The first week, a tough choice

The first week of the session began with unpacking and settling in. Along with the routine, though, came a pretty big jolt for me on Monday when I got a call from the Minority Leader letting me know that, due to a calendar change from the majority party, I wouldn’t be able to serve on two of my original committees, Judiciary and Health and Human Services.

Much to my dismay, I was faced with having to choose which one to stay on as, this year, the two committees meet at exactly the same time. I had to make a nearly immediate decision as my choice had a domino effect on the placement of less senior caucus members on other committees. I quickly weighed what my options were, where I had existing commitments such as to the work of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission, and asked myself where I would be best placed for the sake of my district.

Legislators can and do stay involved in subject areas where they’re not on the committee of reference, but it’s a bit more difficult. Considering my healthcare contacts built up over the year and my familiarity with those issues, I determined that I’d have an easier time staying in touch with the healthcare bills even without the committee assignment, so I asked to stay on the Judiciary Committee, as ranking member. I’ll still participate in the healthcare bills from the floor, though, and have a couple of my own that’ll take me to that committee anyway.

If there’s a silver lining to having to make this difficult choice, it’s that I was placed on the House Finance Committee and a specially convened task force convened by the House Republicans focused on the state’s budget and economic situation. Given that the economic challenges we face in the state and our nation will drive so much at the state legislature this year, these are great places to be. On the finance committee, we’ll be hearing the bills with a fiscal impact to the state. The Economic Task Force will meet regularly to help develop ideas for future budgets, including cuts, but also economic stimulation and protecting Colorado’s jobs.

Later in the week, I attended the Colorado Bankers Association’s legislative presentation at the Capitol by Tom Hoenig, CEO of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, and walked away thinking that, especially for the time being, the recovery from the recession will drive nearly all decisions at state capitols nationwide. While there’s no avoiding cuts that’ll need to be made, we must maintain an investment mentality and be thoughtful as we make those cuts. As a new member to the House Finance Committee, I plan to bring the rural and small business perspectives to the bill conversations at every opportunity.

The General Assembly officially convened on Wednesday and we went through the annual ceremonies associated with the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. The pomp and circumstance is appropriate and part of the historical legacy of our institution, but, to be honest, I’m looking forward to moving next week to the work we have ahead of us.

My legislative aides this year are Fort Lewis College students, Celestino “Sal” Plascencia and Philip “Dross” Martin. It’s great to have help from southwestern Colorado and, hopefully, it’ll be a great experience for them, too. They jumped right in and are learning the ropes of the legislative process firsthand as well as how to handle constituent calls and questions. I’m really pleased Senator Isgar and I are able to have students from Fort Lewis working with us this year and, hopefully, it’ll become a tradition for legislators from our area. My thanks to Fort Lewis College, its administration, and professors Bunch and Clark, particularly, for working out the logistics and support to make this possible.