For Dems, The Caravan Moves On

Heralding a “sea-change of who’s in power,” House Majority Leader Alice Madden and Speaker Andrew Romanoff on Wednesday hammered out a list of successes from a legislative session in which the Democrats control the House of Representatives, Senate and governor’s office in Colorado for the first time since 1960.

Specifically, special interests like the oil and gas industries, insurance and drug companies and developers are no longer running the show, Madden and Romanoff said. Instead, the state capitol has been opened to ordinary consumers and “ordinary Coloradans.”

“Day has turned night and night into day when it comes to who owns this building,” Madden said.

Their comments, including declaring the session a victory for new energy, came during an end-of-session briefing with the media on Wednesday. House Republicans, meanwhile, say they plan to wait until the session is actually over before weighing in with their formal take on the past four months. Speaker Romanoff said today he hopes to wrap up by this Friday, though the session may spill over into Monday – ending early for the third year straight.

Democrats and Republicans have had their share of disagreements this year, and numerous GOP proposals were killed. But Romanoff offered up praise for the bipartisan support for many key pieces of legislation that passed and have either already been are are expected to be signed by Gov. Bill Ritter.

“We never believed our party had some sort of magic monopoly on good bills,” Romanoff said.

Romanoff and Madden highlighted several new laws that were killed or vetoed in the past, including a multi-state purchasing pool for prescription drugs for uninsured Coloradans, which was twice vetoed by former Gov. Bill Owens. Others to make it into law this year include bills requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, health care worker protections and school accountability reports. 

Romanoff cited one disappointment of the session – the legislature’s failure to set up a rainy day fund to help during lean economic times. The Speaker predicts that, just as this year’s focus has been on moving aggressively forward with new energy initiatives, next year’s legislative session will tackle health care issues.

One of the most enticing moments of the briefing came when Romanoff and Madden were asked to weigh in on vows by some Republicans to ensure that the public school funding bill to freeze local property-tax rates to help pay for education becomes a campaign issue in 2008. Republicans have claimed the measure is a tax increase.

Romanoff quoted Pat Buchanan (who he claims he doesn’t usually quote), quoting the old Arabian Proverb, “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

There is a season for policy setting, Romanoff said, and that is the short 120-day window that the legislature is in session. That leaves plenty of other time, he said, for campaigning.

Echoing Romanoff, Madden noted her desire for a “time-out” from campaigning. “It’s disappointing something good for kids is being set up for a campaign issue,” Madden said. 

At that point, Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell, who was sitting in the audience, got up and left.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com

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