By Lynn Bartles - Denver Post
The Colorado legislature is bracing for a historic exodus brought on by a combination of term limits, new legislative boundaries and political aspirations for higher office.
Thirty-three of 100 lawmakers are saying goodbye — and that's just Wednesday, when the session ends. There could be more after November, as some incumbents are in tough races.
"I think the people of Colorado lose when there's that much turnover," said Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, who is term-limited. "You lose institutional memory, which is so important."
Longtime lobbyist Mike Beasley said he recently brought up the turnover when speaking to a regional economic-development group about important issues facing the state.
"An unbelievable number of people are leaving, and it will have an impact on how this place operates for years to come," he said.
The number of departing lawmakers this year beats the previous record, which was 32 in 1998. But in that case, term limits had just gone into effect, which accounted for 27 of the departures.
The 35-member Senate is losing nine members, while the 65-member House is losing 24. However, some House members are running for the Senate and could be back.
"The impact is just going to be huge," said former Rep. Gayle Berry, a Grand Junction Republican, who is a lobbyist.
She took office in 1996, two years before the first wave of term limits hit. Berry served with members who had decades of experience, and when they left, first in 1998 and then in 2000, the result was immediate, she said.
"So many people were gone who knew the rules well and how to get things going," she said. "The biggest thing over the years has been the change in statesmanship. Some of the lawmakers who had worked with governors in a different party worked in a more bipartisan manner."
One factor this year is reapportionment, the process of drawing new legislative boundaries every 10 years after the U.S. Census.
Four sets of Republican incumbents were drawn into the same districts. In three districts, one lawmaker dropped out to avoid a GOP primary. In the fourth, in El Paso County, Reps. Amy Stephens and Marsha Looper are challenging each other.
In some cases, the districts were reconstructed in such a way that the incumbents didn't believe they had a chance. In others, lawmakers were drawn out of their districts.
Four lawmakers are running for Congress, but only two are giving up their seats to do so. Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Aurora, is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, while Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, is taking on U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.
Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, and Rep. Edward Casso, D-Commerce City, could have run again but chose not to.
"I thought it was time — plus it's not fun being in the minority," Casso said, with a laugh. "I got elected when I was 32, so there's still plenty of time for me to do something else."
Term limits are forcing out 14 lawmakers this year, although three of them are running for the Senate.
Among those signing off is Spence, who was first elected in 1998. She said she doesn't believe in term limits, because voters should make that call at the ballot box, but she doubts she would have stayed if they weren't in place.
"Frankly, it was time for me to move on," she said.
Although Spence and other lawmakers who are leaving will be feted with farewells as the session ends, she said she probably won't feel any different until January, when the the 2013 session starts without her.
By law, the session must end Wednesday, but lawmakers work with constituents and attend committee meetings throughout the rest of the year. Their terms don't expire until January.
Spence and lobbyist Beasley lamented the turnover, saying it creates a growing influence among lobbyists and staffers because they hold the institutional memory.
"I don't think it's a good thing, but it's what voters have done," Beasley said. "They said they wanted a 120-day session and they wanted term limits. The people who get elected have to figure out how to do that. It's been a challenge for both parties."
Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Of Colorado's 100 lawmakers, a record 33 are leaving office, although some of them are House members who could be back next year because they are running for the Senate. Reasons why they are leaving vary, including how new districts were redrawn during reapportionment.
Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins
Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood
Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont
Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora
Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield
Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial
Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial; running for Senate
Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton
Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs; running for Senate
Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs
Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Cokedale
Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton
Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton
Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora; running for Senate
Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs
Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton
Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey; running for Senate
Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan
Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver
Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood; running for Senate
Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland
Rep. Ken Summers, R-Lakewood; running for Senate
Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West
Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs
Rep. Amy Stephens or Rep. Marsha Looper, R-El Paso County*
*Drawn into same district
Source: Colorado General Assembly
RUNNING FOR SENATE
Rep. Matt Jones, D-Louisville
Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins
Rep. Glenn Vaad, R-Meade
RUNNING FOR CONGRESS
Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Aurora
Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo
NOT SEEKING RE-ELECTION
Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield
Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran
Rep. Edward Casso, D-Commerce City