Ladies and gentlemen…start your legislatin’.
Colorado’s legislature convenes today with Democrats in control of both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since John F. Kennedy was President. As Colleen Slevin of The Associated Press reports:
With strengthened majorities in both the House and Senate – and with Republican Gov. Bill Owens replaced by Democrat Bill Ritter – Democrats say their top priorities will be renewable energy, education, transportation and health care.
House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said Democrats will strive to work with Republicans on their priorities, rewarding good ideas no matter where they come from. ”The problems are so big, we need 100 people and then some. We need every member of the Legislature,” he said.
When the Legislature convenes for its 120-day session on Wednesday, they will immediately begin confirmation hearings on Ritter’s Cabinet members.
Those up for hearings include John Stulp to head the Department of Agriculture, David Skaggs to the Department of Higher Education, Karen Legault Beye to the Department of Human Services, Don Mares to the Department of Labor and Employment, Ari Zavaras to the Department of Corrections and Peter Weir to the Department of Public Safety.
Rtter was sworn-in yesterday as Colorado’s 41st governor, and in his inaugural speech he called for bipartisan cooperation and made a point to say that government has a duty to help those in need. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:
Government has a moral duty to care for the elderly, the disabled and “those who struggle mightily,” Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter told the chilly audience at his inauguration Tuesday morning.
Underscoring that conviction, Ritter rolled up his sleeves and – within hours of his swearing-in – called a meeting with emergency directors to address how to get more help to the snowbound plains.
“It’s good to get to work, actually,” he told reporters later.
Ritter received glowing reviews from Rocky Mountain News columnist Bill Johnson :
“We have a rare opportunity over the next four years to bridge the partisan divide,” the new governor said, “and move all of Colorado forward. This is about hope and unity, not about Republican or Democrat. It’s about possibilities and promises, not right vs. left.”
This is called the grown-up approach, one we have not seen at the Capitol for much of the past eight years, when it seemed virtually every piece of legislation arrived at the governor’s desk only after a strictly partisan vote.
Republican Mike Coffman took the oath of office for secretary of state twice yesterday. Coffman held his own swearing-in ceremony in the morning, prior to the main event, because he wanted to be able to give a speech.
He then unveiled the new main page of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Web site, where the picture of his head is so big they need a disclaimer: Not actual size.
Yup, Coffman’s just a wee bit proud of himself.
President Bush will unveil his latest plan for Iraq in a televised address to the nation tonight. As Jennifer Loven of The Associated Press reports:
President Bush will tell the nation tonight he will send more than 20,000 additional American forces to Iraq, acknowledging that it had been a mistake earlier not to have more American and Iraqi troops fighting the war, a senior administration official said.
Seeking support for a retooled strategy to win support for the unpopular war, the president also will acknowledge that the rules of engagement were flawed, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said.
Even before Bush speaks, Democrats were laying plans to register their opposition to the troop buildup. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged to hold a vote on the increase, trying to isolate Bush on his handling of the war. Democratic leaders in the Senate, saying they hoped to win some Republican support, said they planned to have their chamber debate a symbolic measure next week also expressing opposition to troop increases.
The Democratic congressional election victory in November showed “American voters expect us to help get us out of Iraq,” Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., a 2008 presidential hopeful and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said as his panel heard independent experts on Iraq.
Sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq should prove to be about as popular as a Kevin Federline album, but Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard thinks that it’s “worth a try.”
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) will be joined by supporters to discuss her bill for funding stem cell research, as Colorado Lib reports:
A press release from Colorado CD1 representative Diana DeGette states that today “Democratic Members of the 110th Congress’ Freshmen class will join the lead sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R.3), Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) to discuss their support for the bill. Many of these new Members campaigned on expanding stem cell research and have signed on as original cosponsors to the bill.”
President George W. Bush used the only veto of his administration to dismiss DeGette’s first attempt at the legislation.
Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports that a federal agency is gathering snowfall data in El Paso County to determine the amount of disaster relief money that will be doled out:
After being omitted from presidential disaster declarations issued Sunday for two late December snowstorms, Colorado Springs officials hope the data confirms the storms were bad enough to qualify for federal reimbursement.
Storms hit the region Dec. 20-22 and Dec. 28-31, dumping up to 40 inches of snow, closing roads and killing livestock.
El Paso County spent $400,000 on the first storm, and Colorado Springs estimates its costs for both storms at more than $1 million.
Harder hit areas in Eastern Colorado area already being assessed for disaster relief help because thousands of cattle were killed in the late December snowstorms.
Colorado voters last fall gave overwhelming approval to Amendment 41, a constitutional measure designed to curb the influence of lobbying dollars in state and local government.
Some provisions of the measure are unnecessarily vague, but it gives state lawmakers the right and responsibility to pass enabling legislation to facilitate its implementation.
We hope the legislature will do so as an early order of business. Critics of Amendment 41 are concerned that the measure could produce unintended results, such as denying the children of everyday government employees certain education scholarships, or even preventing university scientists from receiving Nobel Prize money. Attorney General John Suthers recently said a strict interpretation of the law could lead to such ridiculous impacts.
It would have been preferable for lawmakers to write an ethics statute themselves – it could have been much more precise and easier to amend. However, that didn’t happen, and legislative leaders have made it clear that when they return to session today, they don’t intend to aid the new law with implementing language. That’s an arrogant approach. Ignoring this chore would be a tremendous disservice to the voters who approved Amendment 41 and government employees to whom it might apply.
Republican Party activists in Larimer County are calling for a major shakeup within the local GOP ranks because of…well, we’ll just let Kevin Duggan of The Fort Collins Coloradoan explain:
A group of longtime Larimer County Republican Party activists is calling for the resignation of party chairwoman Nancy Hunter.
In an e-mail sent to Hunter late Tuesday, group members asked her to resign “immediately” because of what they claim was a false statement made to the party’s executive board about the status of Fern Wolaver, a member of the party’s inner structure for more than 50 years.
According to minutes of the board’s Nov. 27, 2006, meeting, Hunter said Wolaver willingly resigned from the party’s central committee. But in an interview, Wolaver told the Coloradoan she had not resigned.
Wolaver said she declined Hunter’s request to resign because she worked on the 4th Congressional District campaign of Eric Eidsness. Party rules prohibit central committee members from working on non-Republican campaigns.
Nevermind that Republicans were absolutely hammered in November’s elections