Don’t call them “freshmen.” The Colorado House of Representatives had more women (33) than men (32) in 2019.
The House had 24 new members — seven Republicans and 17 Democrats — so it would stand to reason that the newly arrived Dems would have drawn more attention in the session. But in fact, the “newbie” stars of 2019 came from both parties.
Here are some first-year lawmakers who stood out in this year’s session, in no particular order:
• Rep. Janice Rich of Grand Junction is a Republican in a House party caucus that trailed Democrats 24-41. That didn’t stop Rich from impressing people with her ability to get things done, including working across the aisle on big-ticket issues like reinsurance to lower premiums for individual customers.
The former Mesa County commissioner passed every bill she sponsored (six) in the House, which is impressive by any standard for any lawmaker, but almost unheard of for a Republican in the minority.
• Reps. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn, Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, all work in the health care field, which was also a focus of their legislative efforts.
They did plenty of heavy lifting on other issues, too. Caraveo, a pediatrician, was a co-prime-sponsor of the oil and gas regulatory measure, the failed vaping and tobacco tax, the census outreach bill and the sex-ed bill.
If you remember Mullica, a nurse, for only one thing in 2019, it’s his sponsorship of the immunization exemption bill, the subject of marathon hearings and much controversy before it ultimately stalled.
He took on other big issues, too, such as the motor voter law and a measure requiring freestanding emergency rooms to be licensed by the state Department of Public Health and Environment and keep patients better informed about prices.
Jaquez Lewis, a pharmacist, saw seven of the nine bills she co-sponsored (almost all on health care) pass the legislature, including a bill to allow wholesalers to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. Sen. Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Denver and another first-year lawmaker, also was a prime sponsor.
The one that got away (but it’ll be back): Allowing rebates tied to high-price drugs to pass through from manufacturers to consumers instead of to health care providers or pharmacy benefit managers.
• Rep. Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat, sponsored 11 bills in the House, and 10 made it all the way to the governor’s desk, including the big one on reinsurance, with Rich. And McCluskie is fast becoming one of the go-to’s for Senate bills, with an even dozen, and every one of them passed. That included an early-session win on correcting problems with last year’s beer bill.
• Sen. Dennis Hisey, a Fountain Republican, got off to a strong start in the session with an appointment to the Joint Budget Committee, prestigious for a first-year lawmaker. By all accounts he did a good job.
But that job didn’t last long; When Bob Rankin of Carbondale went from the House to the Senate, replacing former Sen. Randy Baumgardner, Hisey graciously stepped aside to allow the JBC’s most veteran lawmaker back on the committee.
Hisey was a success outside of the JBC, too; five of his seven Senate bills passed the legislature, including measures to allow a state prison campus known as CSP II to reopen in case of an emergency and another on background checks for those who work with children — checks that had been halted by the Department of Human Services.
Hisey also helped move a bill to the finish line that bans a type of firefighting foam that has contaminated water supplies in his district. Six of the seven House bills he marshaled through the Senate also passed, including one that incentivizes developers on affordable housing.
• Rep. Colin Larson, a Littleton Republican, trod a mostly moderate path in the session, and the results showed: Eight of his nine bills passed, including one that adds vaping to the state’s ban on indoor smoking.
• Reps. Mark Baisley, R-Roxborough Park, and Tim Geitner, R-Falcon, early on became conservative voices calling out Democrats on a variety of topics.
If you’ve been wondering who will take up the mantle of most conservative House talkers once Reps. Lori Saine of Dacono and Steve Humphrey of Severance leave after next year (when both face term limits), wonder no more.