InnerView

InnerView with Frank McNulty

The Colorado Statesman

House Speaker Frank McNulty says GOP lawmakers are excited about the 2012 legislative session and expect a constructive 120 days despite friction with Democrats over a reapportionment process that ended up pitting several Republicans against each other.


Returning to helm his second session since Republicans retook control of the House in the 2010 wave election — by a single seat, while Democrats kept firmer control of the state Senate — McNulty said the focus this year will be on getting government out of the way so small businesses can create jobs. It’s an agenda without “a lot of flash,” he acknowledges, though he emphasized that it’s exactly the prescription the state GOP believes will cure the ailing economy.

Even though McNulty says he’s confident newly drawn legislative maps leave Republicans in a good position to retain their majority in the House, he expressed disappointment that the Reapportionment Commission’s Democratic members rushed through a set of maps that grouped several GOP incumbents in the same districts. McNulty calls the final outcome “unfortunate,” particularly because he says the commission was within sight of district maps that could have won unanimous approval. Describing the current process as “broken,” McNulty says there are Democratic legislators — in addition to plenty of Republicans — interested in considering different ways to handle the once-a-decade task.

House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, talks with The Colorado Statesman on
Jan. 9 at his office in the state Capitol.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

During a wide-ranging discussion with The Colorado Statesman, McNulty also said he expects the Republican presidential nominee — a couple days after the interview, he officially endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the race — to carry Colorado and provide some helpful coattails for legislative candidates.

First elected to the state House in 2006, the Highlands Ranch Republican easily won reelection twice and swiftly ascended to the leadership position. A lawyer, McNulty worked in the Owens administration handling water policy before running for office.

Two days before gaveling the session into order, McNulty joined Colorado Statesman editor and publisher Jody Hope Strogoff and political reporter Ernest Luning for an hour-long interview in the speaker’s office, on the afternoon of Jan. 9. The Statesman regularly conducts in-depth interviews with prominent political figures, including one with McNulty’s House Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, in last week’s issue. Read the transcript of that interview and more than two dozen other conversations with Colorado politicos archived online at www.coloradostatesman.com/innerview.

Below is the transcript of The Statesman’s conversation with McNulty. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Colorado Statesman (CS): So how are things? Are you ready for it to get going or…?
House Speaker Frank McNulty (FM): We are. We’re ready, we’re excited. One of the things that we’ve taken on is, really, the important idea that less is more. There’s no silver bullet that the State Legislature can pass to rapidly improve Colorado’s economy, so we came to the conclusion that we will do what we can, and our goal is to help clear the way for small businesses to create jobs. So there’s not a lot of flash to our agenda, but it is real stuff that worked for Colorado. So yeah, we’re excited to get to work.

CS: What about the climate, the tone? We’ve asked you about this at the Press Association preview and you’ve answered it and so has your counterpart, but when it really comes down to it, is it going to be a little bit tense, do you think? Or after the reapportionment — how do you just put away your hard feelings and say, “Well, we’re on a different path now”?
FM: Well, because we have to. We can’t allow any of that to find its way into the legislative session if we expect to be constructive. I’ve made my thoughts clear about what I think of the way the Democrats acted in this [reapportionment] process, none of that has changed. The underlying maps, there’s little for us to argue about. I’m not concerned about the maps one bit.

CS: You’re not, after all that?
FM: I’m not. The disappointing part for me is, in visiting with (reapportionment commissioner and former Republican state Rep.) Rob Witwer was how close we were to an 11-0 vote on the Reapportionment Commission. That really would have set Colorado apart from, well, from every other state. And we missed that because of the way the Democrats treated (Republican state Reps.) BJ (Nikkel) and Brian (Del Grosso) and Marsha (Looper) and Amy (Stephens) and (state Sens.) Bill Cadman and Keith (King), and that’s why that happened. And that’s unfortunate. Without those games, there was a real opportunity for them to find an 11-0 vote.

CS: Do you think the Republicans were game-free themselves? … In other words, they played no games whatsoever?
FM: Well (pause) … It’s hard to say where you make that the case. I’m thinking throughout the process and different maps were drawn at different times and submitted at different times in the process but we always met the deadlines and our members attended the hearings. The real — from a process standpoint — the issue of two different deadlines, one for Republicans and one for Democrats was a real problem. The Democrats got to see the best work of the Republican commissioners, tweak it, right? — and then submit their map. Well, when you get to cheat off of somebody else’s test, it’s going to have a different outcome.

(Reapportionment commissioner Mario) Carrera [the commission’s chairman and lone unaffiliated member, who voted with Democrats on the final maps] could have corrected that. He could have said, “All right, this is all a misunderstanding, I didn’t mean to have two different deadlines. This is a miscommunication, here’s the way that we’re going to fix it. We’re going to let Republicans submit a map or submit changes, we’ll vote on that map or vote on those changes. I understand the deadline’s passed, but because of this issue of having two different deadlines, we’re going to fix it. We’re going to fix it right here, allowing all of this information in and we’ll vote on it.”

He didn’t do that. Instead, he completely railroaded the process and I think that was — it was a disservice to the Republican commissioners but also a disservice to the process because they were really so close to an 11-0 vote. And I trust Rob (Witwer). I mean if Rob said, “Hey, we can’t get anywhere on this, it’s a disaster, we’re just going to walk,” say, “Rob, I trust your guidance. You’ve been in this for a long time,” but that’s not what he said. So…

CS: So think of it this way: this year you only have to do — you only have the uncontroversial things like elections and…
FM: (Laughs).

CS: …all that kind of…
FM: Makes it easier, right?

CS: Makes it easier.
FM: Yes. I’m optimistic about this session and I don’t — it’s not — We understand what it means to be in leadership and to govern from the work that we did last year, but we’re fortunate that we have a strong bipartisan base to build on from last session. We will have our disagreements again, there’s no doubt that (Democratic House Minority Leader Mark) Ferrandino will be sitting where you are, telling me about this thing or that thing. But, fundamentally, we have the understanding that we can work together — and not just on the day to day thing, which we’ve always done pretty well. Colorado has always been good at getting the nuts-and-bolts done in a bipartisan way and moving those forward. But on the big things like the budget, 80 votes for the budget. 80 out of 100. [The General Assembly approved the 2011 budget with 80 legislators voting for it.]

CS: You expect that this year too, that much consensus?
FM: It’s going to be harder this year, but I do believe that we will be able to find bipartisan consensus. There’s really no reason why we can’t. No hard lines have been drawn, and everybody seems to be open. We’re in disagreement over taxing seniors — the governor has laid out his thoughts on that and the Democrats have laid out theirs, and we’ve laid out ours. So that’ll be a point of discussion as the budget moves forward, but there’s no reason to not believe that we can’t work that out at this point.

CS: That does sound like a hard line that’s been laid down by both sides, that that’s not something the governor or the Democrats say the state can afford right now. They’d rather put the money into rent, energy … [Ed. note: Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed putting money into a rebate program to subsidize housing and energy payments for low-income seniors rather than restore a pricier property tax exemption for seniors who have lived in their homes for at least 10 years, known as the Homestead Exemption.] And some of the Republicans have talked about doing some means or asset testing for that. Is that — ?
FM: I’m not opposed to the work that the governor has done to provide relief to seniors on mortgage payments, rent payments. He can’t say with a straight face that that’s a fair trade against $100 million in property taxes that seniors would pay if he had his way. Right now as the law stands, the Homestead Exemption is in full effect and the governor needs to pass the bill to tax seniors.

CS: To take it back?
FM: Right. And so, if he wants to keep that money, he’s going to have to pass that bill. On this question of means- versus asset-testing, we do have a constitutional amendment and we have to work within the language of that constitutional amendment and it’s very much driven by the price of a home. So — the value of a home, I should say — you don’t know what the price of your home is until you sell it, right? The value of a home. And so, working within those constraints, I think is a valuable conversation to have, and we’re certainly open to it.

CS: Are you getting any indications that, after a year in office perhaps the governor may change his style at all, or do you expect the interactions to be much different than during the first session?
FM: Hmm… That’s an interesting question. I hope that our interactions are the same. We’ve always had a good working relationship — we’ve had a good working relationship with the governor since he came into office. We’ve had regular meetings and have visited cordially on every time, so I don’t want that to change. I still want to have the — I still think that we ought to have the opportunity to visit and talk about the important issues and then determine which way we go. But I do think we need to do more on regulatory reform. I understand that it’s not one of the sexiest issues out there, but it’s a place where we can make a real-world difference for businesses. This idea of clearing the way, the simple proposals that we put forward, none of them are earth-shattering, but they make a difference to businesses that are attempting to make ends meet and attempting to grow.

CS: What’s your reaction to the regulatory reform that was released today from the governor’s office? Is that a step in the right direction?
FM: Regulatory reform that was announced by the governor today? [Ed. note: After holding roundtable discussions around the state with businesses, on Jan. 9 Hickenlooper’s office released a 94-page report called “Cutting Red Tape in Colorado State Government” and said state agencies have already begun eliminating unnecessary rules and streamlining processes identified by the initiative.]

CS: His plan... unwinding the regulations in response to —
FM: We welcome any attempts to decrease the regulatory burden on businesses. What we put on the table are concrete examples of where we can improve the regulatory environment, make it less burdensome for businesses, and at the same time make sure that we’re protecting the public health, the environment and safety. So those concrete proposals — we ought to move forward with.

We certainly welcome Gov. Hickenlooper as a partner in pushing regulatory reform. It’s something that I talked about as we were earning our House majority, it’s something I talked about during my Opening Day speech last session. It’s something that I’ll talk about again on Wednesday [on the Legislature’s opening day] and it has become a real component of everything that we’re doing because we’re hearing from business owners that this is where we can make a difference for them. And so we shouldn’t lose this opportunity, but certainly we appreciate the governor coming on board to at least take a step in that direction or at least push more priority towards it, which is really where we’ve been.

CS: When (Hickenlooper) was campaigning — in fact when he was elected — he said that he was envisioning some kind of law to (measure the) business impact on legislation… [Ed. note: Like the fiscal impact reports issued for legislation, some have proposed also requiring a report on any proposed law’s impact on business.]
FM: Um-hmm.

CS: So I would think that he would be supportive of this kind of reform that you’re looking at?
FM: Our bill sponsors have visited with the governor’s office, (House Majority Communications Director) Owen (Loftus) has visited with the governor’s office, and we do believe that there are pieces here that we can put together, and if we can get them through the Senate and get them to the governor’s desk, that he wouldn’t veto. In fact, Rep. Ferrandino, one of the things that we did was, we sat down with the employment community to talk about these bills before we rolled them out. I visited with Mark and sat down and walked through in general and specific, these proposals. And the only one he balked at was the 6 percent limit. [Ed. note: Reps. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, and Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, are sponsoring legislation this session to reinstate a 6-percent limit on the growth of state spending. A similar, long-standing limit known as Arveschoug-Bird was repealed by Democrats when they controlled both chambers in 2009.]

And I understand that there is a philosophical difference on that, and we approach the world a little bit differently on spending restraint, but if that means that we can find common ground and move forward on the other eight proposals — job creation, responsible budgeting — move forward with that, that’s a real positive for us.

CS: What about the Democrat jobs agenda? What’s your take on that? They’ve been releasing that in pieces, but given a preview of the whole thing too.
FM: (Laughs) Well, they’re sort of like a bunch of Lego pieces out on the ground right now, and I haven’t actually seen them put up in to anything yet. The first bill that the Senate Democrats rolled out, they dusted off a bill that was killed last year. [Ed. note: Senate Bill 1 called the “HIRE Colorado Act,” sponsored by state Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Arvada, would establish preferences for companies for state contracts when they agree to employ mostly Colorado workers.] To me, this shows the difference between the way that Republicans approach the idea of a jobs agenda and the way that the Democrats approach the idea of a jobs agenda.

For us, it’s clearing the way; let small businesses go out and create jobs. 90 percent of the businesses in Colorado employ less than 100 people, so clear the way, let them go out, grow their business, employ their friends and neighbors, put Coloradans back to work. The Democrats’ idea of a jobs agenda is: we need more hurdles, more obstacles. They introduced a bill as the hallmark, the cornerstone of their jobs agenda that’s already opposed by C3 (Colorado Competitive Council), NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business), CACI (Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry) and expect people to look at that and say, “Oh wow, what a great new idea!” — when it’s already been rejected by the people who were actually creating jobs and growing this economy. So I do think you see those very different perspectives. The bills that were announced today by the House Democrats — we’re going to take a look at them. I think one looks like it’s a repeat from a bill from last year, but the other bills, we’ll take a look at and see what we can do.

CS: Speaking of repeats from last year, civil unions is going to be one of the biggest non-economic arguments in the Capitol this year. What’s your take on that? That group of Republicans, the Coloradans for Freedom, make a case that it’s time for Republicans to get behind that.
FM: Well, they’ll be like any other group down here advocating for the passage of the bill. To me, our focus is on the job-creation agenda, and that’s where our primary work is going to be. Now this is the legislative process and on Wednesday we begin that long sprint, uphill, downhill toward May 9th — 9th? 10th — it’s a leap year. We begin that long sprint, and lots of other things are introduced, lots of other things happen in that time and each one of those will be taken up and handled by the legislative process. Last year civil unions, the Civil Unions Bill came over from the Senate, assigned it to Judiciary Committee where it should have been assigned. It was a committee that — the committee that should have heard the bill. There was a long but fair hearing on the bill, and the proponents weren’t able to get a majority of votes out of that committee. And that’s my plan for if the Senate sends it over again or if somebody introduces it in the House, that we’ll deal with it in a way that’s fair and pragmatic like we deal with all of — every other bill that’s introduced, and handle it that way.

CS: Do you think there’s a possibility that with some of your caucus term limited or that they might be persuaded to vote for that, not having to face an election again? I bring it up because Rep. Ferrandino said he thought there could be some more movement.
FM: I don’t know, there are many different reasons why legislators vote for or against bills. Ultimately the proponents have the obligation to convince a majority of legislators in Senate committee and on the Senate floor, and in House committee, on the House floor, and then the governor, that this is the right thing to do. So it’ll be up to them, and whatever way that they can best communicate that, they’ll take that up. It is kind of funny that last year I was getting calls from proponents of this legislation saying, “Send it to a committee we’re sure it’ll come out of, send it to a committee we’re sure it’ll come out of.” And you sort of look at an issue like this and you’re like, “Well, Local Government? No … Economic and Business Development? No.” So Judiciary is the right committee, it’s the fair committee and so it’s up to the proponents to convince a majority that it makes sense.

House Speaker Frank McNulty says that the Republican jobs agenda amounts to getting government out of the way, while Democrats want to impose more hurdles for businesses.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

CS: Speaking of a lot of legislators reaching their last session this (year), there’s going to be an unprecedented amount of turnover this year, especially out of the House with the number of members running for the Senate, but also all the districts without incumbents in them too. Does that cast a different light on the session — is there more of a look toward a legacy from some of the members? Have you been getting that kind of feel?
FM: The feel that I get from at least my members — and I haven’t had the same types of conversations with Rep. Ferrandino’s caucus as I have had with mine — the sense that I get is our caucus members still understand the seriousness of the job that we have to do down here. It is a remarkable, remarkable opportunity to be the one voice that is standing against the tax and spend agenda that really threw our state into a tailspin and, I think, prolonged the recession in Colorado. And to be that one voice that stands against that and says, “Let’s do things more responsibly, let’s look to create jobs, let’s look to reward innovation and not penalize it.” So, our members bring that same attitude back this session… And we’ll have our challenges, it will be unique, perhaps unlike any other — perhaps like any other session. This is really the first year of redistricting where you have the full effect of term limits, and so all of these things will necessarily cause a little bit of a flavor, but I don’t anticipate any unusual or unavoidable hiccups.

CS: Speaking of reapportionment, though, just one last question about that —
FM: Sure.

CS: Do you think that it’s time to change the process?
FM: I do. The process shouldn’t be as antagonistic as it’s been. At least, I was aware of what was going on in 2001, and aware, obviously, of what was going on in 2011 (laughs). We should do it a better way, and I know that there’s support from the Democratic side to look at alternatives. The process is broken. If there’s a way that we can do it better we’ll certainly — it will certainly find an ear with me and with our House leadership.

CS: Do you sense that there may be some tension in general between some of the incumbents who are running against each other? Do you think you’ll be accused of playing favorites?
FM: Well I hope not, they’re all my favorites. It was sort of like growing up, my dad… We had six kids, five brothers and sisters. My mom and dad were always saying, every time we’d have a contest, it’d be like, “tie, tie, tie, tie!” So we always all tied, which explains a lot now that I look back on it (laughs). But we have a strong caucus and I suspect the only challenge that we’ll have in that area is the Northern El Paso County seat. [Ed. note: House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and state Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, were drawn into the same house district and are engaged in a primary to represent it.] Marsha and Amy and myself, we all came into the Legislature at the same time, we’ve been down here, and we’ve worked with each other, and we’ve supported each other, we’ve opposed each other, we voted for bills, we voted against bills. And so my direction to both of them is that if this is going to happen, you’re going to keep it above board and we’re not going to let what’s happening in Northern El Paso County find its way into our caucus or into the House chamber.

CS: Have either one of them asked for your support?
FM: Neither one of them has asked for my support.

CS: Would you offer it if they asked for it after the session is over? Or you’re not going to choose sides?
FM: No, I won’t publicly endorse either Marsha or Amy.

CS: Are you going to get involved in any of the other legislative races?
FM: I’ll be involved in the 65 legislative races (laughs).

CS: I mean like (Lakewood Republican) Rick Enstrom announced today against (Democratic state Rep.) Max Tyler.
FM: Yes.

CS: That’s a competitive district and you were involved previously in that district.
FM: Yes.

CS: Is it a targeted (race) in your mind?
FM: Absolutely. Rick is an extraordinary individual. I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to visit with him.

CS: I’ve met him, I don’t know him very well.
FM: (Laughs) He is one of these rare people that, when you need help, regardless of what it is, whether it’s you need to shovel rocks out of the back of your pickup truck into your back yard, or you need somebody to come and help out at a non-profit fundraiser, he’ll buy the table. So he’s one of these rare guys that’s just there to help, and he enjoys it, and he takes that same attitude to everything that he does. And I think that he will — I know that he will provide a very favorable contrast to Rep. Tyler in that race. And so I mean I’m excited about Rick Enstrom running.

We’ve had a conversation, I said, “Rick, they’re going to bring everything they have against you, and they’ll use everything you said and every vote you had on the Wildlife Commission, and everything you did on the Mesa County Commission, and they’ll pull that, they’ll distort it and they’ll throw it back at you,” and his answer was, “This is too important for me to sit on the sidelines.” And so he knows that he’ll have mailers against him, he knows that there are chances that his face will be up on television with the Democrats going after him, and he still did it. And that says a lot about his character.

CS: Are there any other legislative (races) that you’re particularly excited about?
FM: I am. I’m excited that (state Rep.) Robert (Ramirez) is running for the State House. [Ed. note: The Arvada Republican earlier announced he was running for a state Senate seat but this week said he would instead run for reelection to a second term for his House seat.] I’m excited about Amy Atwood, which is in the seat just south of the one Rick Enstrom’s running for in Jefferson County. I’m excited about our opportunities in El Paso County, that (Democratic state Rep.) Pete Lee seat — I think that over the coming days or weeks, we’ll show some real strength there.

I’m excited about candidates that we’ve got running for seats in our target — Bob Rankin running for that Northwest Colorado seat, Polly Lawrence running for the Douglas-Teller (County) seat. And these are folks with real world business experience that they’re going to bring to the State Legislature. How can that not make a difference? When Republicans and Democrats are saying jobs are job one, and we have all of these legitimate business people lining up — Employers who help put food on the table of their employees, all of these folks stepping up and saying, “I’m going to make a difference myself,” that’s meaningful.

Now, I know the Democrats will find every way to Sunday to spin that, but the one thing they can’t get away from is all of these folks sign paychecks. They put people to work, they survived the recession and now they’re coming out the other side of it saying, “I want to do something for my state.” Brian Watson — running against Dan Kagan in House (District) 3, same type of deal. (These Republican candidates) went out and were successful businessmen, businesswomen, and now want to do something for their state. It’s really quite amazing. I’m actually — talk with some of these guys, Brian or Rick or Polly, and I’m actually humbled by it. I mean we sort of get in our cocoon down here in the Legislature but these are folks who have that real-world experience to help us do a better job down here.

CS: Of course, we have the presidential election — are you confident that (Republican frontrunner Mitt) Romney or the (eventual) Republican nominee will carry Colorado and perhaps have some coattails effect?
FM: (Laughs) I would just take some positive coattails at this point after last year’s governor’s race. (Laughs.) Yeah, I think the Republican nominee will have an opportunity to fare well in Colorado, and I think Gov. Hickenlooper was right when he said that Barack Obama has work to do here. The president is not popular, his policies have not helped move Colorado forward, and Colorado is a state that looks for results. Our voters are very bright, Colorado has a well educated voting public and that’s going to matter when the Republican nominee comes to Colorado looking to earn our votes.

CS: Of course we don’t have any other statewide in terms of a U.S. senator or a governor — that was quite the election we had last year —
FM: Yeah, wasn’t it? (laughing).

CS: What about yourself? Do you have any aspirations yourself, some day wanting to serve as governor or congressional seat or…?
FM: My aspiration is to add seats to our House majority in 2012, and it’s not — my philosophy is, do what’s in front of you well and don’t worry about what else might be out there. Our first project and our first priority when it comes to campaigns is to go out and grow our House majority. That’s what we’ll do.

CS: You sound like you’re optimistic that you’ll hold on to the House and grow (your majority) — is that correct to say?
FM: I am, I am. You always have the same concerns on campaigns about recruiting candidates and raising the money you need to support those candidates. In this era of Colorado politics, you need both of those. The Republicans don’t have a grip on elections, the Democrats don’t have a grip on elections so we’ll have this back-and-forth. And to the extent that we recruit good candidates like those we just talked about, we’re going to be in a position to grow our majority. Based upon our numbers, we start from a base of about 29 seats [out of 65 House seats], have three seats where the Republican advantage is less than five points, so that’s a pretty good spot to be in. I’d rather be in my spot than the Democrat spot. Well, actually I’d rather have 45 seats that had a Republican advantage, but I think that’s even unreasonable for me to ask.

CS: It’s not Colorado?
FM: It’s not Colorado (laughs). It’s not.

CS: There are some people who think that perhaps the governor actually benefits by having split chambers —
FM: Um-hmm.

CS: — that it’s kind of a buffer, not having to contend with all the Democratic proposals. Do you share in that belief?
FM: Oh, yeah. I think one of the happiest people in Colorado after the election was Gov. Hickenlooper. I mean he was —

CS: Because he won, too.
FM: Right, he won. I don’t think he was quite worried about that. But having Republicans earn control of the State House really did him a favor, and I appreciate the position we’re in because we are making a difference. We’re killing the bad-for-business bills that were introduced and passed in the past. And we’re also stopping bills from even being introduced. And so, from that perspective, I’m very pleased with the role that we’re playing and I do believe that my guys are doing a great job. But the governor does benefit. The bills that would push him toward the left are dying in the House now instead of being sent onto his desk like they were with (former Democratic Gov.) Bill Ritter. How the governor would react to that, none of us can know, we all can speculate. None of us would probably be right. But I am absolutely positive the governor is pleased those bills don’t even make it to his desk. I did ask him to host a fundraiser for us, he politely declined (laughs).

CS: Since last session you got married —
FM: Um-hmm.

CS: Have you been able to rest up and get psyched up for the session and have some fun?
FM: No (laughs).

CS: No?
FM: I am psyched for the session, psyched up for the session, but Shannon and I did not get away. We did have the time to take some time off, but no long beach vacation with umbrella drinks. That’ll have to wait until May.

CS: Is there anything else we haven’t asked you about that you want to touch on?
FM: I don’t think so, this has been a lovely conversation. I think we’ve run the spectrum, actually. And Owen — it doesn’t look like he’s too uncomfortable, so we must be doing all right.

CS: OK. And you’re look forward to working, of course, with the prestigious press corps again.
FM: Yes, we always love the Fourth Estate!

CS: Do you think the press coverage has been relatively fair?
FM: Ooh, how to answer that? Ah … yeah, I do. I think that the press corps has shrunk, I mean even since I’ve been down here.

CS: Absolutely.
FM: And I don’t think that that’s a good thing. I mean, I understand that newspapers are businesses, and they need to make the decisions that they make, but it is — and I’m not saying this self-serving either — we are fortunate in Colorado that we still have a paper that covers the political and policy goings-on in this state. And that itself is meaningful. But, yeah, I think it’s fair.

CS: You don’t consider perhaps that The Denver Post might — I guess Secretary of State (Scott) Gessler last week, I heard him speak and he rallied against the Post as this bastion of liberal Democrats and thought it was just the most unfair press probably in the country. I was wondering if you —
FM: (Laughs) I don’t — we all view everything that we do through whatever political filter we have, so that’s going to happen. I think that in this age of anyone who has a website can start a blog, it’s still helpful to have the printed word.

CS: Absolutely.
FM: You guys, the Post, the (Pueblo) Chieftain, the (Grand Junction Daily) Sentinel, I mean you’re all still fact checking, you’re all still making sure that something is right before you send it to print, and you don’t get that with blogs. And so it will be a sad day when all of the newspapers — if all the newspapers go away. [Uncomfortable laughter.] Well, I’ve asked (Denver Post owner Dean) Singleton, what’s the next iteration, right? What do you guys do next? I mean, you guys have an online presence —

CS: Yeah.
FM: How do you make that work?

CS: I don’t think the model is quite there yet in terms of how to make that work but —
FM: But that’s OK because we’re still reading newspapers.

CS: Yeah.
FM: I mean I still want to have, in my hands, something to read.

CS: Good. Not everyone feels that way, especially the youngsters.
FM: Well, that’s what you guys are going to have to deal with because there is a real change coming. And it’s something that we’re dealing with in our press operations, is how do you connect, how do you identify with that new generation of readers and new generation of activists?

CS: Do you follow the blogs and the strictly online discussions about politics in Colorado?
FM: Not so much anymore. When I had the time, I did. I would say that my life is — reading is pretty much left to my e-mail alerts and The Statesman that comes in my mailbox — which, thank you guys for still providing that resource out there.

CS: Have you read any good books lately?
FM: I just read O’Reilly’s book on the Lincoln Assassination. [Ed. note: Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly recently published Killing Lincoln, a fresh look at the assassination.] I thought it was interesting. He weaves the facts together in a way that’s different from anything else that I’ve read, and in a way that puts it together more in a timeline with characters, instead of just facts. So I thought it was interesting.

CS: Do you have time to read during the session or are you just keeping up? Besides bills?
FM: Just keeping up, yeah.

CS: Yeah, so that’s the last book you’ll be reading before the end of the session?
FM: Probably. When I go home at night, you sort of like to decompress and —

CS: Not have to really think about —
FM: Not have to think.

CS: What are we now, nine days into the — do you have any New Year’s resolutions that you’re working on?
FM: No, I resolved a long time ago to not have New Year’s resolutions (laughs). You’re just sort of setting yourself up. You ought to resolve all the way along the year to do better. For the session, though, my focus is going to be on eating better and not snacking. So we’ll see.

CS: It’s hard, isn’t it?
FM: It’s very hard. So we’ll have to catch up in May to see if I successfully held to that.

CS: Do you exercise or do anything like that?
FM: I do, I do.

CS: What do you do?
FM: During the session I did treadmill, but I’m probably going to have to switch to elliptical. I’ve got a little stress thing going on on my tibia — it makes, it makes me mad when you can’t just go do it, but the doc says I have to give it time to heal, so…

CS: You can always run the stairs here, that’s good exercise.
FM: I guess (laughing). I do that anyway.

CS: Do you take the stairs?
FM: Um-hmm.

CS: Good!
FM: Yup.

CS: That’s exercise.
FM: Yup.

CS: That’s good.
FM: It is.

CS: Well, thank you so much.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com
Ernest@coloradostatesman.com