(The Center Square) - The Colorado General Assembly began the 2021 legislative session on Wednesday, swearing in new members, taking care of administrative duties, and approving temporary rules.
The legislature will meet through Friday then adjourn until mid-February, citing safety concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colorado Chief Justice Brian Boatright swore in lawmakers and both chamber selected leadership.
The Senate considered three pieces of legislation, one tweaking a bill that passed during the special session providing small business relief, another limiting debt collections, and another reenacting the lapsed Occupational Therapy Practice Act. The bills were approved and head to the House for debate on Thursday.
'We are at a precipice of one of the most important legislative periods of Colorado history," Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said Wednesday. "It is our collective responsibility to shepherd this state not only through an economic recovery but a social transformation, a recovery that doesn't just return things to normal, but rights the wrongs of an economy that already disadvantaged working people."
Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said lawmakers "should reject blind partisanship as we demonstrated during the recent, three-day, special session. We should embrace debate and discourse."
In the House, Rep. Tim Geitner, R-Colorado Springs, nominated Minority Leader Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, for House speaker, a move that Majority Leader Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, said was "an inexcusable sign of bad faith" by Republicans.
Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, was elected House speaker after a roll call vote.
"This doesn't feel like the opening days that we're used to -- there's a lot less pomp and circumstance, and a lot more plexiglass and hand sanitizer," Garnett said.
Garnett said he and McKean agreed to delay their typical opening day speeches for a later date.
In the House, lawmakers considered legislation to allow remote committee participation and to restore some tax deductions for some businesses, among other bills.
On Thursday, the House will receive Senate bills passed on Wednesday and vice versa, with legislation expected to pass on third reading Friday before the General Assembly adjourns.
The legislature also took a temporary adjournment during the 2020 session, which lasted over two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawmakers also passed ten pandemic relief bills during a three-day special session that ended on December 2.