“It’s our duty, our mission, to do everything in our power to revitalize the engine of Colorado ’s economy”
DENVER—Today, the Colorado State Senate convened for the first time in 2012, marking the opening day of the second regular session of the 68th General Assembly. Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) presided over the session and delivered an emotional speech focused on job creation and continued economic growth.
“At a time when so many Coloradans are out of work, or working harder for less, or struggling to give their kids the basic ingredients to succeed in life, it’s our duty, our mission, to do everything in our power to revitalize the engine of Colorado’s economy. We must create new jobs, and better jobs, for our fellow Coloradans,” said the Senate President. “In the next 17 weeks we will introduce the 2012 Colorado Works Jobs Package. It will reduce regulation on small business, enhance the business climate for Colorado , and promote job creation throughout our state.“
The President also emphasized the necessity of bipartisanship, and the importance of working with all facets of government to ensure the success of the legislative session.
“You may have two years to accomplish your goals, or eight, but my message to you is the same: time is too short to waste in partisan battles … in petty politics … in small skirmishes,” he said.
The Full text of the President’s speech is featured below:
President Shaffer’s Opening Day Speech
Good morning and welcome to the second regular session of the 68th General Assembly of Colorado .
My first session started in January 2005. When I first stepped on the Senate floor I came through the center doors on my way to my desk, where Senator Carroll is sitting now. I had a feeling at the time that I was embarking on an amazing adventure, but I had no idea how amazing it would actually be.
Several of you were new to the Senate at the same time. Senators Spence and Mitchell, on the Republican side; and Senators Williams, Tochtrop, and Bacon on the Democratic side. Over the past seven years, we’ve laughed and cried together; we’ve fought and cooperated; we’ve had victories and defeats; and, all-in-all we’ve done a pretty good job of governing and moving Colorado forward.
The reason I mention these things is to make a point for the rest of the Senators in the room. In 2005, we came in with a class of 18 new Senators. Today, only the six of us remain.
Some of the others weren’t able to stay because of term limits, others left for opportunities in the private sector, and yet others left for personal reasons, but the shear magnitude of turnover should impress upon each of us that our time here is temporal.
The thing to constantly remember during this session and future ones is that the people of Colorado need and deserve our very best.
You may have two years to accomplish your goals, or eight, but my message to you is the same: time is too short to waste in partisan battles … in petty politics … in small skirmishes. At a time when so many Coloradans are out of work, or working harder for less, or struggling to give their kids the basic ingredients to succeed in life; it’s our duty, our mission, to do everything in our power to revitalize the engine of Colorado ’s economy. We must create new jobs, and better jobs, for our fellow Coloradans.
And we must remember that the conversations we have this year … the debates and disputes … the collaborations and cooperations … can’t be about us. They can’t be about politics and upcoming elections. Rather, they must be about the people of Colorado … the people who elected us … the people we represent.
It should surprise no one that there is one issue that’s more important to Coloradans today than all others: that’s strengthening our economy by putting people back to work.
Today, for too many Coloradans there is little opportunity to earn a productive living, and for some, despair has replaced the buoyancy of hope.
The responsibility for finding gainful employment lies not solely with the individual. Our public and private institutions must create the opportunities we need to thrive as individuals and succeed as a society.
The statistics sober even the most optimistic. Despite our best efforts, our rate of unemployment is 8 percent. In raw numbers that’s approximately 216,000 Coloradans still out of work. It’s better than last year’s rate of 8.9 percent, but it’s not good enough.
Unemployment has far reaching consequences. We live in a state with one-in-six children living in poverty, and one-in-five living in food insecurity.
Our institutions fail when we do not feed our children.
We risk our legacy. We risk our future.
In the words of Hubert Humphrey, the former United States Senator from Minnesota , “We will be judged by how we care for those who are in the dawn of life, our children, those in the twilight of life, our elderly, and those in the shadows of life, our sick, our needy and our disabled.”
Today, more than any time in a generation, we must marshal our energies. We must provide Coloradans the opportunity to work. We must provide Coloradans jobs.
The task is formidable, and some say one state cannot affect a recession in a global economy.
I say they’re wrong.
In the next 17 weeks we will introduce the 2012 Colorado Works Jobs Package. It will reduce regulation on small business, enhance the business climate for Colorado , and promote job creation throughout our state.
The Senate will work with the House of Representatives and the Governor to pass legislation to improve our business climate and to create opportunities to put people back to work.
This is a time for multiplication, not division. It’s a time to identify, not as Republican or Democrat, but as Coloradans. And it’s a time to act.
With this in mind, Senate Bill 1 is the “HIRE Colorado Act”. It simply says we want the State of Colorado to hire Coloradans when contracting for services.
It’s similar to a proposal that’s been considered in the legislature before, and it’s similar to provisions that have been adopted by 12 other states across our nation.
There are nay-sayers out there, and they’ve successfully stopped this proposal in years past, but this year is different. This is the year we look at every piece of legislation through the eyes of an unemployed Coloradan, and we ask, “Does it make sense?”
Hiring Coloradans to work on projects paid for by Colorado tax-dollars makes sense. It creates jobs, and it’s a smart use of government resources. Let’s all come together to support this legislation.
Hiring Coloradans is a step in the right direction, but we can do more. Over the last two years, our state government spent an estimated $794.5 million beyond our borders. When possible, these funds should stay in Colorado . If there is a Colorado source for materials, it should be the first choice for those who hold state contracts.
To that end, we will introduce the “Buy Colorado and Buy American Act”. This initiative will reward companies doing business with our state for buying their raw products, wholesale goods, and manufactured goods from Colorado and American companies.
Finally, creating opportunities for our economy to thrive goes beyond how our state does business. We must also develop new industries, and bring new jobs to Colorado along with them.
One such endeavor is embodied in the Colorado Aerospace Jobs Act. There is a new Space Race developing in our world; a race among private companies to market aerospace technology. Our goal is to land those companies here in Colorado .
The Colorado Aerospace Jobs Act will help us do just that by clearing the way for the construction of a spaceport in Colorado . This is a perfect compliment to exciting developments already taking place in the aerospace industry on college campuses and in high-tech office parks around our state.
These are just a few of the exciting initiatives that will be introduced in our Senate in the coming days. There will be many, many more on both sides of the aisle. But in a time of so many challenges, our legislative process is as important as our legislative product.
A maxim now two thousand years old entered the American lexicon 150 years ago with our 16th President: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
There is no Republican or Democratic voice. There is no progressive or conservative voice. There is only one voice, and that’s the voice of the people of Colorado .
We are sent here to solve problems, to improve the quality of life for our neighbors, our friends and our fellow citizens. They did not send us here to argue about how to get the work done. They just sent us here to do the work.
As we apply ourselves through this session, let us be civil, let us be respectful and be of good cheer. Let us use our collective wisdom to provide common sense solutions for Colorado .
Now let the work begin.