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Senate Education Committee membership filled out

Senate Democratic leaders on Friday named members of the Senate Education Committee, bringing back familiar names to a panel where Republicans now have a one-vote majority.

Returning to the committee are Sens. Andy Kerr of Lakewood, Mike Johnston of Denver and Nancy Todd of Aurora. Kerr, committee chair during the last session, will be ranking minority member.

New to the committee but not to the halls of the Capitol is newly elected Democratic Sen. Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs, who formerly served in the House and was known for his strong hand as chair of the House Education Committee.

Merrifield is a retired music teacher and former Manitou Springs council member known for his assertive manner and skepticism about some education reform initiatives. He should be an interesting foil for some of the more conservative GOP committee members and perhaps even for Johnston, the legislature’s leading reform advocate in recent sessions.

Kerr is a teacher who was a central figure in school finance and higher education bills during the 2014 session. Todd is a retired teacher who fought hard last session for reduction of the K-12 funding shortfall, commonly referred to as the negative factor. Both are former House members and served with Merrifield on House Education.

Senate Republicans made their committee assignments previously, and the new education committee leaders are Sens. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs as chair and Vicki Marble of Fort Collins as vice chair. They will be joined by new Sens. Chris Holbert of Parker and Tim Neville and Laura Woods, both of Lakewood. Holbert previously was a representative and served on House Education.

Gone from the panel are Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, who’s becoming Senate majority leader, and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, who was narrowly defeated by Woods in the Nov. 4 election.

The election gave the GOP 18-17 control of the Senate, the same majority that Democrats held for the last two sessions. The new Republican leadership has expanded Senate Education back to nine members. It had only seven members in the last two sessions.

Committee members haven’t been named in the House, where Democrats retained majority control.

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