Welcome to the 74th General Assembly
Expanded Democratic Majority will Drive Legislative Agenda in 2023
The 2022 Election brought with it a significantly expanded Democrat majority at the statehouse. Democrat leadership interpreted the outcome to a be a mandate of the policies they wrought in the last two years, not the resounding rubuke of the continuing presence of former President Donald Trump and a tattered GOP. As a result, the business community will face unprecedented policy and political challenges in 2023 Legislative Session which got underway last week.
Among the pomp and circumstance of the opening week, which saw the Inauguration of Governor Jared Polis for his second term, were the remarks of leadership in both bodies by both parties providing insight into the goals and the roles of each. Below a summary of their remarks with links to the entirety of each:
Opening Day Speeches
Not well known for bi-partisanship in his prior role as Senate Majority Leader, the President, for whom this was his first opening day speech, worked to set a tone for collaboration and statesmanship but made it clear he and his party have a mandate. From his speech, the following emerged:
Statesmanship and a Mandate
“This session, let’s do what the Senate was designed to do: slow down when needed. Authentically deliberate. And solve real problems for real people. Let’s not rush to judgment because of who the sponsor is, the title of the bill, or the party that’s supporting it. We are much more likely to grow or change our minds when we know and understand other people who have different views. That’s how we begin to see that the “other” isn’t an enemy – they simply have different life experiences, different traditions, and different values that are held sacred. So that’s my challenge for all of us this year. Build those relationships. I’m not advocating for my party to look at these historic majorities and decide not to utilize them. The voters clearly gave us a mandate.
“We will continue to bring down our emissions, prioritize getting our air quality under control, conserving and improving water quality, and do everything we can to protect our landscapes from devastating wildfires.”
“Let’s work together and fix this problem before we turn into San Francisco. How will we grow – will it be done in a way that prioritizes denser housing along transit corridors? It’s not too late to pursue smart growth–our air quality, our pocketbooks, and our quality of life depend on it.”
“We lost more than 1,000 Coloradans to gun violence in 2021. Yes, it’s a mental health issue. But it’s also an economic justice issue. And a public safety issue. And an education issue. And, yes, it is also a gun issue. That is why this session we will prioritize preventing gun violence. So if local law enforcement can’t – or won’t – be the ones to bring the issue to a judge, others like district attorneys and counselors can and will.
“Let’s work together this year to pass real policy that ends this spike in crime. Let’s give last year’s bipartisan fentanyl bill a chance to work. Any changes should be based on science and data, not politics.
Colorado Faces Challenges
“Empty store shelves–and runaway unaffordability, a season of rising crime that will continue to expand unless we commit to a culture that honors law and law enforcement. A public school system that is hemorrhaging quality teachers and failing to meet the needs of far too many students unless we fund and focus on students instead of the system. Water shortage crisis that will desiccate our grandchildren’s future unless we are serious about storing the precious resources to which we are legally entitled. A future where energy is unreliable and unaffordable unless we wisely use the best carbon transition fuels we have and explore alternative energy options, like nuclear. A recession appears to be at our shared doorstep and the government continues to grow faster than family budgets. The people we represent, the whole people of Colorado, say they do NOT like polarized politics.
Republican’s Participation, even if the Minority
“It is our duty that the voices of people who find themselves in the minority in this season of Colorado’s history be heard and shared. The saying in this body is that the minority gets their say, and the majority gets their way. But we are intent to do more than just talk. We insist to be full participants in the legislative process in this chamber, and will offer our best, constructive suggestions for making the future laws of this state better.”
Moment of Silence and Remembrance of Minority Leader Hugh McKean
“Hugh embodied everything that it means to be a statesman. He went about his work in this building the right way, and everyone respected him for it. His wit and his joy filled this room, as did his booming voice and his laughter.”
“This year, we will redouble our efforts to make Colorado more affordable by reducing the costs of a family’s largest expenses, often housing, health care, and child care. Housing is central to every person’s ability to live, work and play. That’s why we have taken landmark steps to build more affordable homes and expand our housing stock. We passed the largest property tax reduction in the state’s history, strengthened the state affordable housing tax credit, created a housing tax credit for seniors, and directed hundreds of millions to help local communities address homelessness and preserve mobile home parks. I strongly believe that high-quality, accessible health care is essential for every Coloradan.
Investment in Education & Affordable Child Care
“We are committed to making yet another meaningful investment in public schools, higher education, and workforce development. Data shows that nearly one-third of the median family’s budget goes to child care, a figure that’s even higher in our rural counties. Not only is this simply unsustainable for families, it strains our workforce by making it harder for new parents to return to work and reduces what they can spend in our local economies. Starting this fall, every four-year-old in Colorado will have access to free universal preschool. So far, over 850 providers across the state have signed up with the Department of Early Childhood Education to provide a total of nearly 29,000 slots for early childhood education. These efforts will give more Colorado kids a head start while saving parents money and helping them get back to work.
“Agriculture communities, wildlife, the future of our public lands, our environment, ski areas, growing cities, suburbs, and every person and family in our state depends on water. Water should unite us, not divide us.”
The People’s House and the People are in Charge-
“The bottom line of our initial establishment for this great land is that we come from a heritage of ensuring that the people are in charge, not us in this chamber. I implore you to remember it is not you that sits in those seats, it is the thousands of people who put you there. Most of them you agree with, but some of them you do not. Those voices are important as well. Those voices are the ones, the minority represents here today. The voices that continue to believe in limited and smaller government, property rights, and school choice. Those Coloradans who understand there is no such thing as government money, but understand it is their money as government has no way of producing income outside of our individual successes. Entrepreneurs and business owners who feel they are over-taxed and over-regulated and who support multiple energy choices in our state. The people in the rural parts of this state that ensure we have food on our table everyday.
NCLA Tracking Report
On a bi-weekly basis, the NCLA Board reviews and considers its position on pending legislation. See the NCLA 2023 Legislative Tracking Report for the list of bills, thus far introduced, in which the NCLA is engaged.