Democrats and Republicans didn’t waste any time choosing new leaders for the upcoming legislative session in Colorado.
It felt almost like a lively and cheerful family reunion when the growing Democratic House majority gathered in the Old State Library Thursday afternoon to promote KC Becker of Boulder to the position of House Speaker.
As more election results favoring House Democrats trickled in during the day, the cheers and applause grew louder.
Democrats who are taking control of the State Senate named Leroy Garcia of Pueblo as Senate President.
Here are two takeaways from yesterday’s leadership elections:
Lawmakers aren’t done addressing their workplace culture
In his first speech as Senate President-elect, Garcia called for higher standards at the Capitol.
And at a press conference after the leadership elections, he said he doesn’t think the Senate is finished responding to harassment allegations like the ones that were leveled last session against Republican Senator Randy Baumgardner.
Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, was accused of grabbing and slapping the buttocks of a legislative aide on four occasions during the 2016 legislative session. He has denied wrongdoing. And a vote to expel him failed last session largely on party lines.
“It’s never really been resolved,” Garcia said.
He went on to say he thought the General Assembly still has “got some cleaning up and things to do here.”
The upcoming shift of power to Democrats in the Senate had some reporters wondering whether lawmakers will revisit Baumgardner’s fate.
When he was pressed on whether he thought there would be another vote called to expel Baumgardner in January, Garcia said he didn’t know.
“I have not heard that directly (from my colleagues), so I think that remains unknown,” he said.
Garcia’s comments came on the same day a bipartisan group of lawmakers approved new workplace harassment policies they hope will improve the culture at the Capitol.
No early pledges on oil and gas legislation
Voters rejected a plan to force new oil and gas drilling in the state further from homes, schools and hospitals. And so far, Democratic leaders at the Capitol aren’t calling for any new legislation that would take up that issue again.
After the leadership elections, Garcia was peppered with questions from reporters about whether he personally supports new setbacks.
But he avoided giving a yes or no answer.
He took a long pause after the question. He said he’s open to seeing whatever legislation his colleagues would bring on the issue.
Jared Polis, the state’s incoming Democratic governor, also was non-committal when asked about oil and gas policy this week during an interview with 9News.
Colorado legislature leadership positions
President: Leroy Garcia, Pueblo
President Pro-Tem: Lois Court, Denver
Majority Leader: Stephen Fenberg, Boulder
Whip: Kerry Donovan, Vail
Caucus Chair: Faith Winter, Westminster
Minority Leader: Chris Holbert, Parker
Assistant Minority Leader: John Cooke, Greeley
Minority Whip: Ray Scott, Grand Junction
Caucus Chair: Vicki Marble, Fort Collins
Speaker: KC Becker, Boulder
Majority Leader: Alec Garnett, Denver
Assistant Majority Leader: Chris Kennedy, Lakewood
Caucus Chair: Edie Hooton, Boulder
Whips: James Coleman, Denver, and Jeff Bridges, Greenwood Village
Minority Leader: Patrick Neville, Castle Rock
Asst. Minority Leader: Kevin Van Winkle, Highlands Ranch
Minority Whip: Perry Buck, Windsor
Caucus Chair: Lori Saine, Firestone