Democratic leaders of the Colorado House Monday morning addressed the first week that lawmakers returned to the state Capitol, and in particular, some of the less-than-cordial behavior displayed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
On Tuesday, the first day back after a monthlong recess, Rep. Don Valdez, D-La Jara, abused a moment of personal privilege to attack Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Penrose, for his participation in the Jan. 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol. Valdez, amidst hissing from fellow lawmakers, first called for Hanks to be kicked off committees and then for his expulsion.
Speaker of the House Alec Garnett, D-Denver, then forced Valdez to stop. Speaker Pro tem Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County, escorted Valdez off the floor for a talking-to. But Valdez doubled down later in the day, sending out a press release with a transcript of his remarks.
During the House Democrats' weekly Monday press conference, Garnett said the incident between the two lawmakers "had been resolved." Hanks and Valdez had a conversation, and "we've moved on," Garnett said.
The second incident, on Friday, was when Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, went to the House podium during announcements and introductions to talk about gun violence, also not an appropriate use of that privilege. Sullivan noted that it had been 448 Fridays since his son, Alex, was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, and that he was there as a daily reminder of gun violence. It led Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, to follow Sullivan to the podium and to tell him to get over it.
Garnett said Holtorf's comments were "really insensitive" and that Sullivan's feelings were hurt. "We stand behind Tom and what he stands for, why he's here and the tragic experiences in his life."
But the broader issue, of using announcements and introductions to discuss policy issues, is still a discussion within and between the caucuses, Garnett said. That is not the place to make digs at the other side, he explained. "Let's move into getting the work done, not get caught having partisan disagreement in the well ... I'm confident we can figure this out."
Garnett also put a period, full stop, on legislative measures seeking to limit the governor's authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislative branch must preserve its power for future pandemics, Garnett explained. But what Republicans want is to have that discussion right now, in the middle of the current pandemic. The governor has done a good job of working with the legislature during the interim, and the system is built to give him executive power, he added.
The time for a discussion on limiting the governor's authority is after it's over with. He indicated he would support such a conversation looking back, "but let's not have that in the midst of it right now."