Legislators play musical committee chairs

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Most of the last-minute changes in 2010 General Assembly committee assignments weren’t really unexpected — but a couple of changes in the House Agriculture Committee made some Republicans feel like they’d just landed on the floor in a game of musical chairs.

House Majority Leader Terrance Carroll swiftly uprooted a couple of Democrats after their rebellious actions made headlines.

After Rep. Kathleen Curry, of Gunnison, switched from Democrat to unaffiliated last month, Carroll removed her as Speaker Pro Tempore and awarded that leadership role to Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo.

Curry’s chairmanship of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee was given to Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, who had served as committee vice chair. Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, was bumped up to vice chair.

Fischer has an engineering background with degrees from Colorado State University in natural resources management and in civil engineering. For more than 20 years, he worked on the reclamation and remediation of abandoned mine sites throughout the United States.

Carroll said that Pace, an adjunct professor at CSU Pueblo, has a strong understanding of water and agriculture issues.

“This team will work for ranchers and farmers as well as for every water user in the state. That means that every Coloradan has a stronger voice, thanks to this team,” said Carroll.

Not every Coloradan agreed with that statement. Republicans raised their voices in a protest press release.

“Rep. Fischer’s record of hostility toward agriculture and the energy industry does not bode well for Colorado’s economy and job market this year,” said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker. “Important policy decisions that will impact farmers, ranchers, miners, and oil and gas workers are now in the hands of a legislator who has actively opposed each of these industries.”

A bill sponsored by Fischer in 2008, May said, would have caused a financial hardship for farmers. House Bill 1230, which failed, would have required more stringent emissions standards on all diesel powered equipment. To meet those standards, farmers would have had to retrofit existing equipment or purchase new equipment.

“Fischer’s tractor tax enraged the agriculture community and even threatened to put some farmers out of business,” said May, who also questioned the Democrat’s understanding of water storage for agricultural irrigation.

“Without adequate water to irrigate, many of Colorado’s farms would simply dry up,” May said.

A Republican member of the committee criticized Pace’s appointment, and said he has no background or understanding of agricultural issues. However, Pace touts the experience he gained on those issues while serving as director of John Salazar’s 3rd Congressional District office and managing Salazar’s re-election campaign in 2006.

There also will be a couple of Republican changes on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. May named Rep. Scott Tipton, of Cortez, as the “Ranking Republican” on the committee, a position held last year by Rep. Marsha Looper, of Calhan.

“I think Scott will do a great job — and he’s very qualified,” said Looper, who, like Tipton, is a rancher.

Insiders said the higher profile position will help Tipton in his campaign for the Republican nomination to challenge Salazar in CD 3. Tipton also switched from the Local Government Committee to the Education Committee.

The Republicans have added another rancher to the committee. Rep. Randy Baumgardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs, will replace Rep. Frank McNulty, of Highlands Ranch.

McNulty is the “Ranking Republican” on the Legislative Audit Committee and a member of both the House Transportation and Energy Committee and the Education Committee.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Rep. Edward Casso, of Commerce City, found himself iced after steaming over Ritter’s announcement last week that he would not seek re-election because of family concerns. Casso issued a burning media release that read in part:

“With Ritter’s abrupt decision, we now have a chance to make a real case to the voters of Colorado that we should retain Colorado’s highest office,” declared Casso. “As with most of his decisions in the last four years, the governor is a day late, a dollar short, and without regard except for his own well-being and interests.”

Carroll ousted Casso as vice chair of the Business Affairs and Labor Committee, and named Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada, to the leadership position. Casso, who had criticized the governor for vetoing a couple of union bills during the session last year, will remain on the committee.

Asked to comment, Casso told The Colorado Statesman that he’d been advised by House leadership to remain mum.

Republican Reps. Bob Gardner, of Colorado Springs, and Ellen Roberts, of Durango, might be singing a lyric from The Sound of Music, “I must have done something good.”

Both are attorneys who served on the House Judiciary Committee. Gardner is now “Ranking Republican” of the committee. Then, in a surprise move, Roberts was removed from the committee and replaced with Rep. B.J. Nikkel, of Loveland.

Roberts was switched to the Health and Human Services Committee, where she was awarded “Ranking Republican” status.

In December 2008, Gardner and Roberts had been part of a failed coup for House Minority leadership. The unsuccessful coup had pushed Assistant Minority Leader David Balmer, of Centennial, to replace May as House minority leader. The slate pitted Bob Gardner against House Minority Whip Cory Gardner, of Yuma, and Roberts against Minority Caucus Chair Amy Stephens, of Colorado Springs.

In the end, “change” wasn’t in the air. May, Cory Gardner and Stephens remained solidly entrenched. Bob Gardner lost his “Ranking Republican” status on the Local Government Committee, and Balmer was later stripped of his legislative campaign fundraising duties, now performed by Rep. McNulty.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com

House

AGRICULTURE, LIVESTOCK AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Chair: Rep. Randy Fischer. Vice Chair: Rep. Sal Pace. Democrats: Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Wes McKinley, Judy Solano, Edward Vigil, Su Ryden. Republicans: Reps. Scott Tipton, (ranking member), Randy Baumgardner, Cory Gardner, Marsha Looper, Jerry Sonnenberg. Independent: Kathleen Curry.

APPROPRIATIONS
Chair: Rep. Jack Pommer. Vice Chair: Rep. Mark Ferrandino. Democrats: Reps. Joel Judd, John Kefalas, Randy Fischer, Sal Pace, Jim Riesberg. Republicans: Reps. Bob Gardner, Jim Kerr, Kent Lambert, Jerry Sonnenberg, Glen Vaad. Independent: Kathleen Curry.

BUSINESS AFFAIRS AND LABOR
Chair: Rep. Joe Rice. Vice Chair: Rep. Sara Gagliardi. Democrats: Reps. Ed Casso, Andy Kerr, John Soper, Karen Middleton. Republicans: Reps. David Balmer, Laura Bradford, Larry Liston, Kevin Priola, Amy Stephens.

EDUCATION
Chair: Rep. Michael Merrifield. Vice Chair: Rep Judy Solano. Democrats: Reps. Debbie Benefield, Karen Middleton, Cherilyn Peniston, Christine Scanlan, Sue Schafer, Nancy Todd. Republicans: Reps. Tom Massey, Frank McNulty, Carol Murray, Ken Summers, Scott Tipton.

FINANCE
Chair: Rep. Joel Judd. Vice Chair: Rep. Debbie Benefield. Democrats: Reps. Jeanne Labuda, Jerry Frangas, John Kefalas, Daniel Kagan. Republicans: Reps. Brian DelGrosso, Cheri Gerou, Ellen Roberts, Ken Summers, Spencer Swalm.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Chair: Rep. Jim Riesberg. Vice Chair: Rep. Sara Gagliardi. Democrats: Reps. Dennis Apuan, Max Tyler, John Kefalas, Dianne Primavera. Republicans: Reps. Cindy Acree, Cheri Gerou, Jim Kerr, Ellen Roberts, Spencer Swalm.

JUDICIARY
Chair: Rep. Claire Levy. Vice Chair: Rep. Beth McCann. Democrats: Reps. Daniel Kagan, Lois Court, Joe Miklosi, Sal Pace, Su Ryden. Republicans: Reps. Bob Gardner, Steve King, B.J. Nikkel, Mark Waller.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Chair: Rep. Cherilyn Peniston. Vice Chair: Rep. John Soper. Democrats: Reps. Wes McKinley, Dennis Apuan, Sue Schafer, Edward Vigil. Republicans: Reps. Cindy Acree, Laura Bradford, Larry Liston, Tom Massey, Kevin Priola.

STATE, VETERANS AND MILITARY AFFAIRS
Chair: Rep. Nancy Todd. Vice Chair: Rep. Jeanne Labuda. Democrats: Ed Casso, Lois Court, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Beth McCann, Joe Miklosi. Republicans: Reps. Brian DelGrosso, Carol Murray, B.J. Nikkel, Mark Waller.

TRANSPORTATION AND ENERGY
Chair: Rep. Buffie McFadyen. Vice Chair: Rep. Jerry Frangas. Democrats: Reps. Randy Fischer, Max Tyler, Michael Merrifield, Dianne Primavera. Republicans: Reps. Randy Baumgardner, Steve King, Marsha Looper, Frank McNulty, Glen Vaad

Senate

AGRICULTURE, LIVESTOCK AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Chair: Sen. Mary Hodge. Vice Chair: Sen. Bruce Whitehead. Democrats: Sens. Dan Gibbs, Gail Schwartz. Republicans: Sens. Greg Brophy, Ted Harvey, Ken Kester.

APPROPRIATIONS
Chair: Sen. Abel Tapia. Vice Chair: Sen. Chris Romer. Democrats: Sens. Bob Bacon, Rollie Heath, Mary Hodge, Moe Keller. Republicans: Sens. Ted Harvey, Keith King, Mike Kopp, Al White.

BUSINESS, LABOR AND TECHNOLOGY
Chair: Sen. Lois Tochtrop. Vice Chair: Sen. Suzanne Williams. Democrats: Sens. Joyce Foster, Mike Johnston. Republicans: Sens. Ted Harvey, Shawn Mitchell, Mark Scheffel.

EDUCATION
Chair: Sen. Bob Bacon. Vice Chair: Sen. Evie Hudak. Democrats: Sens. Mike Johnston, Rollie Heath, Pat Steadman. Republicans: Sens. Keith King, Mark Scheffel, Nancy Spence.

FINANCE
Chair: Sen. Paula Sandoval. Vice Chair: Sen. Mike Johnston. Democrats: Sens. Evie Hudak, Pat Steadman. Republicans: Sens. Greg Brophy, Keith King, Mark Scheffel.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Chair: Sen. Betty Boyd. Vice Chair: Sen. Linda Newell. Democrats: Sens. Morgan Carroll, Paula Sandoval. Republicans: Sens. Kevin Lundberg, Shawn Mitchell, David Schultheis.

JUDICIARY
Chair: Sen. Morgan Carroll. Vice Chair: Sen. Pat Steadman. Democrats: Sens. Linda Newell, Evie Hudak. Republicans: Sens. Keith King, Kevin Lundberg, Scott Renfroe.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ENERGY
Chair: Sen. Gail Schwartz. Vice Chair: Sen. Joyce Foster. Democrats: Sens. Mary Hodge, Linda Newell. Republicans: Sens. Bill Cadman, Ken Kester, Kevin Lundberg.

STATE VETERANS AND MILITARY AFFAIRS
Chair: Sen. Rollie Heath. Vice Chair: Sen. Bob Bacon. Democrats: Sen. Betty Boyd. Republicans: Sens. Bill Cadman, Dave Schultheis.

TRANSPORTATION
Chair: Sen. Dan Gibbs. Vice Chair: Sen. Suzanne Williams. Democrats: Sens. Bruce Whitehead, Lois Tochtrop. Republicans: Sens. Mike Kopp, Scott Renfroe, Nancy Spence.

JOINT BUDGET COMMITTEE
Chair: Rep. Jack Pommer. Vice Chair: Sen. Moe Keller. Democrats: Sen. Abel Tapia and Rep. Mark Ferrandino. Republicans: Sen. Al White and Rep. Kent Lambert.