Good morning everyone. Welcome to your Colorado State Capitol.
It is my distinct pleasure to welcome each and every one of you to the first day of our 2020 legislative session.
I’d like to first take a moment to greet and thank all of the family members and loved ones gathered here to watch as we continue our work on behalf of the people of Colorado. I know I speak for everyone in this Chamber when I say we appreciate your support — and your patience — as we take on this important work.
Thank you also to Majority Leader Alec Garnett and to our wonderful Democratic caucus and leadership team. You all are amazing.
To Minority Leader Neville and the Republican Leadership team — I look forward to working together to find bipartisan solutions to Colorado’s most pressing challenges — and hopefully to be done every day by 4:00 pm.
While I’m truly excited to see all of my colleagues here today, I’d like to especially extend a warm welcome to Representative Mary Young, who will be starting her first session representing the people of Greeley in the legislature this year.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention someone who is dearly missed by everyone in this chamber, Representative Kimmi Lewis. As everyone who had the pleasure of meeting her knows, Kimmi was a devoted fighter for rural communities and a caring, responsive leader. Her spirit and tenacity will be dearly missed by all this session. I’d like to welcome our newest member, Richard Holtorf, who is the new Representative for House District 64. You, sir, have some big shoes to fill. We look forward to working with you.
This year, we also lost a true trailblazer and an incredible presence in this building, Speaker Ruben Valdez. The first Latino Speaker of the House in Colorado, Ruben Valdez was an inspirational figure, and a mentor to many.
I’d also like to recognize the former Speakers in attendance today:
Finally, I’d like to recognize former legislators who are present:
Thank you all for being here.
A year ago, as I welcomed you to the start of the 72nd General Assembly, I wasn’t shy about our bold plans to work on behalf of the people of Colorado.
In my speech, I promised that as Speaker, I would work to keep this body focused on investing in our state’s bright future, building an economy that works for all, and protecting the Colorado Way of Life.
As I stood at this podium and accepted the Speaker’s gavel, I talked about the obstacles our state faces. I called on all of you to put your ideas, your passion, and your determination to work towards lowering the cost of health care, investing in education, building a fair economy, tackling climate change, combatting homelessness and the housing crisis, confronting the opioid epidemic, and reforming our criminal justice system.
Your response? One of the most historic, productive sessions in our state’s history.
120 long days flew by as the legislature wrote, discussed, debated 598 bills and 4,500 amendments. We passed laws that that are moving our state forward and protect the Colorado way of life for years to come.
We proved that although inaction and gridlock may have the federal government in a headlock, good government is alive and well in the Centennial State. While Washington D.C. gets itself stuck in the mud it’s so busy slinging, our state moves forward.
While some in D.C. are still looking for ways to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip health care away from millions of Americans, we joined together, Republicans and Democrats, and found innovative ways to save consumers money on health care — like our bipartisan bill to prevent surprise medical bills from costing families thousands.
As Congress continues its decade-long failure to address the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, here at home we passed a first-in-the-nation bipartisan bill to cap the cost of insulin.
Although it wasn’t always easy, we took on some of the biggest challenges our state faces. While the Trump Administration denies scientific consensus on climate change and actively undermines efforts to address it by rolling back environmental protections left and right, we fought hard to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the mountains we hike, and the rivers we fish.
We took a measure to the voters and successfully secured new revenue for our water plan and passed landmark oil and gas reforms to give our communities a say in what goes on in their own backyards. We set our state down a path towards a clean energy future and set bold targets that we intend to meet while keeping our economy and the future of Colorado workers in mind.
As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to act on behalf of all Coloradans, to strive to address the very real and dire challenges that are facing too many in our state, and to invest in our future. That’s what our constituents sent us here to do. I don’t know of a single parent in Colorado who doesn’t want their children to have a better life than they did.
At least I know I do — I want Leo and Ryder to grow up in a more just, more compassionate, and more conscientious world. As a mom, that means trying to lead by example and pass on the values that I’d like to see in the world around me.
In this House, that means working to build an economy that works for all. That’s why I was so proud last year when we delivered on equal pay for equal work and created college savings accounts to help families plan for their childrens’ future.
Our effort to build an economy that works for all didn’t end there — we strengthened renters’ rights and the rights of mobile home park residents and made one of the largest investments in affordable housing in our state’s history.
Despite our state’s unique budget constraints, we managed to make significant investments in our future.
We paid down the budget stabilization factor by $100 million, boosting investment in our classrooms. We passed a budget that included $20 million for rural schools and $22 million for special education programs. And just in case you’ve never heard Governor Polis speak, I’ll have you know we also expanded full-day kindergarten to every school district in our state.
We did great things last year and truly made a difference in the lives of people in every corner of our state, from the Western Slope to the Front Range and from Southern Colorado to the Eastern Plains. We worked around the clock–literally–on behalf of our constituents because this House belongs to them. We work for the people, and there is more work to be done.
This year, we will strive to create a more just economy and to make our state affordable for all.
So as long as there are families facing the harrowing prospect or the cruel reality of homelessness, this House moves forward.
As long as there are Coloradans making the impossible choice of paying for prescription drugs or paying for groceries, this House moves forward.
As long as there are teenagers attempting to take their own lives or fearing a school shooting, this House moves forward.
As long as our schools are underfunded and our classrooms are overcrowded, this House must move our state forward.
Nationally, this year may go down as one of the most bitter and divisive our nation has ever been through. Obstructionism, corruption, and partisan logjams have driven Washington from bad to worse. And while I remain hopeful that a change will soon come in DC, I invite you to join me in taking matters into our own hands to prove once again that government can still work for the people.
The interim has flown by, and as we begin this new session, I am asking you to do it all again. Come to this job with fresh ideas for how we can make our state more affordable. Work together with diverse stakeholders on all ends of the political spectrum to find solutions.
Coloradans need and are demanding a more affordable state and a more just economy. Too many people are not feeling the benefits of our state’s growth. That’s where our focus should be. Every Coloradan should have the opportunity to share in our state’s prosperity.
To get there, we’ll have to have hard conversations and make difficult decisions, together. We’ll need Republicans and Democrats alike to work hard, listen to stakeholders on all sides, and come to the table ready to work. My door is always open, and all ideas that will improve the lives of Coloradans are ready to be considered.
We will need everyone at the table working to make housing, health care, and higher education more affordable.
We need everyone at the table working to create a more fair and more rational criminal justice system.
We need everyone at the table to enhance the rights of state employees to collectively bargain for better pay, better working conditions and benefits.
We need everyone at the table to promote responsible gun ownership and move forward on gun safety initiatives that have already been adopted on a bipartisan basis in states across the country.
We need everyone at the table working to heed the call on climate change *and* protect workers and communities impacted by a changing climate and energy economy.
We need everyone at the table to deliver on our school safety initiatives and increase access to mental health support, especially in our schools.
I have no doubt in this body’s ability to work together and find bipartisan ways to get things done. House members have already reached across the aisle to make sure that we tackle the epidemic of teen nicotine use in our state.
Last year we promised to deliver on paid family leave. We brought our state closer than it’s ever been to guaranteeing that every working Coloradan can take the time off they need to care for a loved one or a newborn without fear of financial ruin.
The time is now. 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.
We’ll also need everyone to come back to the table to tackle one of the most pressing issues facing this state — our retirement crisis. Our population is aging and our economy is changing. Forecasts show that 1 in 5 residents will be over 65 by 2050. Meanwhile, more and more people in Colorado are participating in the gig economy and taking nontraditional jobs.
A modern and flexible economy requires a modern and flexible retirement savings system — and that’s what we aim to achieve.
As we move forward this session, we must keep in mind the unique challenges that our state’s fiscal policies present. Colorado is handcuffed by a restrictive and antiquated law that doesn’t allow the state to benefit from our booming economy and doesn’t let us make the investments we need.
Transparency in our budget is critical so that Coloradans can easily learn about where their dollars go. That’s why I’m excited to announce that here in the next few months, a visual, interactive display of the state’s budget will be available for the public on the General Assembly website.
This is a critical step in providing Coloradans with an accurate and accessible picture of our state’s finances to increase their trust in how we prioritize these dollars because every single dollar counts.
Given our state’s restrictions, we have to keep in mind that our state’s revenue is precious. Every single dollar must be spent wisely. This means being thoughtful about any permanent decisions we make that could have an impact on our state’s bottom line.
Permanent tax cuts that only further inequalities, exacerbate the achievement gap, make our higher ed institutions less competitive, and hinder our ability to meet our already dire transportation needs will not put us on the path to becoming a more prosperous and equitable state.
How we prioritize within our budget is of vital importance. We need to ensure that all of our dollars are being used in service to key goals.
While we’ve made substantial investments in K-12 education funding by paying down the budget stabilization factor, we’ll remain focused on ways to bring it down even further and will continue working on longer term school funding solutions.
This session, we will once again face the challenge of finding new money to invest in our state’s transportation system. Over the past few years we’ve made great strides to make multi-year commitments and find creative ways to set aside a significant amount of funding for transportation. But there is no secret pot of money hiding in the couch cushions; continuing these investments remains a challenging issue.
If we are going to find actual solutions to invest more in transportation, members on both sides of the aisle will have to bring forward specific solutions that voters haven’t already rejected and that are serious attempts at bipartisan solutions.
Past proposals like unspecified, across the board budget cuts to every department impacting programs from services for the disabled to food inspections to school funding, is not a realistic approach and is not the answer. Cutting Coloradans off Medicaid isn’t the answer.
Members need to show us where they believe this money should come from and make good faith efforts to find common ground. I know this is an issue that every single one of us cares about, and if we’re going to make progress, we need to do it together.
I know we can do this. From criminal justice reform to the great work coming out of the School Safety Interim Committee, we’ve seen incredible bipartisan progress on important issues.
We must continue this progress for the people of this state.
Investing in our future will also mean continuing to grapple with a host of difficult health care challenges as we attempt to lower costs and improve access and affordability across our state.
While we work to keep Colorado healthy and strong, we won’t be dissuaded by a small chorus of loud voices who let their fear drive them to ignore the science of vaccines and endanger the lives of others.
We’ll stay strong and move forward on issues that may be difficult but that require our action and attention, like abolishing the death penalty once and for all in our state.
This session, we will continue our work to lower the cost of prescription drugs — an issue that affects Coloradans from the newborn nursery room to the hospice wing and at every point in between. We can and will increase transparency in drug pricing and address the root causes that have made the costs of prescription drugs soar.
Our work is cut out for us. As long as we keep in mind who we are working on behalf of, our path forward will remain clear. So join me, bring your best ideas to the table and let’s get things done.
On behalf of every veteran and every family struggling to afford the cost of housing, come to the table.
On behalf of future generations of Coloradans and their right to enjoy our state’s natural treasures just like we have, come to the table.
On behalf of every young person caught in an unjust criminal justice system, come to the table.
On behalf of every child in an underfunded classroom in Colorado and on behalf of the teacher working to give those kids the best education possible, come to the table.
On behalf of every person living with a chronic illness who’s rationed their prescription drugs because they couldn’t afford the cost, come to the table.
Come to the table and let’s move Colorado forward together — towards prosperity, towards justice, towards progress!
This will be my last session serving as your colleague and your Speaker. It will be my last session representing the wonderful people of the 13th district under the golden dome.
And while there’s a great deal left to do and a great deal of new memories to make before I close this chapter, I can already tell you that working here with you all has been the honor of a lifetime.
It is with immense pride that I declare the House open for business for the second regular session of the seventy-second General Assembly of the great State of Colorado.