Jan 152007
 
Authors: Emily Polak

Denver — The opening day of the 66th Colorado General Assembly on Jan. 10 had lawmakers walking away with the spirit of “moving Colorado forward.”

“It’s not how we move left or right, but how we move forward,” said Democratic House Speaker Rep. Andrew Romanoff, in an address to the Colorado House of Representatives.

With the Democrats as majority in both the House and Senate, majority lawmakers have full-size intentions for improving Colorado.

Healthcare, renewable energy and education are the top priorities in the effort to move Colorado forward, according to Romanoff and Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald.

“We must rebuild our higher education system,” Fitz-Gerald said. “It is perhaps the greatest investment we can make as a state.”

The necessity of affordable higher education, access to early childhood education and improvement in the K-12 system were emphasized as many of the representatives’ children and grandchildren sat beside them on the House floor.

“I want to make sure that higher education is accessible to as many people as possible,” said Rep. John Kefalas, a Democrat from Fort Collins. “I think we have a long way to go.”

Plans for the improvement of Colorado’s education system in an effort to better prepare today’s children for the global market were received with applause and standing ovations.

“We need to give institutions of higher learning and K-12 the resources they need,” said Fort Collins Democratic Rep. Randy Fischer. “It is unreasonable to ask them to do all that we ask of them without giving them the resources they need.”

Kefalas and Fischer were elected in November to represent the east and west sides of Fort Collins. They, along with the governor and the state senate, promised to keep higher education a priority.

Making Colorado a leader in renewable energy was presented as a priority by both the House and Senate with a goal to have 20 percent of Colorado’s energy come from renewable resources.

“There is a moral imperative for us to do our share in reducing our contribution to global warming as well as contribute another component to Colorado’s economy,” Fitz-Gerald said.

Democratic Sen. Bob Bacon contended that the focus on finding more renewable energy sources will likely impact Colorado universities.

“The renewable energy initiative has a lot of hope for our universities,” Bacon said. “I’m excited for our research universities to help move the agenda forward.”

The legislature also has plans to bring changes to the Colorado healthcare system. A greater supply of state-purchased generic drugs, insurance for all children and better access to the cervical cancer vaccine for all women were a few of the goals.

Romanoff concluded his speech by addressing the budget and promised Colorado “will be fiscally responsible,” unlike the federal government, he said.

The Senate expressed similar financial goals.

“We are still stretched very thin, and as we did last year we must practice extreme fiscal responsibility,” Fitz-Gerald said.

House Republican Minority Leader Rep. Mike May said Republicans also support education, healthcare and a cleaner environment; however they may have conflicting perspectives on how to tackle these issues.

“We want to protect Colorado families and their pocketbooks,” May said.

Lawmakers made it clear that the state legislature wants to put its energy into making the people of Colorado the priority without letting political parties get in the way of doing what is best for constituents.

“I think we are committed to working together,” Fischer said. “I believe there will be unity among the representatives on important issues.”

Legislators who delivered speeches kept with optimistic themes, ending the day with enthusiasm and high hopes for the coming session.

“I’m confident that we will move forward,” Bacon said.

Staff writer Emily Lance contributed to this story. Staff writers Emily Polak and Emily Lance can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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