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Parties Detail Priorities As Colorado Legislative Session Begins

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DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s ruling Democrats opened the legislative term Wednesday to a narrower majority after last year’s divisive gun control debate and vowed to focus on more meat-and-potatoes topics, such as education and job incentives.

Republicans made clear, however, that they expect renewed debate on gun policy and more consideration for their side.

The opening-day pomp and perennial promises of bipartisanship did little to hide the sense that controversy is far from over for Democrats. The ruling party saw two senators recalled and a third resign last year after passing a gun control package that included limits on ammunition magazines and expanded background checks.

Democrats opened with a slim 18-17 majority in the Senate, down from 20-15 last year. They swore in a new Senate President, Democratic Sen. Morgan Carroll of Aurora, who became the second woman to hold the post in Colorado.

Carroll kicked off Democratic calls for a new tone in state politics.

“I have every reason to believe we can and will work together,” Carroll told the Senate. She asked senators to focus on education, tax credits for child care and efforts to boost the economy – not guns.

The ruling Democrat in the other chamber, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, echoed a similar hope.

“Now is not the time to take a step backward, to re-litigate the fights of the past,” Ferrandino said.

Republicans didn’t voice any disagreement to Democrats’ ideas on education and jobs proposals. But they made clear that they expect the Legislature to review gun control measures.

“One of the core responsibilities of government is to protect its citizens, but members, allowing citizens the right to protect themselves is equally important,” House Republican Leader Brian DelGrosso said.

“Taking away tools from our citizens to protect themselves, especially when it does nothing to improve public safety, is wrong.”

Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman was even more pointed. He chastised Democrats in his chamber, reminding them that their actions last year prompted the loss of some of their own. Cadman said Democrats need to do a better job listening to Republican points of view.

“Are we willing to agree that the formula here is broken, and are we willing to try a new one?” Cadman asked.

After his remarks, Carroll thanked Cadman for his thoughts and the two hugged.

Republicans want to see renewed debate not just on the gun control measures. They will also seek to change a new elections law they say doesn’t contain adequate security and a new energy law passed last year to hike renewable energy standards for rural electricity providers.

Democrats are promoting bills to increase education spending, especially for higher education, saying that much of the state’s estimated half-billion surplus next year should shore up schools.

The parties are likely to agree on some economic plans, including efforts to help victims of last year’s flooding and wildfires and a personal property tax cut for businesses.

By IVAN MORENO and KRISTEN WYATT

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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