Governor John Hickenlooper received a warm reception from lawmakers in both parties during his annual State of the State Address. The Governor talked about policies he wants the legislature to adopt, announced a few new initiatives and urged lawmakers to face facts about the challenges facing Colorado.
During his roughly 45-minute speech Hickenlooper highlighted many of his budget proposals, such as giving more money to higher education and K-12 schools. He also pledged to look at ways to creatively fund roads and bridges, and threw his support behind a felony DUI law. Colorado is one of four states without one.
"We will work with you on a felony DUI law that brings justice to drivers who repeatedly drink and drive," said Hickenlooper.
In 2014, a bipartisan DUI proposal cleared the Colorado House but failed in the Senate. Some lawmakers, like Representative Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park), were pleased with hearing the governor speak about it.
"I think that's an ongoing problem that we have in Colorado and I'd like to see that addressed," said Lawrence.
"He is the chief marketing officer of the state, very favorable, very positive, very consistent messages with things that were touched on, on opening day," said Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs). "I think this speech was encouraging collaboration not confrontation. "
House GOP leadership agreed and said the speech reflected the new political dynamic in the state.
"It's a split legislature. I think he kind of recognized that in his speech," said House Minority Leader Brian Del Grosso (R-Loveland). "I don't think you heard too many things that were very controversial at all. It was just kind of a middle of the road, lets all get along and feel good kind of speech."
The governor did give lawmakers a call to action. He challenged them to take a hard look at how the state's constitutional spending increases and mandated revenue caps are in conflict.
"If we do nothing, if we pretend the future will take care of itself, and we're back here in two years facing what was clearly an avoidable crisis, history will show that we failed future generations of Coloradans," said Hickenlooper. "Some people want to get rid of TABOR, some want to get rid of Amendment 23, others want to get rid of Gallagher. There is no shortage of thorns in this fiscal thicket."
Governor Hickenlooper didn't highlight any details on how he wants to tackle the problem. The new Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) did want to have the conversation though.
"I think we have to have a broader discussion, not just in the capitol here, but with civic leaders and business leaders and others," Hullinghorst said.
The state did study fiscal constraints several years ago but Senate President Cadman noted that ultimately nothing happened.
"Everyone came to the table willing to concede the position that other people had, never their own," Cadman said. "That's going to have to change."
Hickenlooper did weigh in on a several other issues, saying he supports relaxing some testing standards for public school children, but that math and English assessments in high schools are especially essential. He also plans to continue pushing the federal government to allow banking for the marijuana industry.
"One of the ongoing public safety concerns is that the marijuana industry operates almost strictly in cash, without traditional forms of banking," said Hickenlooper. "Cash only businesses invite corruption, just look at the history of Prohibition."
On a lighter note, Hickenlooper is creating a new initiative called Colorado Beautiful to identify the most critical open spaces to protect. He wants Colorado to also craft a statewide recreational trails system and announced the launch of a bike health initiate. It will create public data to track bike trails and seek feedback from cyclists. It will also try to get money for more bike lanes and to connect routes around the tallest mountains in Colorado.