Wednesday, January 12, 2011

McNulty now first GOP House speaker since 2005

A Republican is now the speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives for the first time in six years.

Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, was unanimously elected speaker this morning. He was nominated by both majority leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and minority leader Sal Pace, D-Puelbo. No other legislator sought the post.

McNulty received the gavel from outgoing speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, and then gave his Democratic predecessor a hug.

After ascending the podium, McNulty thanked Carroll for his work over the last two years.

"Speaker Carroll, this chamber, the people Colorado, are better for your time as speaker," he said.

McNulty then led the chamber in its first bit of business for the new session, the adoption of a resolution setting forth the rules of the House.

McNulty is a third-term representative from Highlands Ranch.

Carroll leaves the House after serving the maximum four terms allowed by state law. He was the first African-American speaker of the House in state history and, for a time, served alongside the first African-American Senate president, Peter Groff of Denver.

Groff, also a Democrat, left the legislature in 2009 to take a post in the Obama administration.

68th General Assembly opens today

Colorado's state legislature will convene for its sixty-eighth biannual session today.

The gathering of 65 representatives and 35 senators comes one day after the inauguration of a new governor, new state treasurer, and new secretary of state.

Republicans took control of the House of Representatives by one seat in the November election. Democrats, as they have since Jan. 2005, continue to hold the majority in the Senate.

Both the House and the Senate will convene today at 10 am. After certifying the election results and confirming the eligibility of all members, chief justice Michael Bender will swear in all the legislators.

Outgoing House speaker Terrence Carroll, D-Denver, will preside over that part of the opening day. He will relinquish the gavel when his successor is formally elected by House members.

Bills may be introduced, but committee hearings on proposed legislation will not commence until tomorrow.

Traditionally, the first day of the legislative session focuses on ceremonial and organizational resolutions.

Democrat Brandon Shaffer, a former Navy officer and a lawyer, is president of the Senate. Shaffer, 39, represents Erie, Lafayette, Longmont, and Louisville in the chamber. He is halfway through his second and final term in the Senate, having been first elected in 2004.

The majority leader is John Morse of Colorado Springs. A Democrat in a district that leans toward the GOP, the former Fountain police chief was re-elected to his second term in a close race last autumn.

Morse also worked as an emergency medical technician and as a certified public accountant earlier in his career. He has lived in the Colorado Springs area for more than 30 years and holds both M.B.A. and Ph.D degrees.

The Republican leader in the Senate is Dana "Mike" Kopp of Littleton. Kopp, 32, is an Army veteran. A Ranger, he is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, the first American-led war against Iraq's former Baathist regime.

Kopp is starting his second and last term in the Senate.

Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch, a former aide to retired U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and a lawyer who used to work for the state Department of Natural Resources, will become the new House speaker.

The Republican, 37, will lead a GOP majority of one seat. Today marks the start of his third of four possible two-year terms as a representative.

The House majority leader is Amy Stephens of Monument. Republican Stephens, 53, is a former employee of Focus on the Family and a former member of the governor's Commission on the Welfare of Children. She won her seat in 2006 and is starting her third term today.

Minority leader Sal Pace represents Pueblo. Pace, 34, got his start in politics working for former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa. He was first elected in 2008.

Pace has a masters degree in American political theory and teaches government as an adjunct faculty member at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Both chambers rely on a number of committees to consider legislation before it comes to a vote on the floor. The state constitution requires that all bills be given a committee hearing.

The General Assembly meets for 120 days each year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hickenlooper issues three executive orders

New Gov. John Hickenlooper is already at work. He issued three executive orders shortly after being sworn in today, including one that bans unfunded mandates from state agencies.

The order does allow for an exception. It provides that unfunded mandates on local governments would be acceptable if "[t]he mandate is specifically required by federal or state law, the agency consults with local governments prior to promulgation of the regulation; and the state government provides the funding necessary to pay for the direct costs incurred by local governments in complying with the mandate.”

The other two order the creation of marketing agencies for the state across the country and in three countries overseas and the third commands the Office of Economic Development and International Trade to develop plans, with input from residents all over Colorado, for the state's economic recovery.

Colorado Statesman gives exiting lawmakers chance to reminisce

The Colorado Statesman has published an article in which a number of legislators who are leaving office reminisce about their days in the General Assembly.

It's a light, but interesting and entertaining, read.

New Sen. Aguilar gets committee assignments

The newest state senator got her committee assignments Monday.

Democrat Irene Aguilar of Denver, who was recently appointed to replace Denver mayoral candidate Chris Romer, will serve on three committees: Business, Labor and Technology, Health and Human Services, and Local Government and Energy.

She will be vice-chair of the Business, Labor, and Technology committee.

A physician and a mother of three children, including a developmentally disabled daughter, Aguilar was chosen in December by a Democratic vacancy committee to fill out the remainder of Romer's term representing Senate district 32. Romer had just been re-elected to his second term in the Senate in November.

Senate majority leader Morse takes committee chairmanship from embattled Williams

Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, has lost the chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The veteran legislator was involved in a fatal car accident in Texas on Dec. 26, 2010, and majority leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said that he thinks Williams needs the time to focus on her family and the aftermath of the incident.

She had been appointed to lead the committee after the November election.

Instead, Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, will lead it.

Williams, 65, is in her last term as a senator. She previously served four terms in the state House of Representatives.

Hickenlooper sworn in as governor

John Hickenlooper was inaugurated as Colorado's 42nd governor this morning at the State Capitol.

He delivered comments indicating that his administration would make job creation a priority.

Lieutenant governor Joe Garcia was also sworn in today.

A report on the event by Denver TV station KDVR is here.

Video courtesy Denver Post.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Lt. Gov. Garcia to wear 2 hats in gov't, head Department of Higher Ed

Lieutenant governor-elect Joe Garcia is going to be a little bit busier than most of his predecessors. He'll have two jobs in the Hickenlooper administration.

Garcia, who has served as a college president, will lead the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

Ordinarily that cabinet position is filled by someone who is not the elected number two in the administration. But Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper has apparently concluded that Garcia's experience as an educator is impossible to overlook.

“Joe Garcia is in a unique position to wear two hats in state government,” Hickenlooper said. “He is a known leader with tremendous expertise in education. He also understands the challenges facing higher education because he’s led a community college and a university. Allowing Garcia to serve in two roles will save money and serve the taxpayers of Colorado without compromising the work of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office or the Department of Higher Education."

Although Garcia does not have be confirmed by the state senate to serve as lieutenant governor, his appointment as director of CDHE is subject to that body's consent.

Garcia will be inaugurated as lieutenant governor tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar to be state agriculture commissioner

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar will serve in Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper's cabinet as commissioner of agriculture.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported today that Salazar, a Western Slope rancher and farmer who was defeated in a bid for a fourth term in Congress last November, has accepted the job and likely won't seek a re-match with congressman Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in 2012.

Salazar, 57, served a term in the state house of representatives before going to Washington. Before that he was a member of the governor's Economic Development Advisory Board, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Forum. Salazar also served as a member of the Colorado Agricultural Commission between 1999-2002.

The current agriculture commissioner, John Stulp, has taken a new job as special advisor to Hickenlooper.

Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sen. White's wife will replace him

The new senator for district 8, which covers much of northwestern Colorado, will not have to look too far for advice on how to do the job.

Jean White, 60, was chosen by a Republican vacancy committee yesterday to replace her husband, Al White, in the state Senate.

Al White resigned recently after agreeing to lead the state Department of Tourism for Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper. He was in his first term in the Senate after serving eight years in the House of Representatives.