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              House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, talks to reporters during a break in a special session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Denver on May 14, 2012.  Gov. John Hickenlooper called the special session for lawmakers to vote on Civil Unions and other issues not completed when last weeks general session ended. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Colorado government turns bright blue as state debates civil unions, gun control, death penalty

Greg Campbell
Contributor

Lawmakers may also consider abolishing the death penalty; lowering university tuition for undocumented immigrants, who currently pay out-of-state rates; expanding Medicaid to cover an additional 160,000 residents; and developing regulations for the retail sale of marijuana, after voters legalized pot for adult use in November.

House Minority Leader Mark Waller said he expects Democrats to capitalize on their strength in numbers, but hopes they won’t abuse it.

“There are going to be times when they take advantage of it, absolutely,”he said. “Obviously we’re going to have areas of contention and we’re going to have points of disagreement, and [Republicans are] going to be the loyal opposition on those issues. I’m hopeful that the Democrats are going to work with us and listen to our good ideas.”

He also pointed out that, with a few exceptions, Colorado has a good reputation for bipartisan cooperation, especially when compared to Congress.

Newly elected Senate President John Morse said he realizes the eyes of the country are on Colorado, especially after the vote to legalize marijuana and now that Democrats have nearly carte blanche to pass any bills they want on thorny and divisive issues that are facing several other states.

“I hope that the rest of the country sees Colorado for what it is and that’s working together to come up with pragmatic solutions to the issues that affect all of us, not just in Colorado but throughout the country,” Morse said. “We need to inform what we do with all of Colorado — not just the Democratic part, not just the Republican part, but also the unaffiliated part.”

“This is a fiercely independent state,” he said, “and we need to come up with fiercely independent, brilliant ideas that the rest of the country can implement.”

At least one onlooker at Wednesday’s opening ceremonies wasn’t as hopeful. Former Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown, who lost his re-election bid, was on hand to witness the passing of the torch.

“I already see them making some mistakes,” he said, referring to the expansion of Medicaid, which the Kaiser Family Foundation said could cost as much as $850 million over 10 years.

“That’s a huge mistake they’re starting off with,” Brown said. “In two years, there will be a rebound for Republicans, because Republicans always have to come back and fix what the Democrats have screwed up.”

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