Mark Ferrandino was sworn in Oct. 1 as the newest member of the Colorado state House. He’s replacing Mike Cerbo in House District 2, who resigned to become executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO. Colorado Confidential asked him in a phone interview what he’s expecting for the 2008 legislative session. Here are some excerpts.
What are your top priorities for the 2008 session?
“The biggest one would be health care by far. Given the fact that I worked for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. I’ve been keeping up with what’s going on with the 208 Commission, seeing what comes out of that and trying to expand coverage and make it more affordable for everyone.
Education is another big one. It will be interesting to see what the P-20 task force comes up with … Also continuing working on renewable energy as well as the proposals the Governor has made as far as economic development.”
Do you really think the Legislature is going to be able to get things done on health care reform this session?
“I think it’s definitely going to be one of the hotter topics. Hopefully it will be a good debate. I would love to see us come up with an idea and get it though this next session because the longer we wait, the problem keeps growing. People who are uninsured can’t wait. If it’s something we can do incrementally, we might have to do that. I’m definitely going to look at seeing how we can get something comprehensive done.”
What do you think are going to be the biggest challenges for Democrats in the next session?
“The biggest challenge everyone faces is figuring out how we prioritize and come up with the money to do some of things we need to do. Considering the budget restrictions the state has, such as TABOR, we need to try to find ways to fund programs we know we need like education, transportation and recidivism. Given the budget constraints, it’s always going to be tough getting the money to do what we need to do.
It’s also an election year, and the Republicans are going to try to spin things. I hope they’re going to come to the session with a sense of cooperation. I don’t know if they’re going to try to get political points for their campaigns rather than trying to address the problems in our state.”
How do you think your previous position with the state party will affect your relationships with lawmakers across the aisle?
“I hope that it doesn’t. There’ve been other people on either side that have been party officials. I hope they’ll treat me like every other colleague. I think it’s important we can work together on the things we can agree on to move the state forward. And being party treasurer is one of the more behind the scenes positions. I am a Democrat, so I don’t think it matters as much. The important thing is, if they are willing to listen to ideas from across the aisle.”
Who in the Capitol are you most looking forward to working with?
“There are so many people I’ve gotten to know with my role in the party and working with campaigns. There are some great people. Sen. Veiga I’m definitely looking forward to working with. Also Reps. Jack Pommer, Paul Weissmann and Morgan Carroll.”
What do you think about the media attention over you being the first openly gay member of the state House?
“I of course an am happy with the attention. I understand that it’s newsworthy. But in a way I wish it wasn’t newsworthy. I wish it was just a case of another legislator elected to a vacancy. It’s part of me; it’s not all of me.”
Do you have any particular bills you’re thinking of introducing?
“I’m still looking at different things and talking with different groups about legislation. I haven’t decided yet on anything in particular. I’d like to look at things related to criminal justice as well as health care.”
What committees are you interested in serving on?
“Of course given my interest and background, health and human services is the one I would really like to be on. Finance would be the other one that would interest me.”