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New Legislative Session Opens With New Ideas & Old Animosity

DENVER (CBS4) - Opening day of the state legislature is typically the calm before the storm, but Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia - who faced a recall last summer - came out swinging in his speech.

"There has been a brazen effort to not only divide this chamber, but to dismantle it."

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Leroy Garcia (credit: CBS)

While an election year often means added partisanship, Garcia set the tone in the Senate for even more contentious session. Political grandstanding aside, there will be a lot of interesting bills in 2020, too.

The new bills in the new session include subjects like green burials- think composting a corpse - school bus safety and annual mental health checkups covered by insurance. Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet is a champion for mental health care.

"With regular mental health exams may not get to crisis."

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There will also be new twists on old ideas, like raising the smoking age to 21, vaccine exemptions and a repeal of the death penalty. Rep. Lesley Herod is taking the lead on many of the criminal justice reforms.

"I hope see bill in House get passed and repeal death penalty once and for all."

Education is always front and center, and Republicans have a sweeping agenda.

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"Republicans in House and Senate will make education on of the key priorities we have," Minority Leader Patrick Neville said at a press conference. There Republicans unveiled two dozen bills including school safety assessments, bonuses for highly effective teachers, publicizing the benefits of concurrent enrollment to families and allowing parents to force changes in school districts if they gather a certain number of signatures.

Among Democrats' first bills is one to give two years loan forgiveness to college students who qualify.

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Both parties are focused on the environment. Democratic Rep. Alex Valdez has a bill to set a state fee for single use plastics like bags and take out containers.

"We know plastics last forever, and we don't want them to be our legacy on this planet."

Republican Sen. Paul Lundeen has a bill to study the safety and environmental impacts of non-recyclable electric car batteries.

"There's no understanding of the downstream costs of huge batteries in these electric vehicles."

Lundeen also has a bill to direct the sales tax on vehicles toward road and bridge repairs. Democrats are eyeing new fees to fund transportation.

Among the most controversial legislation this session is a bill to create a public health insurance option.

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