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Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert Outlines Legislative Priorities

Minority Leader Chris Holbert on the floor on Jan. 4, 2019.
Colorado Senate GOP
Minority Leader Chris Holbert on the floor on Jan. 4, 2019.

Sen. Chris Holbert is adapting to life in Colorado's legislative minority.

"We will have our say but not our way," he said in a speech on Jan. 4, the opening day of the session. "We have the voice, but not the votes."

So how does a lawmaker without the votes approach his job? Here are three takeaways from KUNC's interview with the Republican minority leader the day before the session gaveled in.

An interview with Sen. Chris Holbert

It isn't Washington, D.C.

While lawmakers in Washington, D.C. exchange barbs over the government shutdown, lawmakers in Colorado are striking a different tone.

Holbert thinks the state legislature is portrayed as more partisan than it really is.

"I've been here as a member for eight years. I have relationships," he said. "I have negotiated things with many people on the other side of the aisle. I know them personally."

Holbert said he's open to working with Democrats this session despite them controlling both chambers.

He offered some praise for new House Speaker KC Becker, a Democrat from Boulder. The two appeared together for an interview before the start of the session.

Holbert also thinks Republicans and Democrats will work together to pass some key legislation this year. For example, Holbert predicts full-day kindergarten funding will pass with bipartisan support.

On the Republicans' legislative priorities

"Transportation, K-12 funding and health care," Holbert said. Noting the state is collecting more than $1 billion more in tax revenue than originally projected, he doesn't think the legislature should go to voters seeking new taxes or fees to fund those priorities.

After he watched Gov. Jared Polis' State of the State address last week, Holbert questioned where the money for the governor's agenda would come from.

"All of these things might sound good, and we saw the Democratic members of the legislature stand repeatedly to applaud things that were not well defined," he said. "And here we have to balance our budget. We cannot spend more than we have. And the governor is coming from somewhere where a dollar doesn't mean a dollar."

New focus on harassment policy changes

Sexual harassment allegations against lawmakers dominated the headlines last session. They even led to the expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock.

Holbert points to survey data that shows a majority of Capitol workers still feel safe in the workplace, but said he's supportive of changing the way harassment policies are handled.

Last year, Holbert said he wasn't quite sure what he could or couldn't say about complaints. He hopes that gets addressed this session.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Eleven public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

Copyright 2019 KUNC

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
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