DENVER (AP) — Lawmakers finished the 2014 Colorado legislative session lauding the same achievements: More money for schools and colleges, funding for an aerial firefighting fleet, and providing aid for victims of floods and wildfires.
That harmonious tone is a contrast to the acrimony of last year, when Democrats rankled Republicans in the minority by passing gun-control laws, civil unions and setting renewable energy standards on rural electricity cooperatives.
"Overall it was not quite as contentious this year as it was last year," Republican Rep. Brian DelGrosso, the House GOP leader, said Thursday, the day after the 120-session ended. "We definitely still had some partisan battles," he continued, but noted that they were not as intense as last year, when an expansion of background checks on firearms and limits on the size of ammunition magazines led to the recall of two Democrats in the Senate.
Battles from last year aside, an improving economy helped lawmakers this year. With more tax revenue, they fought but were able to agree on restoring part of the money schools lost during the recession. They also budgeted nearly $20 million to buy two fire-spotting planes and contracting helicopters and single-engine tankers.
And they passed legislation to forgive property taxes for residents who lost their homes in last year's disasters, a plan that will cost the state about $2.2 million.
On the budget, lawmakers had unanimous agreement to grow the state's rainy-day fund to $576.4 million.
"You look at the fire and the flood issues, you look at education, you look at economic issues, they were all done together with Democrats and Republicans at the table coming up with the right policy," Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino said.
But don't expect lawmakers to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" for long. Democrats will make their pitch to voters this November for why they should keep both legislative chambers, and Republicans are eager to try to topple them.