Fresh from opening day speeches, Republican lawmakers unveiled a 44-bill package to address affordability, education and public safety, part of the GOP's Commitment to Colorado program announced last August.

In a news conference Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Douglas County outlined some of the proposals addressing "the rising cost of living, skyrocketing crime and failing government-run education system."

Holbert also expressed skepticism at Democrats who say they prioritize affordability — the minority leader said his colleagues from across the political aisle passed numerous fee increases and made things more expensive for Coloradans.

Voters are not happy with the situation, he said, adding things are less affordable today than they were three years ago, when Democrats took total control of state government.

He also said Democrats have made such a political mess that they're "copying and pasting" the same priorities that Republicans announced in August. 

"It's disingenuous to increase costs one year" and reduce those costs the next, Holbert said.

Still, Holbert said he hopes Democrats are willing to work with Republicans on ideas to keep more money in people's pockets.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Hugh McKean of Loveland said kids have lost valuable learning time, and schools have failed to teach reading, writing and math at grade level. He said lawmakers need to empower parents to make the best decisions for their children.

He blamed policies pushed by the majority party for contributing to the state's high crime rate, saying their "soft on crime" bills are part of the problem. 

The bills in the GOP package include the following: 

  • Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer of Brighton will push for legislation to completely pay off the debt to public education, known as the budget stabilization factor 
  • Sen. John Cooke of Greeley will offer a "smart policing" act to help recruit and retain, and train police officers
  • Sen. Paul Lundeen of Monument will offer a bill to suspend fees from the Department of Motor Vehicles on failing to register a vehicle
  • Sen. Rob Woodward of Loveland and Rep. Dan Woog of Erie will sponsor a bill to allow low-income Coloradans to deduct rental payments from their income tax
  • McKean and Sen. Dennis Hisey of Colorado Springs will carry a bill to exempt all food from state sales tax.

Several bills on renewable energy are also part of the package, including a McKean-sponsored proposal on micronuclear energy and hydroelectric power, as well as a bill on forest timber sales. 

When asked about bipartisan sponsorship, Holbert said they are looking for opportunities to work with Democrats.

But "these are our ideas," he said.

McKean also said Republicans stand ready to work with Democrats, but added "we have different ways to get there."

Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, said its "pretty wild" to see Republicans "position themselves as the party of working people when they've worked tooth and nail against all the things we've done to save people money on healthcare, to put more money into the pockets of seniors and other folks."

"They've consistently stood with insurance companies, big pharma and other corporations," he said, adding, the biggest cost drivers are housing and healthcare, which have been Democratic priorities for years.

Today's news conference showed a more united front among House Republicans than had been evident in the past year.

Rep. Tim Geitner, the assistant minority leader from Falcon, said part of the pledge — to figure out how to stand united — when he and McKean were elected to leadership positions last year, . 

House Republicans who opposed McKean's leadership in the 2021 session were notably absent from the news conference. They included Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Canon City, Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock and Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs.

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