers and prayed to God that those bridges would hold and we wouldn’t have a Minneapolis tragedy. We didn’t. But we now face 126 structurally deficient bridges that must be repaired at a total cost of $1.3 billion and an overall yearly shortfall of $1.5 billion for all other transportation needs.

"Despite our decisions to expand school choice and create innovation in our K-12 system to the point that we are national leaders in education reform -- Our college readiness rate is only 34%, colleges spend $14.6 million on remedial classes and 52% of parents can’t attend school related events because they aren’t granted sensible leave.

"Despite our decision to establish building blocks in the area of health care and health insurance to create better access, to lower cost and insure more Coloradans -- including covering an additional 50,000 children by next year, we still have nearly 800,000 Coloradans who face the frightening specter of being uninsured.

"Together we have made decisions that have created a better Colorado and put us in a better stead than most, but as you can see we still face monumental and watershed challenges that will require difficult decisions to preserve the land bequeath to us by the pioneers and our maker.

"In Joshua 1:6 it says “be strong and courageous, because you will lead the people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”

"It doesn’t take strength and courage to turn this chamber into a stadium of political gamesmanship where the score is kept when Mr. McGowne calls the roll on some legislation offered to get the other party on “record” and then we announce the winner in November of 2010.

"However, it does take strength and courage to transform this august chamber into an arena of policy concepts and ideas that produces not Democratic answers nor Republican responses, but generates Colorado solutions where the winner in 119 days are the people of Colorado as we lead them in the land we inherited.

"It will take strength and courage to make the difficult decisions that we must over the next 119 days -- but as we muster that strength and courage we must balance it with the overriding role of government which is to stand for the people that live in margins.

"That role is our responsibility and our moral obligation.

"That responsibility and moral obligation accompanies every elected official as we make the difficult decisions that will have to be made -- that responsibility and moral obligation will not let us not forget about the family in Greeley who after years of savings and planning and prayers they were able to purchase they dream home several years ago, but last spring their dream became a nightmare as they now bounces from relative to relative all but homeless with their dream home foreclosed.

"That responsibility and moral obligation will not let us not forget the father from in Colorado Springs who came home shortly before Thanksgiving to tell his wife and young family that he had been laid off from his job and who now worries how he is going to buy diapers for their newborn and food for the rest of the family.

"That responsibility and moral obligation will not let us not forget the young student from Jefferson County who in September during her first week of college sat numb in her dorm room after being told that she would have to take remedial classes because she wasn’t prepared for college.

"That responsibility and moral obligation will not let us forget the couple in Grand Junction who have made a difficult choice of their own and have decided to forgo the potentially life saving and maintenance drugs for the husband so that they make mortgage payment.

"Let us not forget those stories and those individuals and so many others who await our decisions and our leadership. We will have to make some difficult decisions this session, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that these decisions affect real people, with real lives and real dreams and hopes.

"However, Coloradans are resilient it is our pioneering DNA -- and like our forefathers we will be modern day Joshuas. We will be strong and courageous in the decisions we make as we lead our state in the land we’ve inherited.

"A land that remains one of endless possibilities and opportunities, undergirded by a persistent hope, pushed forward by an eagerness for change and steadied by an unwavering dedication to conquering every challenge.

"We are better than we think and we must be better than we’ve been -- our future depends on it.

"God bless you, God bless this honorable body and God bless the great state of Colorado.

House Minority Leader's Opening Remarks

Here is the text of remarks delivered by House minority leader Mike May, R-Parker, during opening ceremonies at the General Assembly this morning:

"Mr. Speaker, Mr. Majority Leader, esteemed colleagues and honored guests, welcome!

"As there is much work to be done, my comments here will be brief.

"Actually, as most of you know, as recently as a few weeks ago, I wasn’t planning to be here this session, so I didn’t have a great deal of time to write a lengthy speech. However, as my good friend John Lennon said: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

"So here I am back amongst all my rowdy friends. And we certainly have a lot of work to do!

"First, I need to say a special thank you. My wife Traci is here today. I want to acknowledge the personal sacrifice that she and my family have made for me to serve with you here in this body. All of our families make sacrifices for us to be here, so please, colleagues stand with me now to show them how grateful we are for their support.

"Years ago I had a sign on my office wall that read “There are no problems, only opportunities to succeed.” My friends, our opportunity to succeed is unmatched by those in recent times.

"As a nation and a state, we are facing perhaps the most challenging economic crisis in more than a generation.

"Colorado families are struggling, and they’re worried. They are concerned about our financial markets and their retirement funds, about keeping their jobs and their homes, and about educating and caring for their children.

"As Coloradans, we are an adventurous and tough-minded group. The problems we've solved in the past were often difficult and complex. But, we roll up our shirtsleeves and we get the job done.

"We will need this spirit of the west - the tireless and rugged courage that settled our state - to move beyond the problems that stare us coldly in the face today.

"This session, we must succeed.

"Like the budgets of many Colorado families, income levels aren't keeping up with expenses. And just like Colorado families, the state will need to tighten its belt a notch or two to adjust.

"Certainly there will be those who will be unhappy with the choices we must make - perhaps even some in this room. But we have an obligation to live within our means, and to do that this year will be more difficult than it has been in the past.

"Now, more than ever, it is apparent that the state should have been more fiscally responsible: We should have created a rainy day fund. When the sun was shining, we did not set aside money. Now, when it is raining, there is no money to set aside. But that doesn’t mean we can’t set the stage for better days. Now is the time to create the structure for future savings, to take the responsible course.

"And while we plan for the future, we must address today’s budget challenges. We will wrestle with shortfalls and federal mandates, and accommodate a state constitution with conflicting, and often confusing requirements, many of which disregard the immediate needs of Colorado citizens.

"In fact, I am reminded of the old Rubik’s Cube, where the correct twists and turns were always needed in the exact sequence to line up the colors on all sides. I never could figure out the Rubik’s Cube, but together, I am confident that we can solve the state budget puzzle this year.

"To do so in the current environment we will need the talent, creativity, and the commitment of everyone in this room. We will also need to agree on a few ground-rules, some family budget values, if you will.

"Our budget should demonstrate that we understand the importance of the duty, and the honor, that the people of Colorado have given to us.

"It should reflect our commitment to protecting jobs and to protecting our economy.

"It should reflect our commitment to keeping commerce moving by providing a safe and reliable transportation system.

"It should reflect our commitment to the future through a diverse, accessible education system for our children in Kindergarten through 12th grade, and on through college.

"It should reflect our commitment to supporting the industries that bring jobs and revenue into our communities.

"It should reflect our commitment to a government that is open and up front about how it spends taxpayer dollars.

"And it should reflect our respect for the freedom and opportunities that Colorado families deserve.

"Colorado is uniquely positioned to be a leader in energy, and with more than just a “New Energy Economy” - we need a “Stable Energy Economy.”

"You’ve heard it said before: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

"Now, we have several farmers and ranchers in the crowd, and surely they can appreciate the wisdom of that statement.

"Colorado has real potential to lead in the field of renewable energy. However, we are also incredibly well positioned to lead in other energy fields: oil and natural gas, clean coal, hydro-power, and even potentially nuclear power and oil shale.

"We live in a state that is blessed with many homegrown resources, and through responsible development, we can lead the country toward energy independence.

"What we must not do is sacrifice our economy - and the incredible number of jobs created by the oil and gas industry in particular. We cannot afford to drive away a thriving industry that is vital to many Colorado communities in these difficult economic times.

"As with all of our business policies, as we strive to do good, we must also be careful to do no harm.

"There is no ‘one’ right answer when it comes to energy independence. Instead, we need a diverse and responsible portfolio to make Colorado a leader in energy, and in turn to protect jobs and bolster our economy.

"A fundamental responsibility of government is to build and maintain our roads, highways and bridges. This is a responsibility during good times and bad.

"The stakes for us this year with transportation are high, indeed this is one of the greatest opportunities we have.

"And while Congress and the incoming administration in Washington have signaled that they may provide states with some additional transportation dollars, waiting around for the federal government to address the state’s needs is not a realistic option.

"Instead, the legislature must move quickly.

"By adopting an innovative financing method, we can use a relatively modest amount of money to secure substantial funding for this critical priority.

"Reliable and well maintained roads mean safer travel for Colorado families, fewer roadblocks for commerce, and an opportunity to put more people to work on our roads, highways and bridges.

"We must come together to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.

"Education is also an area where we cannot afford to lose focus, and the budget pressure on higher education this year will be enormous.

"Last year, by working together, we were able to make significant progress toward improving the quality of education for our students. As a result, the Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education are now cooperating to develop a seamless system to help our kids better compete in an increasingly competitive world.

"We also worked together to dedicate significant funding to make our school buildings safer for students from pre-school through college, to reward our best teachers, and to make up some lost ground for charter schools.

"We must continue to build on these successes.

"One of our great challenges this year in education is to keep higher education affordable for all those who strive to improve their lives.

"With so much of our budget protected by special requirements, our colleges and universities will find themselves in the same budget squeeze as those who wish to attend – ever rising costs competing for fewer dollars in a beleaguered economy.

"And that battered economy will result in many who have lost their jobs and look to our community colleges and universities to learn new skills for their future.

"Let’s commit to an open and honest discussion with our college and university presidents. Our goal should be to preserve hope and opportunity for a better tomorrow for all Colorado citizens who seek a higher education.

"The importance of a strong Colorado economy is an area where everyone in this room – Republicans and Democrats alike – should be able to agree.

"In November, election season came to an end. Now, in January, it is the time for us to come together and lead.

"Balancing our budget, protecting jobs, and bolstering our economy will require true leadership. If we fail to meet any of those goals this year, everything else that we do will matter little.

"This is our challenge.

"I hope that you will all join me in rising to meet it. We have shown in the past that we do our best work, when we work together.

"There is no choice but for us to succeed.

Speaker Terrance Carroll's Opening Remarks

Here is the text of the address delivered by House speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, at the opening session of the 69th General Assembly this morning:

"Majority Leader Weissmann, Minority Leader May, members of the Colorado General Assembly, and distinguished guests, welcome to the opening of the First Regular Session of the 67th General Assembly. I am honored and humbled to lead this chamber as its 34th speaker, and thank you all for your support.

"I also want to thank the people of Colorado, who this November elected or reelected 65 members to the House to govern our state. The people have granted all of us a unique opportunity at a critical time in history. Of the 65 members of the Colorado House of Representatives, 17 of you took the oath of office for the first time today.

"I want to congratulate each of the following new members on their election: Cindy Acree, Dennis Apuan, Randy Baumgardner, Laura Bradford, Lois Court, Cheri Gerou, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Beth McCann, Joe Miklosi, Carole Murray, Sal Pace, Kevin Priola, Su Ryden, Sue Schafer, Scott Tipton, Ed Vigil and Mark Waller.

"I also want to recognize a few special guests who have joined us in the chamber today, many of whom are former members of the House. The Honorable Rosemary Marshall who I served with for 6 wonderful years is here today, as are the Honorable Wilma and Wellington Webb, the Honorable Gloria Tanner, the Honorable Regis Groff, the Honorable Michael Hancock and the Honorable Penfield Tate II. Please welcome these dedicated public servants and wonderful friends. I also want to thank Mrs. Mary Louise Lee for her rousing versions of the Star Spangled Banner and Lift Every Voice and Sing.

"Finally, I would be remiss if I did not single out the service of two departing members of this chamber. Speaker Andrew Romanoff and Majority Leader Alice Madden led our caucus for five years and our chamber for four, working tirelessly to move this state forward. When they began their tenures, the state had been ravaged by one of the worst budget crises in our history.

"Today, due in no small part to their efforts, 18,000 more students can afford the opportunity to go to college; 20,000 more kids have the chance to go to preschool and kindergarten; 50,000 more Colorado children will be able to get the health care they need; And every Colorado consumer has access to the clean energy technologies of tomorrow. Both parties, and indeed the entire state, benefited from Andrew Romanoff and Alice Madden’s capacity to consider various – and at time competing – viewpoints. Their thoughtful management of this chamber translated into transformative policies that have benefited all of Colorado. Please join me now in thanking them both for their years of service.

"The 65 of you in this room elected to the 67th General Assembly come from many different walks of life. Standing with us today are teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, ranchers, businessmen and women, members of the armed services and veterans who have risked their lives for our freedom. We have mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. We have folks from big cities and small towns, the eastern plains and the western slope, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and pacific islanders. We have third and fourth generation Coloradans, others born out of state, and some of you who were even born abroad. We have liberals, moderates, and conservatives.

"We, members, represent the diverse fabric of Colorado’s community.

"A patchwork of unique and wonderful biographies that together make Colorado, like America, different and more magnificent than other societies in history. But that patchwork alone does not make this country great.

"What makes America great is that the fabric of our community is sewn together by a single thread. That thread is called opportunity.

"My mother – the daughter of a sharecropper and the granddaughter of a slave – taught me the importance of opportunity. She taught me that lesson even though her formal education did not extend beyond the third grade.

"She was 51 years old when I was born – she would have turned 90 this year, if she were still with us. I was her only child, and she raised me alone, in Anacostia, one of the toughest neighborhoods in one of the toughest towns in America: Washington D.C.

"Growing up, our nickname for the neighborhood was Dodge City. In my neighborhood, young black men were expected to be nothing more than a number on a police blotter.

"My mother, a woman of unconditional love and unbounded grace, understood that my only way out of the neighborhood was to capitalize on each opportunity, which came first in the form of a free public education.

"America cares not where you came from but only where you want to go. But for America to continue to flourish, we must be diligent in our work to preserve existing opportunities that are the engines of prosperity and offer new opportunities where none existed before.

"I know Colorado is a place where informed leaders still believe our promise is not yet fulfilled, and won’t be until each child has the opportunity to realize his or her full potential, each hardworking Coloradan has the opportunity to find a job, raise a family, and retire with security and dignity.

"I offer that our principal charge should be to continue to expand the circle of opportunity, so that every single Coloradan may have a genuine chance to succeed.

"Our task comes at a unique time. The world we live in today seems less secure than the world we inhabited just a short time ago. The state and the nation face a bleak economic outlook.

"More Coloradans are losing their jobs; The price of energy continues to fluctuate wildly; Spending and consumer confidence are down. And while Colorado, with its diversified economy and well-trained workforce, has fared better than the country as a whole, we are not immune to those forces driving the downturn.

"We’ve already seen firsthand how a global crisis affects us locally; A bank failure in Milan can hurt a cattle rancher in Meeker. Plant closings in Detroit can mean layoffs in Denver.

"As the recession worsens, what was once a quiet crisis is now loud, and threatens to become deafening.

"In these difficult times, Americans have sent a clear message to their political leaders: we don't care where you come from, what color your skin is, or what party you belong to. We care only how you can move us forward.

"The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “[t]he ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

"Members, the road ahead is besieged with challenges and controversy. Our response should not be panic or haste, but instead sound judgment, a steady hand, and an unflinching commitment to this great state.

"And as we tackle a weakening economy and difficult budget choices, let us never take our eyes off of our greater purpose; to expand the circle of opportunity in Colorado. May we all measure up to that task.

"Today, I ask each of you, the members of the Colorado House of Representatives, to work together toward achieving three common goals to help expand opportunity:

"First, to bring new, high-paying jobs to Colorado

"Second, to provide support for struggling families

"And finally, to build a world class public education system

"To meet these goals, I ask that we make an honest attempt to set aside our partisan differences, to look past ideological extremes, and to search for common ground. And while we will demonstrate bold but pragmatic leadership, we will also remember that no leader, political party or interest group has a monopoly on good ideas.

"Job One this legislative term is to create good jobs for Colorado.

"That’s why this November, Senate President Groff and I created the bi-partisan Committee on Job Creation and Economic Growth. Together, we tasked that committee with crafting real solutions to bring new jobs to Colorado right now and to help get our economy back on track. The 10 members of that committee have already met half a dozen times and are soliciting ideas from business pioneers, civic leaders and individuals from across the state. I want to thank our 5 House members for working so hard over the last two months: Representatives Joe Rice, Buffie McFadyen, Judy Solano, David Balmer, and Larry Liston.

"We look forward to hearing your committee’s recommendations.

"But the magnitude of this crisis compels us to act immediately. Already, a number of promising ideas have come forward. Colorado’s businesses, especially our small businesses, are the engine of our economy and the source of many of this state’s jobs.

"Today we will introduce legislation sponsored by Representative Joe Rice to provide a new Colorado Jobs Tax Credit to companies that bring good, high paying jobs to our state.

"Recently, we’ve seen many small businesses struggle to keep their doors open because they can’t borrow the money they need to pay the bills. To continue growing, those businesses need access to capital and credit.

"So this year we will revive the Colorado Credit Reserve Program.

"With a small guarantee from the state, the program will encourage lenders to loan as much as $50 million to Colorado small businesses so they can stay afloat during this difficult period. Thank you to Representatives Sara Gagliardi and Don Marostica, and the Office of Economic Development, for their hard work on this issue.

"It’s no secret that Colorado’s roads and bridges need attention. Today, Colorado has 126 structurally deficient bridges and thousands of miles of roads that need work. We have $1.2 billion in shovel-ready road projects waiting for dollars and workers to arrive. And we have thousands of contractors, engineers, and construction workers sitting at home without jobs. Our current transportation funding system has failed to provide the dollars to get those shovels moving and get people back to work.

"Over the next few weeks, we must work with Governor Ritter and our delegation in Congress, to make sure we get the federal funding we need to start bringing new jobs to Colorado to fix our crumbling roads and broken bridges by this summer. But our work cannot stop there. We must pursue a long term, sustainable funding solution that continues to create jobs year in and year out and maintains safe roads and bridges.

"We want to create an economy where the best jobs and most innovative companies are housed right here in Colorado. We should continue to invest in our clean energy economy and the other high tech industries that are bringing new companies with them, new green collar jobs to Colorado.

"We know our recent work is already paying off: in just the last two years, we’ve seen the creation of 22,000 high-paying New Energy jobs. I look forward to working with Representatives Judy Solano, Andy Kerr, Michael Merrifield and others on a variety of innovative proposals that will continue to expand the market for solar and wind energy by removing barriers and making clean energy more accessible to homes, schools, and businesses.

"And, with the help of Representative Jim Riesberg, we will continue to invest in our promising bioscience industry to convince small, high-tech companies make Colorado their home.

"Finally, to attract companies that will be profitable tomorrow to locate in Colorado today, we must train a workforce with the skills they need to compete for these high paying jobs. So with the assistance of Representatives Nancy Todd and Ed Vigil, we will expand our job training programs at community colleges, with a special emphasis on preparing our labor force to tackle the good green collar jobs that are on their way.

"Unfortunately, more Colorado families are struggling financially today than at any other time in recent memory.

"And while we’ve made recent gains – expanding access to health care for 50,000 kids; supporting more students so they can afford college; and helping our poorest families cover their energy bills – the ebb of the economic tide is dragging many Colorado families backwards.

"My mother used to say, “Help people a little bit, point them in the right direction, and they will take care of the rest.” That’s why this year, we pledge to continue assisting Coloradans at the margins, particularly those being hit hardest by the economic slowdown – children, middle-class families, and older Coloradans, so that they too may know the good fortune of opportunity.

"There is a challenging paradox in government: As the need for services increases with a recession, actual revenues tend to decrease. This year we will be faced with tough decisions about how to trim an already lean budget. Though I cannot say today exactly how much or where the cuts should come from, I will say this:

"We will spend only what we can afford. We will balance the budget. We will put our money where our values are. We will do everything in our power to preserve the critical services that create opportunity: for children to get an education; for struggling families to go to the doctor when they are sick; for the unemployed to stay afloat while they search for their next job, and for Colorado families trying to protect their American Dream.

"More than 16,000 Colorado homeowners are now in foreclosure. And close to 6,000 families are on the brink. When Coloradans lose their homes, a breadwinner is more likely to lose his or her job, a child is less likely to graduate from high school, and families are more likely to slip into poverty.

"Keeping families in their homes provides a substantial benefit to all of us. It reduces pressure on our government safety net and it helps maintain home values so that our neighborhoods can thrive. And when Coloradans restructure their debt so they are able to pay back their loans, it ensures banks can keep lending to the next homeowner and the next small business entrepreneur.

"So this year, I welcome the legislation authored by Rep. Mark Ferrandino that will offer those Coloradans facing foreclosure a “temporary timeout;” a little extra time to work with their lenders to save their homes.

"Sadly, home buying remains only a dream for far too many Coloradans, especially those facing the specter of poverty. In these difficult times, many live paycheck to paycheck. And no one is more impacted by the evolving economic reality than our kids. This decade, the percentage of Colorado children living in poverty has risen eighty-five percent! That’s one of the highest increases in the entire country. And that is unacceptable! Reducing poverty is absolutely essential to building a strong, 21st century economy that works for everyone.

"That is why this year, Rep. John Kefalas will introduce an ambitious plan creating a framework to expand opportunity and reduce poverty significantly over the next ten years. Called the Economic Opportunity Task Force, the body will be charged with developing a strategic, integrated and comprehensive plan to help lift families out of poverty.

"The most important opportunity that government provides is a free public education to every child that wants one. But this opportunity afforded our kids is only as good as the quality of the education they receive. Unfortunately, when our schools fail, our students fail too. Too many of our students drop out of school before graduation. Those who drop out are more likely to commit a crime. They have a harder time finding a job. They are more likely to become a teen mom or a teen dad. And they’re more likely to struggle with addiction.

"During the past few years, we’ve committed to reducing the dropout rate, and taken the first necessary steps toward achieving that goal. We’ve expanded access to early childhood education, and we’ve worked to lay the foundation for a comprehensive kindergarten through college curriculum that prepares all our kids for the future.

"But that’s not enough. Rep. Karen Middleton is introducing legislation to create an Office of Dropout Prevention and Student Reengagement, to make sure that students complete their high school studies, and are ready to take the next step, whatever that step may be. And Rep. Debbie Benefield is unveiling a plan intended to make sure that every child, regardless of their race, where they live, or what their socioeconomic background is, has access to a high-quality teacher. And Rep. Michael Merrifield’s legislation will make it easier for high school students to have access to the college and technical training they need to get good, high-paying jobs.

"But student engagement requires parental involvement. When parents are involved, when they track their child’s performance, and keep close contact with their teachers, their child is more likely to succeed. Unfortunately, many parents simply can’t get enough time away from their job to help their children become effective learners. I hope this year to pass legislation from Rep. Andy Kerr that allows parents to take a few hours, unpaid, to step away from work to attend meetings at school without worrying about losing their jobs.

"Coloradans have weathered previous storms because we recognize opportunity and don’t let it pass us by.

"Perhaps no one in Colorado history had a better appreciation of the significance of opportunity than Barney Ford – the man called “The Black Baron” of his day -- whose image watches over this chamber. [Note: the stained glass window directly over the podium on the chambers’ west wall is a full portrait of Barney Ford]. Born a slave in Virginia, Ford escaped servitude by way of the Underground Railroad when he was still a young man. Once in Colorado, he capitalized on the opportunities provided to him by the New West. He became a successful gold prospector, hotelier, and landowner. But his influence extended well beyond his business achievements. Ford recognized what King later said, that the real measure of a man is where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. He led successful efforts to hold up Colorado’s bid for statehood until black suffrage was constitutionally secured. And he founded the first adult education program in the state, where men and women – many freed slaves newly-emigrated from the South – got their very first opportunity. Barney Ford saw that Colorado was a place where opportunity knows no bounds. A place where hard work, a willingness to take a risk, and personal sacrifice can lead to a better life.

"The task before us is to ensure that opportunity is available to this generation of Coloradans and the next. And while the path to prosperity will be challenging, and at times fraught with controversy, our journey must be successful. We cannot travel this path alone. We must lock arms and walk together toward a future for this great state where every child has the opportunity to get a quality education; to go to a great college; to find a good job; to raise a healthy family; and to live a decent life.

"I look forward to our journey together. Thank you and God bless you."

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."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Another Education Overview

We've previously mentioned the legislative previews about education policy posted on the Education News Colorado site. We overlooked the first of those, relating to education finance, that was published Dec. 21. It's worth the read.

GOP Announces Budget Task Force

Citing an impending budget crisis, the legislature's minority Republicans announced today that they would create a "task force" to examine priorities and potential solutions to the state's anticipated budget shortfall.

According to recent estimates Colorado could face a $600 million difference between revenues and budgeted expenditures this fiscal year.

“The state budget and the economy will be the number one issues we face this year in the Legislature,” House minority leader Mike May of Parker said. “That is why we are putting together a task force to examine the issues and come up with workable solutions.”

Joining May on the task force will be GOP Reps. Don Marostica of Loveland, Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs, Cory Gardner of Yuma and Ellen Roberts of Durango.

Republican lawmakers plan to use the recommendations developed by the GOP panel mambers to argue for passage of a "responsible budget that reflects the values of Colorado families," according to a press release issued by the House GOP communications office.

The party's statehouse press office declined to say whether the GOP expects majority Democrats to give serious consideration to Republican budget proposals.

The state's budget is written by the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Greeley Tribune: Biggest Issue Under Dome is Recession

The Greeley Tribune published on Sunday an excellent article surveying the impact the recession is likely to have on the work of the General Assembly this year.

GOP Sets Senate Committee Assignments

The Senate GOP caucus has finalized some committee appointments for the upcoming 2009 session, choosing a veteran legislator from El Paso county to be the ranking minority member on the key State, Veterans and Military Affairs panel.

Bill Cadman, who was appointed to the Senate last year, will assume the ranking member post on the committee that deals with military matters, minority leader Josh Penry said.

"Sen. Cadman’s military service along with his natural leadership skills make him the perfect choice to lead the Republican efforts to fight for Colorado’s military community," Penry said.

Other appointments announced by the Senate's minority caucus are:

* Former House majority leader and freshman Sen. Keith King of Colorado Springs as ranking minority member on the Finance Committee;

* Veteran conservative Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs as ranking minority member on the Health & Human Services Committee.