(Jan. 9) – Led by new Speaker Mark Ferrandino, the Democratic caucus formally assumed the majority of the Colorado House of Representatives as the 69th General Assembly opened today.
Thirty-seven Democrats and 28 Republicans took the oath of office in a ceremony administered by the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Michael Bender.
In a speech in which he quoted such diverse figures as Barney Frank, Ayn Rand and Martin Luther King, Speaker Ferrandino told the House that Job No. 1 is “to accelerate our state’s economy and connect more Coloradans to good jobs.”
He endorsed more funding for smart economic development programs and training to give more Coloradans the skills they need for jobs in the 21st-century economy. In a break with tradition, he and the new majority leader, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, formally introduced the first five bills of the Democrats’ jobs package before the House recessed.
The Speaker reminded the House that education is the best economic development tool, and needs a boost. “As a result of the Great Recession, we’ve been forced to cut funding for our schools by a billion dollars, and we could be on-course to defund our public colleges and universities,” he said.
“We will face tough choices,” he said. “But when the time comes to make those choices, remember this: Our schools are the incubators of our future success, not just as an economy, but as a society.
He emphasized bipartisanship.
“This year, you will hear me emphasize three C’s: Consultation, Consensus, Cooperation,” he said. “When we consult with one another to achieve consensus, we expect to succeed. When we go it alone, the path to success is far steeper and narrower. The legislature is no place for rugged individualists.”
And he defended the role of government as “a cause for good in people’s lives.”
“It is reasonable to debate the size and scope of our government and its institutions,” he said. “But to blindly and cynically condemn government is to willfully ignore the many ways it makes our lives more secure and contributes to our shared prosperity.”