DENVER (KRDO) -- With quite a few laughs visibly hidden by masks, the Colorado General Assembly kicked off the 2022 session Wednesday.
The Colorado Senate was quick to make jokes amid the formal proceedings, with one state senator immediately calling for Sine Die, or an end to the session, another state senator referring to Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) as "Almighty leader," and senators from both sides of the aisle poking fun at their colleagues in the House, saying they wouldn't leave the sandpit.
But jokes aside, many of the legislators arrived at the Colorado State Capitol early to mingle and talk about their goals and agendas coming up in the session.
State Sen. Garcia began his remarks referencing the challenges of COVID-19, but he also called up memories of recent shootings in Aurora and a rise in crime over the past year. He said there's a shared responsibility so those incidents become "more than just headlines," and said they were calls to action.
Garcia said although there's division in Colorado, he said Coloradans are united in their vision for Colorado's future. He said many Coloradans simply want "a safe reliable place to lay their head ... a stable income for their family ... a life free of violence and discrimination."
Garcia also alluded to the hundreds of millions of dollars made available to Colorado with the American Rescue Plan Act. He said legislative task forces are planning how to use the money "to make sure every dollar counts."
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Douglas County) started his remarks by thanking the first responders and those who helped in the wake of the Marshall Fire, which burned through the towns of Louisville and Superior just before New Year's Eve, destroying over a thousand buildings. Holbert said his colleagues help him "understand the challenges" of rural and urban Colorado. He said his goal is to be the most conservative member who "holds a liberal arts degree" -- Republicans hold minorities in both chambers of the legislature.
Holbert acknowledged challenges in Colorado, including housing affordability, public safety, and education. Colorado Springs local leaders held a news conference earlier this week decrying legislation by the general assembly as harmful to public safety. When 13 Investigates pressed for specifics, the local leaders didn't point to specific actions.
In the House Chamber, Speaker Alec Garnett (D-Denver) didn't shy away from the affordability issue in Colorado. He acknowledged that Coloradans are struggling to pay bills as rent and housing costs continue to skyrocket to record levels. Garnett said affordability would be the top priority among House Democrats.
“For far too many families across our state, the going has gotten tougher and tougher in the last few years," Garnett said. "Despite the incredible work we’ve done to make health care more affordable, create a more fair tax code, and support small businesses during their times of need, life in Colorado has gotten more and more expensive."
We're keeping an eye on legislation being introduced that specifically affects southern Colorado, and we'll have updates on KRDO.com and NewsChannel 13.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.