The 2020 legislative session kicked off last Wednesday, and the first few days were a flurry of speeches by chamber leaders and Gov. Jared Polis. Colorado lawmakers hope for bipartisanship in the new session, but Republican leaders also say they’re prepared to fight against majority-led measures when they decide it’s necessary.
House Speaker KC Becker looked back on hallmark issues of the 2019 session including lowering health care costs, energy reform to fight climate change and fighting the opioid crisis.
“One-hundred-twenty long days flew by as the legislature wrote, discussed and debated 598 bills and 4,500 amendments,” she said.
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville said he appreciates the ability to work with Becker civilly even though they “don’t often see eye to eye.” But he didn’t shy away from expressing Republicans’ intent to push against any new proposals that may expand on controversial Democratic-led measures from last session, in service of what Neville termed fighting for the values of everyday people.
“If the rights of parents to safeguard and make decisions about their young child’s healthcare are threatened, as they were last year over vaccines, we’ll fight it,” he said. “If the rights of parents to supervise the sex education of their children are threatened, as they were last year, we’ll fight it.” He also referred to last session’s oil and gas regulatory overhaul as “a particularly bad example of one-sided legislation” that villainized businesses.
Republican representatives stood to clap during several parts of Neville’s speech outlining his policy stances.
Neville also said the state needs to make better use of public education funds, though he didn’t advocate for spending more. He pointed to low standardized test scores for high school students, especially for black and Hispanic students. He hinted at his support for school choice.
“Our problem isn’t a lack of money. We’re spending more than ever,” he said. “It’s a lack of imagination when it comes to offering parents and students more choice in education; when it comes to setting the right priorities, when it comes to putting our students first.” Becker also called out her support for renewed legislative efforts to create a paid leave system, one of the few Democratic-led measures they withdrew and turned into a study on the topic after weeks of powerful pushback by some business groups.
“We need stakeholders on every side of the issue to return to the discussion and work out a paid family leave program that is fiscally sustainable, workable for business and makes a real difference for working families,” she said. It’s not yet clear whether the upcoming bill – which will start in the Senate – will include an option for a private-market paid leave system. The system last year’s bill would have created was purely state-run, and criticism lingered over such a program’s financial viability and lack of an opt-out option to use a private program instead.
This session will be Becker’s last in the House. “I can already tell you that working here with you all has been the honor of a lifetime,” she said.