DENVER---The Colorado Legislature launched an investigation Tuesday into whether a state lawmaker should be disciplined for kicking a newspaper photographer.
House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said he will form a special committee with powers similar to an ethics committee, which can recommend discipline ranging from a reprimand to expulsion, against Rep. Douglas Bruce.
House leaders said they were looking into the specific authority they could give the panel, including subpoena power, and whether the meetings would be public.
Bruce, a Colorado Springs Republican, accused the photographer of causing a disruption by snapping his photo during the traditional session-opening prayer on Monday morning, hours before Bruce was sworn in as a midterm replacement.
Bruce refused to apologize and called the kick "just a nudge."
Romanoff, a Democrat, said the committee will be formed with the help of GOP Minority Leader Mike May.
"We both take this very seriously," Romanoff said.
The inquiry must be done by a special committee because an ethics committee can investigate only actions by standing lawmakers.
The committee's recommendations are due Jan. 25. Any action would require a two-thirds vote of the House.
Bruce said he's done nothing wrong.
"I don't think it's unethical to ask somebody repeatedly not to disrupt the prayer and particularly my prayer and participation," Bruce said after Romanoff announced the investigation.
"He didn't have any injury. He didn't fall over, it was just a nudge," Bruce said.
Bruce was standing during the prayer when Rocky Mountain News photographer Javier Manzano knelt down and snapped his photo. Bruce brought the sole of his shoe down hard on Manzano's bent knee and said, "Don't do that again."
"I think that's the most offensive thing I've seen a photographer do in 21 years," Bruce said later. "If people are going to cause a disruption during a public prayer, they should be called for it. He owes an apology to the House and the public."
Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple said Manzano had a right to take Bruce's picture. Temple said he would discuss the incident with House leadership.
"The House floor is a place where journalists are allowed to operate. It's outrageous for Mr. Bruce in a public place to assault a photographer," Temple said.