Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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.