Jan 9, 2023 - News

Democratic lawmakers say "the voters clearly gave us a mandate"

The Colorado Capitol dome. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images

The Colorado Capitol dome. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images

Democrats took unprecedented power at the General Assembly on Monday with a party leader declaring that "voters clearly gave us a mandate."

  • Top Democratic lawmakers promised to toughen gun laws and expand women's reproductive rights, establishing high stakes for this year's session.

Why it matters: The opening day speeches set the tone for the 120-day legislative term and answer one of the guiding questions about how far Democrats will push their new might.

By the numbers: In the House, Democrats control 46 of the 65 seats — exceeding a two-thirds majority. In the Senate, the party is one vote shy of a supermajority, holding 23 of 35 seats.

What to know: Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) used his address to spotlight the party's push for tightened gun regulations, including expanding the state's "red flag" law to bypass law enforcement critics.

  • "We lost more than 1,000 Coloradans to gun violence in 2021. That's unacceptable. We owe it to each of those victims and their families to do more," Fenberg said.

In her remarks, new House Speaker Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) vowed the Legislature will increase waiting periods and age limits for buying firearms.

  • She also pledged to buttress women's health care by protecting abortion providers and curtailing "misleading pregnancy centers" that encourage women to carry babies to term.

Of note: Other top Democratic priorities identified: Colorado's rising cost of living, climate change and affordable housing, though the party's solutions remain unclear.

The other side: Republican lawmakers said their diminished numbers wouldn't deter them from opposing Democratic initiatives, and Senate GOP leader Paul Lundeen said the Capitol "must find balance in our discussions."

Yes, but: The Republican Party is far from united. In the House, constitutional conservatives defied tradition by nominating state Rep. Scott Bottoms (R-Colorado Springs) as speaker. Bottoms, who received eight votes for speaker, declared GOP lawmakers would battle abortion rights and stand for the Second Amendment "in all circumstances."

  • "We are not going to have any power this session, but we do have principles and that's what we are going to be standing on," Bottoms said.
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