Groff’s first day as Senate president makes history

In the stately chamber of the Colorado Senate, under the admiring eyes of friends, family and supporters looking on from the gallery, Peter Groff became the first African-American in the state’s history to be sworn in as president of the Senate Jan 9. 

“I understand that it is not just my hand that takes the gavel today,” said Groff, director of the University of Denver Center for African American Policy. “I understand that it is the hands of my relatives who toiled under the overseer’s whip on the red clay of Georgia that take this gavel today on the red carpet of the Colorado Senate.”

Groff’s wife, the Rev. Regina Groff, offered the opening prayer, exhorting God to guide Colorado’s elected representatives and give strength to “the one who holds the gavel.” 

As the thunder of Groff’s gavel echoed through the chamber and through history, he laid out his priorities for the 120-day Senate session. Among them are health care for every child in Colorado, innovative education reform, increased higher education spending, business personal property tax relief and constitutional reform.

“Our Constitution should be a moral guidepost,” he said, “rather than a laundry list of special interests.”

Groff recommended forming a Senate select committee for the purpose of studying changes to Colorado’s Constitution, using a recently released study from the University of Denver Colorado Constitution Panel as a starting point. He has enlisted former legislators from both parties—University of Colorado President Hank Brown, former Senate President Stan Matsunaka, former Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson and former Sen. Penfield Tate—to advise the committee.

The DU panel found the state’s constitution filled with conflicting fiscal requirements and rife with unintended consequences. In its recommendations released Jan. 3, the panel recommended the creation of a constitutional revision commission and a process for engaging the legislature in citizen initiated constitutional amendments.

Groff said constitutional reform is key to addressing the state’s health care, education and economic challenges.

“Let us climb the mountains of challenge that face Colorado,” Groff said. “Let us climb to the summit and find a pathway to the future.”

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