The 72nd General Assembly, with Democrats at the helm of the House and Senate, convened Friday for the 120-day lawmaking term.
The new Democratic leaders in each chamber — House Speaker KC Becker and Senate President Leroy Garcia — gave opening-day remarks that outlined their visions for the 2019 session and the party’s legislative agenda.
What was notable about Garcia’s speech was more what he didn’t say than what he did. The Pueblo lawmaker stayed away from discussing hot-button issues of climate change, oil and gas, gun control, funding for full-day kindergarten and preschool, and paid family leave.
Instead, Garcia spread a message of unity and bipartisanship, which stood in great contrast to Becker’s unapologetic, ideological presentation. That split will likely foreshadow the differences in the two chambers this year,
Here’s a transcript of the full speech from Garcia, with annotations from The Colorado Sun highlighting what’s important and explaining what it all means:
Mr. Minority Leader. Mr. Majority Leader. Madam President Pro Tempore. Friends. Loved Ones. Honored Guests.
Good morning. It is an honor and privilege for me to welcome you to the Senate chamber as we open the 72nd General Assembly.
I want to welcome our returning members and especially congratulate our newly elected Senators. Will each of you please stand as I call your name:
Senator Dennis Hisey; Senator Paul Lundeen; Senator Pete Lee; Senator Joann Ginal; Senator Rob Woodward; Senator Tammy Story; Senator Mike Foote; Senator Jessie Danielson; Senator Brittany Pettersen; Senator Faith Winter; Senator Robert Rodriguez; and Senator Julie Gonzales.
Please join me in giving them a warm welcome to this historic chamber.
If you look around, you might notice that this body looks a little different than it has in the past. That is because not only do we have a majority of women in the Democratic Caucus, but we also have one of the most demographically and geographically diverse caucuses in recent history.
New leaders bring bold solutions that will carry our great state forward. Institutional knowledge combined with new perspectives will move us towards a better future for every Coloradan.
As my returning colleagues know, it is a unique honor and privilege to work in this body and serve the people of this great state. It is a privilege each of you have worked extremely hard for and overwhelmingly earned.
But you would not be here if it were not for the love and support of your families and friends. Let us take a moment to show our appreciation for everyone who made your leadership possible. In that spirit, I too would like to give a special thank you to my family.
To my parents who are with us today – thank you for teaching my brothers and me the importance of respecting others, treating all with compassion, and always living with love in your heart!
To my brothers – Jake and Evan. I know it took both of you a little longer than me to learn those values I just spoke about, but you both finally got them! But all kidding aside, thank you for your service to our country.
While many of you may know that I served in the Marine Corps, you may not know that Jake and Evan also served in the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If there are any members who have served our country either in the armed services, as a member of law enforcement, or public safety, would you please stand so that we may thank you for your service.
To my sons – Jeremiah and Xan. I am so incredibly proud of the young men you have become. Jeremiah recently received a nomination to West Point and the Merchant Marines and Xan is following in his brother’s footsteps with exceptional grades and is also becoming quite the soccer player.
To the love of my life – my wife Michelle. I am so grateful for your love and support. Not only for everything you do as the rock of our family, but for the amazing person you are, day-in and day-out, through your work assisting families and youth. You are truly an amazing woman and I am so grateful that you asked me to marry you. I love you.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the special guests who have joined us today to ring in the 2019 legislative session.
As a sixth generation Coloradan, I have deep roots and a strong commitment to our state. My family came to the United States, and eventually settled in southern Colorado. Like so many immigrants, they came in search of greater opportunity. Even though my family only spoke Spanish at the time, it did not slow them down or discourage them. Not one bit.
My great grandfathers worked the coal mines and the fields where they lived and learned the value of hard work. They lived their American Dream – a dream that would become a reality by providing a better life for their families.
This value of hard work has been passed down from generation to generation, eventually shared with my parents who started a small, modest business in Pueblo. They worked hard to provide a good life for my brothers and me. Watching them, we too learned the value of hard work, which was an invaluable lesson that served us well when we enlisted in the Marine Corps.
For me, it was during that time that I learned not only the importance of service and honor, but to care for and respect my brothers and sisters in arms, regardless of where they came from or what their political views were. That was never truer than when I served in Iraq.
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It did not matter who was to your left or right. We understood that we had a collective mission – and we had to have each other’s back!
It is that understanding of hard work and spirit of collaboration that we must bring back to the Capitol. For too long, we have allowed political party to divide us. As a result, ego and politics determined what bills moved forward – not the merits of the policy.
Our state deserves better. Our constituents expect more of us.
Unlike in Washington, D.C. – this Senate must bring a new energy that will yield a standard of trust and respect. We must engage in dialogue and collaboration. This is how we will find common ground and solutions to the bread and butter issues facing everyday Coloradans.
Coloradans did not elect us to engage in gamesmanship. They elected us to work, to reach across the aisle, and to have an open and working government that finds solutions to help them live their American Dream.
Make no mistake – Colorado is growing and prospering, but not everyone feels that growth and prosperity. Too many cannot afford the healthcare they need. Too many have died at the hands of opioids, and many more struggle with drug abuse and addiction. Too many earn lesser pay for equal work. Too many children in Colorado do not have equal access to a quality K-12 education. And too many are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.
But Coloradans do not give up in the face of challenges like these, and neither can we. Colorado is a special place – it is a state filled with people who innovate and find solutions, and I am absolutely confident that this body will be able to find many of those solutions.
Solutions that build on the steps we have taken to address the opioid epidemic by making greater investments into programs with a proven record of success. Solutions that ensure student loan servicers do not take advantage of students in Colorado. Solutions that help lower the cost of healthcare by increasing price transparency for prescription drugs.
And solutions that show Colorado can be a state that not only creates a booming business climate and grows good-paying jobs, but one that also values workers and pays them fairly.
I know each member of this Senate is different. And while we may disagree and debate about the solutions to the issues facing our state, we cannot allow our political differences to get in the way of our shared goals: to serve with honor and to improve the lives of hardworking Coloradans.
We – Democrats and Republicans – can accomplish these goals if we put our egos aside. I have no doubt that all of us can agree that we are most successful when we work together.
So, let us today mark a new day for the Colorado State Senate. A Senate where we return to our tradition of honor, trust, and integrity. A Senate that has an unwavering commitment to take care of every Coloradan, no matter where they live.
Political parties do not determine what improves the lives of Coloradans. Good policy does, and no one party has a monopoly on good ideas. That is why we should be willing to work with anyone – regardless of party – who has a solution to the serious issues that Colorado faces.
If we are willing to work hard and collaborate, we can empower every Coloradan to live their American Dream – just like my family and so many families in this room have been able to do – and ensure we pass on a better Colorado to our children and grandchildren.
It is a big task, but I know we can do it. So, let’s get to work.
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