Colorado's General Assembly convened today. I watched from the House gallery.
Most of the affair is pomp, circumstance, uncontroversial organizing votes and scripted formalities. The most notable piece of that was the insistance of a freshman Republican on having the election results read aloud, and the choice of a rather liberal Rabbi to give the invocation.
The main events on opening day are the Speaker's speech and the Minority Leader's speech. Both men, Andrew Romanoff and Mark May, kept the powder dry, in stark contrast to a more combative speech by Joe Stengle last year.
Andrew Romanoff's speech echoed the priorities which Governor Ritter has set -- a bread and butter agenda of education, health care, fiscal responsiblity, dealing with Amendment 41 and renewable energy. May's speech chose to identify largely the same issue priorities, and emphasize a different, but not radically different approach to the issues. He also made a big strategic move by getting religion on the question of campaign finance and ethics reform.
He continued discussion of the need to rethink education in ways that he conceded were "radical." Few of the proposals were starkly partisan. He favored shifting the focus of evaluating schools on the value added by the school, not the absolute test scores of a school's children. May's speech emphasized the importance of maintaining accountability and of protecting the role of alternatives to traditional public schools like charter schools, home schooling and online learning.
Both men expressed the notion that improvements could be made in health care costs and that the number of uninsured people was a problem. Both felt that some action could be taken in advance of a report from the state blue ribbon commission working on the issue. Neither was terribly specific. Romanoff's most concrete proposal was one to use the state's buying prices to buy generic drugs for the elderly and uninsured at a good price.
Both the Speaker and Minority Leader identified transmission lines, to take alternative energy from rural areas to cities where it is needed, as a lynch pin of their renewable energy agenda. The Speaker favored expanding the voter approved mandate for renewable energy percentages, the Minority Leader emphasized the importance of using incentives rather than mandates. These are differences to be sure, but are hardly the stuff of political fireworks.
Both men expressed a strong desire to control spending. The Speaker called any attempt to introduce a bill requiring an appropriation without a way to pay for it irresponsible. The Speaker framed the issue of changing criminal laws to better prevent recidivism as a fiscal issue.
The games have begun. Now, we will see what comes of them.