The 70th session of the Colorado General Assembly started last week, and the divided legislature—Dems control the State House while Republicans hold the Senate—ensures that bills will need bipartisan support in order to make it to Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk. And that’s a good thing.
The last few years at the Capitol have been, well, uneven. The 2012 session finished awkwardly when then-Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty stalled the vote on a civil union bill. The filibuster didn’t ultimately work; Republicans lost control of the State House and the Colorado Civil Union Act was quickly approved in the next session. In 2013, Dems passed controversial gun control laws that led to election recalls and are still being debated today (see below). Last year was a bit less controversial, but mainly because many legislators were focused on not messing up reelection bids.
Now, the friction between parties means that many legislators are focusing on fine-tuning legislation or monitoring the implementation of past bills. Here are five topics the legislators won’t be able to avoid and that you should watch closely in the coming year:
1. GUNS | Mood Meter: Cautious
More than 100 bills were introduced on the first day of the session and—no surprise here—several deal with guns, including ones that seek to undo past legislation regarding limitation of magazine rounds and background checks for online or private sales. Getting that déjà vu feeling?
2. FRACKING | Mood Meter: Briefly paused
Before last year’s midterm election, Governor Hickenlooper helped piece together a compromise that kept several oil and gas initiatives off the November ballot. One of the concessions was to create a task force, which isn’t due to present findings to the legislature until mid-session. Until that happens, the discussion over fracking will focus less on legislation and more on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’s (OPEC) influence on falling gas prices.
3. MARIJUANA | Mood Meter: Buzz-worthy
Colorado’s Grand Experiment with recreational marijuana legalization will continue to be a headline-grabbing topic at the Capitol. You can expect the divided legislature to find common ground in fine-tuning both medical and recreational marijuana legislation, especially regarding edible products and banking regulations.
4. EDUCATION | Mood Meter: Confused
Legislators care about kids’ schooling. But that’s about all they agree on when it comes to education. You’ll read bills this session dealing with everything from funding to the way teachers are evaluated.
5. JOBS | Mood Meter: Obsessed
Hickenlooper has made it clear that jobs will be a focus of his second term (last week, he announced a $3 million plan for helping long-term unemployed workers get back into the workforce). From tax credits to transitional jobs programs, you’ll see plenty of partisan and bipartisan efforts to claim, “we created jobs” for the 2016 election cycle.