For the past year, Colorado Springs' lone donkey has been running ragged.
Now he's the most powerful local guy at the capitol.
This year, Merrifield survived harsh attacks in his re-election bid -- including Republicans going so far as hiring a private eye to spy on his home, where they caught his wife on video removing his opponent's campaign signs from their townhome complex.
Merrifield subsequently claimed he and his wife believed the signs had been illegally planted in the first place and he went on to trounce Republican newcomer Kent Lambert, 54 percent to 41 percent.
The lawmaker said he harbors no ill will. For the past several years, state Democrats have complained about poor treatment at the hands of the Republican majority. Now that they are in charge, they swear they won't continue the trend.
"We're not going to turn around and wreak havoc on the Republicans," Merrifield said. "It's part of the reason they lost the election."
Early this year, the Democrat from Manitou Springs was stunned when his Republican colleague Rep. Keith King asked him how it felt knowing all Merrifield's proposed bills would die. King later said he was joking, but indeed, all of Merrifield's bills were killed.
Merrifield now finds himself chairman of the education committee -- on which King will serve.
And King said he hopes Merrifield will be helpful; this year King plans to introduce bills that address teacher licensure and another seeking funding for a reading program for minority students.
"I'll have to work with him, talk to him a lot," King said. "That's fine. That's part of the process."
For his part, Merrifield plans to propose laws that would:
allow tenants to break their leases and get their deposits returned if there are problems on the property and the landlord fails to respond within 15 days.
give public school districts the ability to levy fees for construction projects.
limit gifts that legislators can receive and ban them from being paid to lobby for specific legislation.
He is also considering a bill to revise the rules that govern the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, exempting special education students from the tests. The plan would also make it harder to convert failing public schools to charter schools.
-- Michael deYoanna