House District 25 Rep. Cheri Gerou won re-election in November, only to find that several of her fellow Republicans did not.
Now in a Democrat-controlled House, Gerou said the 2013 legislative session would be very interesting how the Democrats handle being in control of both sides of the Legislature and the governor’s office.
“I’ll be watching to see how they manage themselves,” Gerou said.
But unlike several of her fellow Republicans, Gerou has a history of bipartisan cooperation, and has offered to vote against her party’s wishes on big issues like education funding and civil unions.
“My predecessor, Rob Witwer, said, ‘The best advice I can give you is to vote your conscience, vote your district, and vote your party.’ And by the time I’ve voted my conscience, and my district, I don’t often worry about voting my party,” Gerou said.
Her district — covering much of south Jefferson County and its mountain communities — is comprises roughly in thirds by Republicans, Democrats and Independents, and that has meant that she has found herself on middle ground on several occasions. As the chair of the Joint Budget Committee, Gerou once received 64 votes out of the 65-seat House.
“And the one vote against was from someone from my own party,” Gerou said.
Now in the minority on the Joint Budget Committee, Gerou said 2013 would be a delicate time for the Colorado economy. She said one of her focuses would be on health care, particularly lowering Medicaid costs.
She said she intends to author two bills, one to increase proactive and preventative health care to young and expecting mothers, and one to address end-of-life issues for the elderly.
Gerou said reducing costs now would help improve what she sees as an unsustainable program, which might get a lot bigger if Gov. John Hickenlooper agrees to the federal government’s offer to increase Medicaid eligibility in the state.
“The federal government pays (most of the additional cost) through 2019, but what happens after this? There’s no free ride on this — the state is going to end up paying most of it,” Gerou said.
On education, Gerou said she foresees major budget fights over K-12 funding, and says she personally would like to see more funding for higher education, which she sees as a form of economic development. Democrats are likely to revive the bill in favor of civil unions, which Gerou says will have her support.
Democrats are also likely to propose some form of gun control legislation as well, which Gerou is more skeptical about.
“I really applaud the governor’s efforts for his mental health funding. That’s the real problem right there,” she said.