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People to watch in 2011

A well-liked real estate broker from Poncha Springs could be the key figure on education issues during the 2011 legislative session.

Thanks to the Republican takeover of the state House, Rep. Tom Massey will be chair of the House Education Committee after long service as the ranking Republican on the panel. Despite being in the minority, Massey has a successful record of working with Democrats on education issues.

He’ll preside over a committee of seven Republicans and six Democrats. The GOP contingent is heavy on freshmen lawmakers and people without extensive education backgrounds. The Democratic group includes five people with teaching backgrounds and past committee service, plus a just-appointed freshman member with very recent experience as a superintendent, a resume that’s rare in the legislature.

“I’m thrilled” to be chair, Massey told Education News Colorado. “We’ve had a very good education committee for a number of years. …. We’ll continue to work collaboratively.”

Massey did note, “It will be a challenge” to bring such a large number of new members up to speed.

In recent sessions, under Democratic Chair Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs, the committee had a reputation in some quarters as being more skeptical of education reform measures than the Senate Education Committee. Merrifield left the legislature because of term limits.

Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock / File photo

Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock

But the committee did pass such key bills as the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids, the 2009 accountability reform and 2010’s educator effectiveness law. That last measure, Senate Bill 10-191, was a squeaker, moving to the floor on a 7-6 committee vote. Massey and returning Republican members Carole Murray and Ken Summers voted for the bill, as did Democrat Christine Scanlan, who’s left the legislature to become new Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief lobbyist.

Four returning committee Democrats, Cherilyn Peniston, Judy Solano, Sue Schafer and Nancy Todd voted no on SB 10-191 in committee.

It’s likely similar bipartisan coalitions will be needed to pass any controversial measures out of House Ed this year.

Freshman Don Beezley of Broomfield has been named vice chair of House Ed. “You’ll find me pretty focused on charter schools and parent empowerment,” he said. He expects to sponsor some charter-related legislation but isn’t talking details yet.

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins

Over in the Senate, the education committee has lots of familiar faces. Democrat Bob Bacon of Fort Collins is returning as chair, and Vice Chair Evie Hudak is back in that role.

Bacon said he looks forward to working with Massey but also hinted that the Senate, still controlled by Democrats, may be a brake, if necessary, on some House Republican education bills. “The House may pass certain legislation that won’t be approved by the Senate.”

Hudak, a former State Board of Education member, seems to play a role in every piece of education legislation. She was the lone committee member to vote against SB 10-191 last year.

Democrats Michael Johnston, author of the education effectiveness legislation, and fiscal expert Rollie Heath are returning to the committee. They’ll be joined by newly elected Democrat Jeanne Nicholson.

Republicans Nancy Spence and Keith King, both long active in education issues, also are returning. They’ll be joined by Scott Renfroe, a former school board member who hasn’t had a high profile on education at the statehouse but is known for his vocal conservative stances during floor debates.

House Education Committee

Chair Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, businessman and former school board member
Vice Chair Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, businessman
Chris Holbert, R-Parker, political consultant
Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, retired doctor
Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, former Douglas County clerk
Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, businessman
Ken Summers, R-Lakewood, non-profit director

Judy Solano, D-Brighton, retired teacher and former vice chair
Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, Jeffco curriculum specialist
Millie Hamner, D-Summit County, recent district superintendent
Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, retired teacher
Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, retired teacher and CDE staff member
Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, retired teacher

Republicans Beezley, Holbert, Joshi and Ramirez are all freshman, as is Hamner.

Senate Education Committee

Chair Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, retired teacher and school board member
Vice Chair Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, former teacher and SBE member
Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, businessman and civic leader
Mike Johnston, D-Denver, former teacher and principal
Jeanne Nicholson, D-Gilpin County, child welfare advocate and former county commissioner

Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, former school board member
Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, charter school administrator
Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, businessman and former school board member