Nationally, the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president has many wondering about what comes next. In Colorado, the balance of power remains the same. State lawmakers are moving forward with their November calendar - mapping out their priorities for the upcoming legislative session - while trying to figure out what the new congress and administration will mean for state policies.
Call it the Trump factor. Lawmakers in Colorado are no exception to those wondering how Donald Trump’s presidency will change policy and priorities. The balance of power at the state legislature did not change during last week’s election, meaning Democrats held onto control of the House and Republicans are still in the majority of the Senate.
“If there are actions that Trump takes that affect us as a state, we’ll have to take those as they come,” said newly elected House Majority Leader KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat. “We’re going to do our best to make people feel safe and secure — that we continue to push for the values that people in Colorado hold most dear.”
Representative Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, said the election was a wake-up call given that Republicans also won control of Congress and Democrats in Colorado were unable to wrest control of the state Senate from the GOP.
“The reality check is the national election didn’t go the way we expected; the state Senate didn’t go the way we expected,” he said. “We have to do a better job just listening to people and understanding working families that just feel like they’re not getting ahead.”
Republicans hold a one- seat majority in the state Senate.
Sen.Kevin Grantham, a Canon City Republican, will be the next Senate president. He said the GOP’s top priorities will be spurring housing development through a bill to make it harder to sue developers for construction defects in new homes. He also wants to find more public money for roads. As for Trump’s presidency.
“Our agenda doesn’t change whether Donald Trump is president or not president.”
Grantham was not a supporter of Trump when he won the GOP nomination and, at the time, didn’t feel he had strong conservative credentials. He’s still uncertain.
“There’s always going to be some alignment with goals and outlook and agenda, but we’ll see down the road what those are and how they manifest themselves in the Republican Congress,” said Grantham.
House Minority leader Patrick Neville thinks the state needs to be prepared for changes, like Trump’s stated goal to replace Obamacare with another health care plan.
“If there’s big changes in federal, and we have a big change to Obamacare, which has been a complete disaster,” he said. “We have to be prepared at a state level so we’re not still locked into a disastrous system.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper said his administration is already looking into a potential healthcare overhaul. He hopes people with pre-existing medical conditions can still get coverage if Obamacare goes away. Hickenlooper is also worried about natural resources and environmental regulations.
“We have a bunch of old gold mines. We have water issues, we have a lot of environmental issues in our agricultural issues. I think the issue’s around the EPA and making sure they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” said Hickenlooper. “And then public lands, there was a lot of about whether more public lands should be made available for commerce and industry.”
The governor calls himself the eternal optimist and hopes to find common ground with Republicans and President-elect Trump. He admits he was as surprised as anyone at the election’s outcome. Despite the disappointment, he said Clinton’s loss wasn’t that bad on a personal level. He no longer has to grapple with a possible move to Washington D.C. if he were tapped for a cabinet position.
“Could I really be that much better than anyone else to make it worth all the sacrifice for the people that love me? I will say there was a level of relief.”
Now, he said, he can focus on remodeling his house, his wife can stay at the job she loves, and his son can enjoy his high school years in Colorado, while Hickenlooper rides out his final two years as governor.