Summit County lawmakers walk the party line
summit daily news
Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series examining the issues Summit County’s lawmakers Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R – Hot Sulphur Springs) and Rep. Millie Hamner (D – Dillon) will be addressing during the 2013 legislative session.
DENVER – Contenders for state House District 61 and Senate District 8 spent the campaign season touting their commitment to working across the aisle.
But it’s a partisan world inside the Capitol building, and with the election behind them, the challenge now for the victors – Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner and Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner – is finding a way to walk the talk.
Both lawmakers are navigating a minefield of contentious issues this year as the Democrats – back in the majority in both chambers for the first time since 2009 – seize the opportunity to push several party-line bills through to the governor’s desk and the public demands decisions on marijuana and gun control.
The latter is a topic that sends the usually candid Hamner shuffling for her page of “talking points.”
“I will support common sense legislation that strikes a balance between respecting gun owners’ rights, while also protecting our communities,” she said.
Baumgardner, on the other hand, leaves little question as to his stance on the issue with a statue emblazoned with the words of the Second Amendment positioned front and center on his desk. But he becomes equally vague when asked about the forthcoming civil unions and ASSET bills.
“I’ve got some concerns about it,” Baumgardner said of the ASSET bill, which would allow illegal immigrants who attend Colorado high schools to qualify for in-state tuition rates at state colleges. “I don’t know. I’ll have to see (the bill) when it gets to the (Senate) floor.”
Baumgardner said he wouldn’t support any bill related to same-sex unions that included the words “marriage” or “spouse.”
It’s still early for state budget discussions, but Hamner seems prepared to maintain the precedent set in her first two years in office of advocating for education funding.
Officials with Gov. Hickenlooper’s office announced plans last week to ask the Joint Budget Committee for another increase in education spending for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
“This amended request stays true to the governor’s intent on spending increased revenue on education, public health, safety and infrastructure,” Hickenlooper’s budget director stated in a recent release. “We look forward to working with the Joint Budget Committee in the coming weeks as it reviews our proposed budget.”
Though lawmakers’ vote on the final budget for next year is still months away, Baumgardner said at this early stage one of his primary concerns is ensuring the state’s savings balance isn’t used to cover ongoing expenses.
“They say we have a reserve, and it seems like we’re trying to find a way to spend that reserve. I’m not very supportive of that,” he said. “I want to make sure we don’t expand government when the money’s not there.”
State lawmakers returned to work in Denver Jan. 9. The legislative session ends in May.
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