DENVER – There is optimism and pessimism as Colorado lawmakers return to the Capitol for another legislative session.
While some observers question how much will be accomplished with the Senate controlled by Republicans and the House by Democrats, others say new leadership in both chambers provides for a fresh start.
Highways, oil and gas, affordable housing and over-regulation are the big issues.
“We have to think outside the box when it comes to transportation,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cooke, R-Weld County.
Cooke says he supports a bonding issue, which could provide $3.2 billion for infrastructure, but adds the big question is how to pay off the bonds.
“Is it a special tax on automobiles? Is it with a sales tax?” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, said it could even be a hike in the gas tax.
But Cooke told Denver7 that’s unlikely.
“Gas taxes are not very popular and people are not looking at that,” he said. “But there is a wide array of options that we’re looking at and seeing what is best for everybody.”
Cooke also said gun control will be a big issue.
He’s planning to introduce a bill that would allow 18, 19 and 20 year olds who are in the military, National Guard, Army Reserves, or who have been honorably discharged, to apply for a concealed carry permit.
“My rationale,” he said, “is they can go to Iraq or Afghanistan and defend our country and our freedom, and possibly get killed, so they should be able to come back and defend themselves.”
The former Weld County sheriff said he knows it will be controversial, but believes there will be enough support to pass the bill.
Cooke said another lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would define how much training a teacher should undergo to have a gun in class.
He said both proposals relate to safety.
Guzman said a GOP push to remove the state version of the Affordable Care Act “is going to be a conflict.”
She told Denver7 that the program serves 150,000 people.
“They’re aligning themselves, it sounds to me, with the national agenda of the president-elect, so they will push all those things that they’re pushing in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
When asked if that will make the session more contentious, Guzman replied, “Thank goodness we’re not Congress. There are only 35 of us. I think we respect each other. There will be conflict, but it will be respectful.”
Keeping tabs on the legislature
Former state lawmaker Fran Coleman keeps tabs on the legislature.
Now a consultant, Coleman sat in on the opening ceremony.
She said she became emotional as she watched the presentation of the flags and thought about loved ones.
“It reminded me of how important it was for us to continue to honor our flag,” she said. "My mom came over without papers and unfortunately died a legal alien, but I never thought of her as an alien."
Coleman said she too believes this will be a contentious session, “because of the recent presidential election.
She said she’s glad they didn’t have Twitter and Facebook when she was first elected.
“People can instantaneously twist something or promote something,” she said. “So the misinformation is very concerning.