Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst
January 13, 2016
OUR COLORADO WAY OF LIFE
Members, guests and fellow Coloradans: Welcome to the second regular session of the House of Representatives in the 70th General Assembly.
Our counterparts in the 10th General Assembly, back in 1895, were the first to meet in this chamber. Contrary to rumors, I was not around to witness that event. But I can say with confidence that our surroundings are as magnificent as when this building was brand new.
A three-year restoration of the House chamber is now complete. Over the summer, the last of those hideous acoustical tiles from the 1950s was removed from the ceiling and the original hand-painted stenciling was restored. The raised part of the ceiling here in the middle was also uncovered, revealing our skylight for the first time in six decades. And just last week, the chandelier was rehung in its original 1904 position after long months of work that restored its original luster.
For getting the House chamber restoration project rolling and sustaining it over the years, our thanks to my two predecessors, who are with us today – Speaker Frank McNulty and Speaker Mark Ferrandino.
And we owe special thanks to the supervisor who made the restoration a labor of love — our incomparable chief clerk, Marilyn Eddins.
We have a long list of distinguished guests with us today. I am honored to welcome —
- A third former speaker, Doug Dean
- Former minority leader Sal Pace
- Former Representatives Polly Baca, Bernie Buescher, Deb Gardner, Jenise May, Anne McGihon, Karen Middleton, Dorothy Rupert and Todd Saliman
- Former state senator Jana Mendez
- The retired chief judge of the 10th Judicial District, Dennis Maes
- Boulder County Commissioners Cindy Domenico and Elise Jones
We must begin this session on a somber note.
As you all know, not long after the 2015 session Representative John W. Buckner passed away.
John was a man of powerful intellect and great integrity. He didn’t speak from the well very often, but when he did, all the side conversations in this chamber came to a halt. We leaned in and listened, because we knew we were hearing the voice of wisdom.
John Buckner made this House a better place. As we reflect on his life and legacy, I ask that we observe a moment of silence.
Fortunately this cloud has a silver lining. John Buckner’s wife stepped up and courageously agreed to serve the remainder of his term. It is my honor and pleasure to recognize the representative of House District 40 in Aurora, Janet P. Buckner.
It is also my honor to introduce the newest member of this body, sworn in only yesterday. From House District 37 in Centennial, Representative Cole Wist. Congratulations.
I also want to recognize those – like me – who are serving their last year in this chamber.
Representatives Primavera, Tyler and Vigil, I’m sure your families are extremely relieved.
Representatives Court, Fields, Kagan, Klingenschmitt, McCann, Priola, Ryden and Williams, I understand that you are seeking election to another public office, some of you to that lower body across the hall. To your families, I wish I could offer some sort of explanation.
Minority Leader DelGrosso, it’s been a pleasure to work with you over our eight years together. On that day in May when I gavel this session to a close, I hope we will walk out of this chamber arm in arm.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude to Majority Leader Duran for her key role in making the 2015 session a productive one.
I look forward to more of the same this session.
Members, in everything we do this session, in every vote we cast, we must remain committed to sustaining our Colorado way of life – defending it where it’s threatened and elevating it where it can be improved.
We are blessed with spectacular mountains and majestic plains, and we will fight to protect our air and water for future generations.
But our Colorado way of life is more than a gorgeous natural environment.
So, what are we talking about when we talk about the Colorado way of life? It’s all the things that make us special, all the things that make us different. It’s what made more than 100,000 people move here just last year.
The new Coloradans have made us more diverse, and diversity is a source of our strength.
We have a long history of being a place where diverse groups have come together. In the beginning we had Native Americans, joined later by French trappers and Spanish settlers and Anglo pros-pectors.
But the list has never stopped growing. Today, people born in more than 100 different countries call Colorado home.
The melding of these various groups has sometimes been marked by hatred and conflict.
But we have come a long way – a long way toward tolerance and understanding.
Last year Colorado made its first formal apology for the Sand Creek massacre 150 years ago. It’s about time.
The state banned gay marriage in 2006 but by 2013 we had enacted civil unions. And now marriage equality is the law of the land. It’s about time.
When I look across this chamber I see forty-six percent women. We are close to that historic day when women will be a majority in this body. It’s about time.
Inclusiveness is one reason those 100,000 newcomers now call Colorado home. They have also come here because we are among the leading states in many areas:
- In protecting our environment, in clean air, clean energy, and in preserving our magnificent public lands for the enjoyment of all Coloradans.
- In our modern approach to marijuana that takes its users out of the courts, out of the black market shadows, and into the open where problems and abuses are treated, not criminalized.
- And yes, even in our common-sense gun safety legislation that makes our families more secure and respects our constitutional rights and Western traditions.
Last but not least, the new Coloradans have come here because we are a leading state in bouncing back from the Great Recession. Today, with a jobless rate of only three point six percent, we have an economy that’s the envy of 41 other states. And businesses in Colorado are enjoying record profits.
But we can do more. We must have an economy that works for all who work hard, where everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules.
Those rules must be fair, and fairly enforced. Too many times the big special interests are the ones writing the rules, or finding new ways to bend them or evade them altogether.
What do we do when the rules aren’t fair? We – the state legislature — make them fair, and we make sure everybody plays by them. We level the playing field for hard-working Coloradans.
No one who puts in an honest week’s work should struggle to feed the family. No one who works hard should live in poverty.
If you work hard, you deserve to take a vacation and save for retirement and send your kids to college.
We also have a duty to try to ensure secure retirements for Coloradans whose hard work is done and who have earned their rest. And we have a moral obligation to help Coloradans who are unable to work or to make ends meet.
Ideologues and opportunists will try to shame the mom who needs food stamps to feed the kids because dad left and didn’t leave a dime. Ideologues and opportunists will try to impose their views on the woman who isn’t ready to have a family. They will try to rob her of the choice to make her own private medical decisions.
We will defeat these ideologues and opportunists.
We will not tolerate those who game the system. We must ensure that the hard-working people of Colorado who are trying to provide for their families do not have the extra burden of supporting those who won’t play by the same rules as the rest of us.
Big corporations that can hire a legion of lobbyists and lawyers should not be able to buy success. One of the biggest steps this General Assembly can take to promote fairness in Colorado is to close the loophole that allows big special interests to hide their profits in offshore tax havens.
These bad actors steal from the schools their employees’ children attend.
These bad actors steal from the schools their employees’ children attend. These bad actors withhold their fair share toward the upkeep of the roads they use just like the rest of us. They leave the rest of us to pick up the tab.
Last year we sought to make the bad actors who are hiding their profits overseas stop dodging taxes and start paying their fair share. That would bring about 150 million dollars back to Colorado and send it where it is needed most — our kids’ classrooms.
We will reintroduce this bill in this session. Let’s pass this bill!
We can also support hard-working Coloradans by continuing previous successes in building the workforce of the future.
In this very strong economy, we must increase opportunities for training for the highly skilled jobs that are plentiful in Colorado. Not every career in our growing science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector requires four years of college.
This session you will see a bill to help make our workforce the best possible match for the jobs our STEM industries are producing today. Let’s pass this bill.
And we must make it easier for veterans to take skills they learned in the military and start a civilian career that matches their talents and experience.
This session you will see a bill to provide more training to veterans and their spouses. Let’s pass this bill.
And we must rededicate ourselves to the goal of ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work. The state government can lead by example by ensuring that companies that win state contracts have written and enforced policies to pay women the same as men for doing the same job.
You will see such a bill this session. Let’s pass this bill.
Last year we became a national model for our work to ensure that our law enforcement agencies treat all Coloradans fairly and with equal respect for their rights.
This session you will see several more bills to prevent racial profiling and continue to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect. Let’s pass these bills.
Our Colorado way of life also must include a good school for every kid. We must support preschool and K-12 education, which gives every child in Colorado a chance for a productive life. And when parents are more involved with their kids’ lives, the outcomes are measurably better.
You will see a bill to help improve those outcomes by taking the simple, common-sense step of ensuring that working parents can take unpaid time off to go to parent-teacher conferences and other essential school activities.
Let’s pass this bill.
And we must support our public colleges and universities, which provide the training that connects young Coloradans to good careers.
You will see a bill to cap student loan interest rates so Coloradans can graduate from college without drowning in debt. Let’s pass this bill.
Protecting our Colorado way of life also means protecting our environment.
We have no more time for silly debates. The climate is changing, we are causing it, the consequences are alarming and we had better make an effort to tread more lightly across this Earth.
Our Colorado way of life – and the billions we get from tourists who come here to enjoy the Colorado way of life — are at risk if every winter our ski season gets shorter and every spring our snowmelt fails to fill the reservoirs and every summer our forests burn.
These are the impacts of climate change.
For the first time, all the nations of the world are committed to reducing our carbon footprint. Colorado must do our fair share. We must continue to lead by example and do more to invest in renewable systems like solar and wind that provide energy at a competitive price while creating good, high-paying jobs and keeping our air and water clean.
You will see a bill to include specific goals in our state’s climate action plan to reduce our carbon footprint and help us bend the curve on climate change. Let’s pass this bill.
Our Colorado way of life is tied to the successes of our people and of our innovators, entrepreneurs and small business owners. They are the real engine of our economy.
Fifty percent of the jobs in Colorado are in small businesses. It’s time we focused our attention on small business.
You will see a bipartisan bill to ensure that compliance costs and regulations don’t stifle small businesses. Let’s pass this bill.
We need a strong partnership with businesses of all sizes. Our state government must be involved in building a robust infrastructure — roads, bridges, public transportation and telecommunications.
Now, more than ever, it is critical to upgrade our transportation systems so goods and services, tourists and regular Coloradans on their daily commutes can get where they’re going without having to spend hours stuck in traffic.
And we must help rural Colorado be a full partner in our economic recovery. In 2016, e-commerce and the transfer of all kinds of information and ideas should be as simple in Debeque and Del Norte as in downtown Denver.
One of the best ways to support rural Colorado is to double our efforts to bring high-speed internet to all areas of the state.
We have many important priorities, and we must spend wisely to fund them.
Because we will fail if we fail to invest in ourselves.
Our economy will wither if employers stop hiring Coloradans because we lack the education and training that allow us to compete for high-quality jobs. Commerce will suffer if our roads are crumbling and overwhelmed by congestion. Our magnificent mountain vistas are worse than worthless if they are hidden under a blanket of smog.
Members, it wasn’t so long ago that Colorado and the rest of the nation were mired in the Great Recession.
When the economy tanked, state revenues and reserves declined. The fact that we must balance our state budget every year meant that when there was less money to spend, we had to cut. Even though it meant less money for some of our highest priorities.
Though we won’t claim victory until every family in Colorado feels it, our rebound from those dark days is real.
The same economic realities that forced us to cut our budget in lean times should be blessing us today with the ability to invest for the long-term prosperity of our state.
In fact, because of the TABOR amendment to our state constitution, and its provision that arbitrarily caps state revenues, we enter this legislative session staring at a state budget proposal that requires significant cuts in critical areas of state spending.
It is a budget that would not allow us to make any of the investments we need for our long-term prosperity. And this situation replicates itself and becomes even more dire in future state budgets.
You will see a bill this year – a viable, constitutional bill – to give us flexibility under the TABOR cap by making the hospital provider fee an enterprise. Let’s pass this bill.
We should pass it while we try to reach agreement on a long-term budget solution that can be embraced by a majority of Colorado voters.
We have many things to be proud of in Colorado, and we have many challenges. Solutions to these challenges won’t be found overnight. But that’s no reason to throw up our hands and quit trying. We have never let obstacles stand in our way.
To get the gold they sought, the miners of the nineteenth century carved roads into impossibly steep mountainsides all across Colorado. To connect Denver with the Western Slope by rail, engineers nearly a hundred years ago blasted and drilled through six miles of solid rock and called it the Moffat Tunnel.
We have always been defined by our independent and enterprising spirit and our can-do attitude toward problem-solving. Let us harness that spirit once again to build on our past successes and overcome the obstacles that remain. And let’s start in this session of the Colorado General Assembly.
Members, this is my last opening day speech, and probably the last time I will address all of you at such length. Speaking from my heart, and from the experience of four decades of working in public policy in this state, I tell you this:
We are Coloradans, and we can get this done.
After all, that’s the Colorado way of life.