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Lots of fresh faces on education panels

A third of the members on the 2013 House and Senate education committees are brand new to the legislature, and only a bit more than half of all members have previous education committee experience.

Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillion, (left) and Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster

Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillion, (left) and Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, announced his committee assignments on Tuesday, completing the lists for the 2013 session. Senate Democrats and both House caucus leaders announced their picks over the past week.

The incoming legislature has a larger-than-normal freshman class, and that influx of newcomers is reflected on the two education committees. Of the 22 total members on both panels, seven are new to the legislature.

Only nine of the 20 members who served on the committees in 2012 are returning. (Senate Ed has been enlarged from seven to nine members.)

Education lobbyists and advocates have been chattering for months about what the high percentage of freshmen will mean for the 2013 legislature session and for debates on complex issues like school finance. In fact, an education issues “boot camp” for new lawmakers has been scheduled for next Tuesday.

The Democratic majority leadership of the two panels also is new. Rep. Millie Hamner will chair House Ed, while Sen. Evie Hudak will lead the Senate committee. The vice chairs are Rep. Cherilyn Peniston and Sen. Mike Johnston.

Those four represent a spectrum of education viewpoints. Hamner, a former Summit County superintendent, has ties to both reform and establishment groups, while Peniston is a former teachers’ union official. Hudak, a former member of the State Board of Education, is more establishment-minded than Johnston, who’s the leading education reform figure in the General Assembly.

Hamner has not chaired a committee before. Hudak has been chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. Johnston has been – and will continue to be – chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which could be an important role as his expected school finance act bill moves through the Senate. Major legislation such as that often is assigned to multiple committees before floor consideration.

The House committee has a larger percentage of new members, with five freshman (two Democrats and three Republicans) and five returning members. Two incumbent Democrats are joining the panel for the first time, while one Republican is returning after time off the committee.

Four members are returning to Senate Ed and will be joined by two GOP freshmen and one Republican veteran who’s returning to the panel after a hiatus. Two Democrats, Andy Kerr and Nancy Todd, are newly elected senators but previously served in the House, where both were education committee veterans.

Here’s the full membership of both committees for 2013.

House Democrats

Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon, chair
Rep. Cherylin Peniston of Westminster, vice chair
Rep.-elect John Buckner of Aurora, a former Cherry Creek district administrator
Rep. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, new to the committee
Rep.-elect Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, a community organizer
Rep. Sue Schafer of Wheat Ridge, a retired teacher who’s returning to the committee
Rep. Dave Young of Greeley, a former teacher who’s joining the panel

House Republicans

Rep. Carole Murray of Castle Rock, returning to the committee as ranking minority member
Rep. Chris Holbert of Parker, a returning member
Rep. Kevin Priola of Henderson, who served on the committee in prior sessions
Rep.-elect Justin Everett of Littleton, a businessman and GOP activist
Rep.-elect Lois Landgraf of Fountain, a civic activist and local GOP officer
Rep.-elect Jim Wilson of Salida, a former teacher, principal and superintendent

Senate Democrats

Sen. Evie Hudak of Westminster, chair
Sen. Mike Johnston of Denver, vice chair
Sen. Rollie Heath of Boulder), returning to the panel
Sen.-elect Andy Kerr of Lakewood, former House Ed member
Sen.-elect Nancy Todd of Aurora, served on House committee

Senate Republicans

Sen. Scott Renfroe of Greeley, returning as ranking member
Sen.-elect Owen Hill of Colorado Springs, an Air Force veteran and non-profit executive
Sen.-elect Vicki Marble of Fort Collins, a small business owner and community volunteer
Sen. Mark Scheffel of Parker, returning to the committee after a hiatus