Colorado Lawmakers Return for the 2016 Legislative Session

Earlier today, Governor John Hickenlooper delivered his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Colorado General Assembly. The mood in the chamber was lighthearted and the Governor was particularly good humored, perhaps due to his impending nuptials this weekend! After the traditional pledge of support for the Denver Broncos, the Governor got down to business in a 42 minute speech that outlined his Administration’s goals for the 2016 session.

“Civility leads to collaboration. Compromise leads to progress.” This was the theme of his speech, as he wove a story of Colorado’s successes and outlined the challenges ahead.  The Governor focused much of his speech on Colorado’s economy and the advances made in areas of rural development,  economic development, access to broadband, and growing the talent pipeline by developing a new model for career and college readiness, among others. He announced a joint effort between his Administration and the business community in Colorado Springs to open the nation’s first cyber security intelligence center.

Renewing his commitment to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation, Governor Hickenlooper touted the success of Medicaid expansion noting that 93 percent of all Coloradans have health care of some sort, which has increased access to preventative services. He also noted efforts to reframe Colorado’s civil commitment laws, as well as a push to include suicide prevention education alongside firearm safety curriculum. Capitalizing on Colorado’s natural beauty, the Governor outlined his vision that within one generation all Coloradans will have access to vibrant outdoor recreation spaces within 10 miles of their home. 

Other key priorities for the Hickenlooper Administration include implementing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, including updates to Colorado’s Climate Plan to help mitigate the state’s carbon footprint.  Addressing the state’s dire transportation needs will be high on the priority list in 2016, however the Governor dismissed a Republican led plan to issue bonds to help pay for transportation projects.  He instead requested a comprehensive and long term solution to identify a new revenue source to fix the state’s roads and bridges. Reinvigorating the debate on construction defects reform, the Governor implored the Legislature to pass legislation which balances affordability housing needs with homeowner rights and builders’ ability to operate.  Finally, the Governor drew a line in the sand regarding the state’s fiscal challenges and his Administration’s proposal to turn the Hospital Provider Fee into an enterprise. He challenged Republican lawmakers, who are staunchly opposed to the plan, to find a solution to the budget quagmire.

Many of the Governor’s key points drew applause and standing ovations from his fellow Democrats, while the Republican caucus remained silent. Despite this show of partisan politics, legislators broke ranks to shower the Governor and his fiancé with rice as they left the Chamber. Today’s speech, combined with the opening days speeches from party leaders yesterday have set the tone for the session, and we can expect to see a largely partisan debate as everyone eyes the November election. Link to text of full speech.