Legislative session ends; election run-up to come

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By Greg Romberg

The 69th General Assembly completed its work last week and adjourned. There was considerably less acrimony than in the previous two years, and a variety of important issues made their way successfully through the process. During closing remarks Wednesday night just before the Senate adjourned, Minority Leader Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs went out of his way to praise Senate President Morgan Carroll for the way the Senate handled its work in 2014 in a more bipartisan fashion than had been the case in previous years.

A variety of issues related to Colorado’s legalization of marijuana were passed, including limitations on packaging of edible products, setting priorities for spending marijuana tax revenues, updating of laws involving the drug, and establishing the process for state chartered financial cooperatives to address the problem of marijuana businesses being unable to access federally insured financial institutions.

Our state’s telecommunications laws were overhauled in a comprehensive manner for the first time since 1995 through a five-bill package that updates the regulatory structure to reflect technological changes that have altered how many of us get and use telephone services and to encourage increased deployment of broadband services in rural areas of the state.

The legislature approved establishment of a state fleet of planes and helicopters to fight wildfires while at the same time funding payments to victims and family members of victims of the Lower North Fork Fire.

Improvements in our economy allowed the state budget to grow with investments in a number of areas, most notably in K-12 and higher education.

Efforts to scale back the gun-control package from last year were unsuccessful, but the bigger story was not that the bills were killed, but how the issues were handled. In 2013, bill hearings were conducted in ways that led to charges that the public’s right to be heard had been compromised, leading to the recall of two Democratic senators and the Democratic Senate majority shrinking to a narrow 18-17 margin. When the bills were presented in committees this year, all people who wanted to testify were given more complete opportunities to be heard.

Now that the session is over, we turn almost immediately to election mode. Control of the state Senate might very well be determined in Jefferson County as Democratic incumbents Cheri Jahn, Andy Kerr, Jeanne Nicholson and Rachel Zenzinger all face re-election. Other targeted seats will include those held by Republicans Bernie Herpin from Colorado Springs and George Rivera of Pueblo, who came into the Senate as a result of last year’s recall elections. 

Democrats hold a 37-28 margin in the House of Representatives. It too will feature several targeted races, with control of the body in the balance.

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Unless the legislature is called back into special session to address issues involving local control of oil and gas operations, the end of the legislative session marks the end of Evergreen Republican Cheri Gerou’s most active service as the state representative for District 25. As mentioned previously in this space, she’s owed a debt of gratitude for six years of service for our area and the state of Colorado.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.