Lawrence Favored to Replace Priola as Whip

April 15, 2014
Rep. Polly Lawrence

Rep. Polly Lawrence

DENVER – The majority of the House Republican caucus is expected to back Rep. Polly Lawrence of Littleton in a vote later this week to fill the minority whip position abruptly resigned by Rep. Kevin Priola of Henderson on Monday.

“I’ll never trade my principle of transparent governance in education for a title or position. I’m resigning as House minority whip,” Priola announced on his Facebook page just before the House convened at 10 a.m.

Priola irked fellow Republican legislators last week during a three-hour debate on the Student Success Act when he spoke for an amendment offered by Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) and argued against another proposed by Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida).

Hamner’s measure would amend the requirement of transparent, public budget reports to allow school districts to combine the costs of salaries and PERA benefits into a single item though funding sources differ. The amendment appeased the Colorado Education Association union and got the nod from the governor’s staff.

Critics complained that Priola failed to inform House leadership of his position on the amendments so that another Republican lawmaker could perform those duties.

The minority whip is responsible for ascertaining who needs help on their legislation, assessing support and rallying votes for Republican-sponsored bills and amendments. After Wilson’s amendment was defeated, Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) led the effort to replace Priola.

The House Minority Caucus met Thursday to discuss forcing Priola’s resignation and electing Lawrence, who was assured election. A question over proper motions postponed the action.

Priola said that the issue stemmed from personality clashes within the caucus, but some GOP legislators said the issue was his failure to perform certain whip duties.

Another concern, Holbert said, is that the minority whip is also responsible for raising funds for the election and reelection of Republican candidates. That effort is critical to help the minority party capture seats from Democrats who hold a 37-28 majority in the House.

Publicity surrounding the Priola controversy was obvious Saturday at the state GOP assembly when some delegates loudly booed him during his brief speech.

Prior to being minority whip, Priola served as speaker pro tempore the in 2011-12 General Assembly sessions under then-House Speaker Frank McNulty.

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