DENVER (AP/CBS4) — Colorado lawmakers started work Wednesday under new management: Republicans took command in the state Senate for the first time in a decade, and Democrats retained control of the House but elected a new speaker.
The divided Legislature shows how quickly things change in Colorado politics. Democrats had controlled both Statehouse chambers the previous two years.
In the Senate, Republican Bill Cadman took the helm from his Democratic predecessor, Democratic Sen. Morgan Carroll.
“The responsibilities that come with this gavel and this title are intense,” said Cadman, of Colorado Springs. “The area between these desks needs to become less of an aisle of partisan division but a pathway to partnerships.”
In the House, Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst was elected speaker, becoming the second woman in Colorado history to hold that post. The Democrat from Boulder took over from Mark Ferrandino, who retired because of term limits.
Promises of bipartisanship dominated opening-day niceties from leaders in both parties, but there was no doubt that both sides recognize huge roadblocks they’ll face to get measures to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“There are those who say a split legislature presents many challenges which I regard as opportunities,” said Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Democrat representing Boulder.
Democrats want to see the Legislature tackle items to shore up school funding and reduce income inequality.
Carroll, now Democratic Leader in the Senate, talked about raising the minimum wage from $8.23 and taking steps to help people pay off credit card and student loan debt.
“What’s right, what’s just, is an economy that works for everyone, not just a few at the top,” Carroll said.
The GOP talked up its plans to lower taxes and boost the economy in rural areas.
The Republican to-do list includes making changes to a 2013 law requiring rural electricity providers to boost renewable energy. There will also be an effort to win Democratic support for repealing a 2013 law that limited the size of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.
There’s no doubt both parties will struggle to push through their priorities, but long-time lawmakers shrugged off the divided Legislature, calling it more the norm than the exception in Colorado.
“Divided control,” said Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, who will lead the budget-writing committee, “is nothing new down here.”
With contributions by AP Writers IVAN MORENO and KRISTEN WYATT
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