While progress is well underway in the battle against COVID-19 in Colorado, the legislative session that convenes Wednesday is still very much in the thick of it. Even the session itself is kicking off only in truncated form to attend to some basics before taking a pause to allow the virus to wane further.
And, of course, much of the work of the legislature before and after its mini-break, lasting about a month, will focus on the pandemic's wide-ranging impact on our state. Legislation likely will emerge to address not just Coloradans' physical health but also their economic distress and emotional well-being. To say the least, lawmakers' work will expand upon their efforts during the brief special session convened last month by Gov. Jared Polis.
Several past and present members of the legislature, whose perspectives follow, point to broader issues underlying the 2021 session's pending agenda.
Denver-area Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a practicing pediatrician, writes not only about a need for better health-care coverage — but also what she believes is the accompanying need for the public to understand there's no way back to a pre-COVID world. Permanent changes must be made, she contends, to brace for the next pandemic and the next.
West Slope Republican Rep. Matt Soper writes of a pressing matter he believes lawmakers should take up this session — "but won't." Notably, he feels the legislature's Democratic majority should push back at fellow Democrat Jared Polis in the Governor's Mansion to curb what Soper and other Republicans feel has been an overreach by the executive branch in addressing the pandemic.
Incoming state House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo champions those who otherwise might be overlooked in tackling COVID's ravages.
"COVID exposed and heightened cracks in our system that have held back low income communities, communities of color, and rural communities for far too long," Esgar writes. "We’ll work to ensure that as we recover and rebuild, we fix these weaknesses in our system and ensure everyone truly has a shot at achieving the Colorado dream."
Veteran Republican Sen. Paul Lundeen asks us to ponder what he holds are the true takeaways from the state's bout with COVID: "Are we willing to sustain tax holidays that help support small businesses and sweep away regulations that prevent job creation? Are we willing to make course corrections in public education that guide resources directly to students who are most in need?"
Meanwhile, Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp — who served her last tour of legislative duty during December's special session and now begins a term on the Jefferson County Commission — adds a call for moderation in the face of anticipated zeal for sweeping reforms: "I am concerned about the role for the few moderate policy makers remaining this year and the years to come," she writes, also noting, "The question for both parties is whether they will overstep."
Read those reflections, and more — in our latest roundtable.