On first day of new session, Colorado lawmakers call for more civility

This follows a year of controversial remarks by state lawmakers in both parties.
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Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-10 22:10:13-05

DENVER — When lawmakers returned to the state capitol on Wednesday to start a new legislative session, leaders on both sides of the aisle called for more civility between legislators, whether they’re in the building debating bills or on social media.

“We must resist the urge to be performers,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “We need to legislate for constituents, not for Twitter.”

Over in the House, Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, stressed civility in much of her opening-day speech to her colleagues, listing it as her No. 1 goal for lawmakers this year.

“We can engage on tough issues without disregarding the humanity and the dignity of our colleagues in this institution or accusing each other of poor motives,” McCluskie said.

House Republican leader State Rep. Mike Lynch also used part of his opening-day speech to call for more civility and urged lawmakers to talk to each other, instead of posting about one another on social media.

“The actions and interactions of us will be judged by those who expect us to remain civil and above the fray of a petty tweet,” Lynch said. “If you have something to say about another member, they are only a few steps away.”

The need for civility has been a big focus over the past year.

On first day of new session, Colorado lawmakers call for more civility

Last spring, State Rep. Scott Bottoms, R-El Paso County, delivered remarks on the House floor that members of the transgender community called out as transphobic. State Rep. Elisabeth Epps joined protesters in the House gallery during November’s special session, interrupting the proceedings and calling other lawmakers names, including calling one colleague a "fascist."

In December, Rep. Ruby Dickson, D-Arapahoe County, announced her resignation, citing the “vitriolic nature of the current political environment.”

McCluskie said leadership is developing a rubric to guide conversations to a more civil level.

“Let's commit ourselves, recommit ourselves, to our workplace expectations policy, and work together to create a warm, safe, welcoming culture here in the chamber, our home for the next 120 days," she said.

Despite the various controversies, Colorado lawmakers passed more than 480 bills last year, according to the Office of Legislative Legal Services.

The governor signed 473 of them into law.

By comparison, at the federal level, last year’s Congress was among the least productive in history, passing only 27 bills that became law.

Gov. Jared Polis will outline his vision in his State of the State address on Thursday. Denver7 will carry this live on starting at 11 a.m.

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