Jan 10, 2024 - Politics

Democratic lawmaker trolls party leader in opening day of Colorado's legislative session

Pro-Palestine protesters are escorted out of the State Capitol during the first day of the Colorado General Assembly's 2024 session Jan. 10. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

Pro-Palestine protesters are escorted out of the Capitol during the first day of the General Assembly's 2024 session yesterday. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The leader of the Colorado House called for a respectful political dialogue to start the legislative session Wednesday even as her Democratic colleague, Rep. Elisabeth Epps, trolled her on social media.

Why it matters: The contradiction illustrates the dismal level of discourse at the state Capitol where a progressive split in the Democratic Party and objections from Republicans threaten decorum and lawmaking in the next 120 days.

State of play: Top Democratic and Republican leaders spoke from the same script — all invoking the word "civility" and decrying social media invectives — in their opening day remarks, urging lawmakers to prioritize conversations across party lines.

  • House Speaker Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) said her top goal is to make sure all lawmakers are "treated with respect" and created a panel to draft "a consistent rubric" for acceptable speech on the floor.

Yes, but: It didn't little to help. The extraordinary public feud between McCluskie and Epps (D-Denver) continued.

  • Epps, who appeared remotely via video, took to X, formerly known as Twitter, during the speaker's opening remarks to accuse the chamber's leader of being dishonest and shameful.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen pro-Palestinian protesters — cheered by Epps — disrupted the proceedings.

  • A handful of Republican lawmakers — joined by Epps — also cast symbolic "no" votes on procedural items, starting the session with the same tension that ended the 2023 term.

What they're saying: The tenor irritated Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver), who made an unusual plea during an intermission in the House chamber to urge her colleagues and the public to stop the obstructionism.

  • "We are in incredibly challenging times," she said. "We don't have time to waste … we don't have time to fritter away when the challenges that confront our state are so pressing, so let us get to work. Let us do the people's work. We may not always agree but we have to be able to have the conversations."
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