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Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Democrats take (over) the high road

All’s fair in committee assignments, new majority says

By Leigh E. Rich

Changes are afoot at the state Capitol, and the new Democratic majority is leading the charge “to preserve and enhance the welfare of the people and the quality of their lives.”

At least that’s the promise new Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver, made to Colorado’s citizens in a press release last week.

The day before many a turkey was sent to the ritual slaughter, Gordon and incoming Senate Minority Leader Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, issued a joint statement announcing the next session’s committee assignments in the Senate. Speaker-elect Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, announced assignments in the House the Friday before.

Legislators who will be taking the lead in specific committees were selected based on their interests and expertise, Gordon said.

Other changes at the hands of the Democrats include the names of two committees. The Business Affairs and Labor Committee and the Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions Committee will now be known as Business, Labor and Technology (BLT) and the Committee on Health and Human Services (HHS).

So forget the fruitcake this holiday season, Gordon all but said, the “committee of the Senate,” both he and Hillman are confident, “will be an integral part of the formation of a positive and fruitful public policy for the state.”

And put partisanship aside, he advised in another statement. Well, for the most part.

Despite well-founded rumors that Gordon “was considering appointing Republicans to be vice-chairs of some Senate committees,” the press release stated, this vision of sugarplums never came to fruition.

“The caucus could not reach consensus on the issue,” Gordon explained, though promising that the Dems “intend to run the Senate in a fair way.”

That means that “Republicans will be afforded the opportunity to chair Senate debates during second reading. … Republican members will be allowed to have late bills when such a bill is needed, the criteria applied to Democratic requests.”

And the minority leader “will, on all occasions, choose the minority members of conference committees.”

Though this may not be that great of a stocking stuffer for the state Republicans who lost control of both houses this election, outgoing Majority Leader Hillman emphasized that “it’s crucial to have members who work well together whether striving for common ground or defending deeply-held beliefs.”

“Committees are where the most important policy work takes place,” he said, not only because they “give the public a chance to speak directly to legislators” but also because they help forge “working relationships” across the aisle.

And Gordon agreed.

“We may not always agree on how to achieve this goal” of protecting and bettering Coloradans’ lives, “but if we focus on what unites us rather than how we differ, we are certain that the people will benefit.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, December 3). Democrats take (over) the high road: All’s fair in committee assignments, new majority says. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 1.

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