DENVER (AP) — Gun control is expected to be a heated topic at the Colorado Legislature in the coming months, and legislative leaders have indicated that it will be difficult to find common ground.
Lawmakers weighed in on the topic Friday, the day of an attack at a Connecticut elementary school.
Democratic Senate President John Morse said lawmakers need to balance people’s right to own firearms with public safety. Lawmakers may consider a ban on assault weapons, he said.
“Maybe we do end up doing nothing but I do think the time has come to where we need to have a conversation so that we can stop talking about burying our children,” he said during an annual event hosted by the Colorado Press Association to preview the upcoming session, which begins Jan. 9.
Republicans Senate Leader Bill Cadman says his caucus’ position on gun control hasn’t changed.
“I don’t have any bills on that topic,” Cadman said. “It’s a tough day to talk about this kind of stuff, period.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said this week in an interview with The Associated Press that “the time is right” to debate gun control legislation, although he has not called for specific legislation. He said at the CPA event that he has yet to see any legislation from lawmakers. However, his remarks have raised the profile of the debate because his comments are his strongest yet on the issue.
Hickenlooper called for a moment of silence at the event with reporters before talking about legislative priorities.
“It does put into perspective, whatever else we may discuss,” Hickenlooper said about the Connecticut shootings.
Democrats head into the legislative session in January having retained control of the Senate and retaking the House with a comfortable majority. Incoming House Speaker Mark Ferrandino said he expects both parties to collaborate.
“This job needs to get done in a bipartisan way,” he said.
Some of the issues expected to come up for debate include whether to expand Medicaid eligibility, how to regulate marijuana for recreational us, and guidelines for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Lawmakers also discussed the possibility of a bill to repeal the death penalty, an idea that appears to have traction with Democrats, including Morse, who voted against it previously.
On Medicaid, Democratic leaders indicated that they’re open to expanding the program, but by finding ways to control costs. Republicans expressed doubt that it would be possible to expand coverage without hampering the state budget.
“It seems to me that we certainly need to take care of the most vulnerable in society,” said Republican Rep. Mark Waller, the House GOP leader. But he added that growing the program further could be unsustainable and that lawmakers should work to provide more opportunities through higher education so people could be self-reliant.
Morse said his party would work to approve tuition aid for illegal immigrant students who graduate from Colorado high schools and pass civil unions granting same-sex couples rights similar to marriage — a bill that died in a Republican House filibuster in the last session. Both bills have Democratic support and are expected to pass.
By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)