As Colorado lawmakers open a new session, House Speaker Duran says Capitol culture must change

The Denver Democrat drew applause in declaring on Wednesday’s opening day that “there is no place for harassment, hate speech or discrimination in this chamber.”
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Speaker of the house Crisanta Duran on the gavel, March 15, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) capitol; copolitics; government; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado; house of representatives;

Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Senate President Kevin Grantham have gaveled in the 2018 legislative session.

Lawmakers confront the tasks of roads and schools funding and shoring up the state pension fund, among other issues, in this election year.

They also convened Wednesday amid ongoing investigations into sexual harassment — and a review of the Legislature's sexual harassment policy.

Duran says a state Capitol culture that allows workplace harassment must change.

The Denver Democrat drew applause in declaring on Wednesday's opening day that "there is no place for harassment, hate speech or discrimination in this chamber."

She and other legislative leaders are reviewing the Legislature's workplace harassment policy after allegations of sexual harassment against a handful of lawmakers in both the state House and Senate.

Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton, accused by fellow Democratic Rep. Faith Winter of sexual harassment, stoically said "Here" during roll call. Winter invited two other women who have also accused Lebsock of harassment to join her for opening day.

Lebsock denies the charges. An investigation is ongoing.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, the Republican leader in the Colorado House of Representatives, is welcoming reforms to workplace harassment policy at the state Capitol. But he also insists there should be due process for those accused.

On opening day, Neville said he shares a sense of outrage about stories of bad behavior. However, he said that when accusations are made in the building where state law is made, due process must be followed so the complaints are fairly and objectively handled.

A number of investigations are continuing into alleged wrongdoing by lawmakers in both chambers. While top Democrats have called on Lebsock to resign, GOP leaders have said that confidential investigations into formal complaints should be allowed to play out.

Duran said people in the United States are speaking out like never before about harassment, sexism and discrimination.

"Let our actions show that the intolerable will be tolerated no more," she said.

Term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers his final state of the state address on Thursday.

More from Day 1 of the 2018 session: Minority Republicans in the Colorado House will fight for road funding without raising taxes, closely examine Medicaid spending and seek to cut government regulation.

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