Something New to Know, Everyday
Explained by Senator Chris Holbert – Colorado Senate District 30
Day 1 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session.
Members-elect have been sworn in. The Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, and Senate President Pro-Tem have been elected by the members of their respective chambers.
In the House, the Speaker Pro-Tempore is appointed by the Speaker rather than elected by the members.
The two “pro-tem” positions serve as sort of backup quarterbacks. The positions actually have no authority… unless the Speaker or President aren’t able to be in that position “for a time.” At that point, the “pro-tem” steps in for the presiding officer. And, when the presiding officer returns, their backup steps aside and the “starter” goes back into the game.
Day 2 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 118 days remain… and no more.
In 1988, the People of Colorado voted to amend our state constitution to limit the amount of time that the General Assembly can meet in general session each year to no more than 120 days.
While it is common for states to limit general session length, many states allow their Governor, legislature, or some combination of the two, to extend session time. Not so here in Colorado.
One thing that is certain is that this general session will end at or before midnight, Friday, May 3, the one hundred and twentieth day.
There cannot be a one hundred and twenty-first day of this session. Even via a special session, there can be no additional time added to a Colorado general session.
At or before midnight of the one hundred and twentieth day, our crystal carriage of law-making authority will turn back into a pumpkin and the 100 citizen state legislators will be citizens again, just like everyone else.
Why? Because, the People of Colorado wanted it that way.
Day 3 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 117 days remain.
The Rule of 33, 18, and 1.
In Colorado, our state constitution specifies that a simple majority of members elected to a chamber is required to pass a bill. There are 65 members of the state House of Representatives and there are 35 state Senators.
There is also one Governor.
33 is a simple majority of the House.
18 is a simple majority of the Senate.
A bill cannot become law without the support of at least 33 Representatives, 18 Senators, and 1 Governor.
One legislator cannot make a law. One committee in the legislature cannot make a law. One chamber, the House or Senate, cannot make a law. One Governor cannot make a law.
Nope, in Colorado, in order for a bill to pass into law, 33 or more Representatives, plus 18 or more Senators must agree on that bill and, if the Governor doesn’t veto that bill, then it becomes law.
In Colorado, our state constitution also specifies that quorum requirements are also based on those simple majority numbers.
Day 4 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 116 days remain.
First, Second, and Third Reading: the Evolution of Bill to Law
In the Colorado General Assembly, bills are drafted in the Office of Legislative Legal Services (“OLLS”), which is located on the basement level of the Capitol. When a bill is ready for introduction, it is sent upstairs to the second floor to either the House or Senate chamber based on whether a Representative or Senator requested the bill to be drafted.
In our bi-cameral state legislature, a bill must pass through both chambers and not receive a veto from the Governor in order to become law. The process in each chamber, House and Senate, involves three “Readings” on the floor of that chamber.
First Reading – the bill is introduced into that chamber. The title, sponsor name(s), and a brief description of the bill is read across the desk for the First time. The bill is assigned a bill number, and to at least one Committee of Reference. In the House, the Speaker decides to which Committee(s) of Reference the bill is assigned and when each bill is read across the desk (First Reading, Introduced). In the Senate, the President makes those decisions.
Second Reading – the bill has passed through at least one Committee of Reference and has been referred to the Committee of the Whole (“COW”) of that chamber. The title, sponsor name(s), and a brief description of the bill is read across the desk for the Second time.
Note that, if a bill fails to receive at least a simple majority of members present of a Committee of Reference, then that bill would “die” (Postponed Indefinitely) in that committee. If a bill passes through each Committee of Reference, then it is routed back to the floor of that chamber for Second Reading. All members of that chamber (Committee of the Whole) have opportunity to debate and amend the bill during Second Reading.
Third Reading – the bill has passed Second Reading, generally on a voice vote, and is now eligible to receive the final recorded vote by the members of that chamber. The title, sponsor name(s), and a brief description of the bill is read across the desk for the Third time.
If a bill passes
Third Reading in the first chamber, then it moves to the second chamber
where this process repeats from the beginning, while maintaining the
same Bill Number.
If, at any point in the process, a bill fails to receive at least a simple majority of support, then that bill fails and is “dead” (Postponed indefinitely).
Third Reading is the final, recorded, vote on each bill that makes it that far. All Third Reading votes are permanently recorded and available online via the General Assembly web site. Those votes are also recorded in the Journal of that chamber and permanently recorded for public record.
Note on each bill introduced here in Colorado, in the upper right hand corner of the bill, for the word “Introduced” to identify the version of that bill as it existed at the very beginning of the process. If a bill is amended on Second Reading in the first chamber, then a new “Engrossed” version of that bill will be posted at the General Assembly web site. If the second chamber amends that bill on Second Reading, then the third version will be labeled as the “Re-engrossed” version of that bill.
And, finally, if a bill is approved by both chambers, that label transitions to “An Act” for consideration by the Governor.
Day 5 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 115 days remain.
Quorum Requirements: Why the Minority cannot “shut down the process” in Colorado.
Article V, Section 11, of the Colorado Constitution defines the quorum requirements for our state House and Senate as:
“A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members.”
Those words are why it is NOT POSSIBLE for a minority of legislators in either chamber to “shut down the process” in Colorado.
Yes, it is possible that the constitution of some other state might define quorum requirements differently, maybe as two-thirds (66%) of members elected. If so, then it could be possible for a minority, less than half, of the legislators to “shut down the process” by refusing to vote or not showing up.
Not only does the Colorado Constitution define quorum as a majority, one more than half, it also specifies that a smaller number than half can “compel the attendance of absent members.” The process of compelling other members to come to a chamber is referred to as a “call” of that chamber.
In Colorado, any member of either chamber can move a call of that chamber. Generally, a call is moved by the Majority Leader of that chamber. And, generally, a call is used to notify members who are scattered around the Capitol complex to come back to the chamber, that we’re ready to take up business on the floor of that chamber after standing in some recess waiting for something else to happen.
However, under our state Constitution, statutes, and legislative rules, answering a call is not optional. If necessary, the sergeants of that chamber and even the Colorado State Patrol can be dispatched to physically bring one or more members to that chamber. No joke, that can happen. And, if expenses are incurred in bringing a member back to that chamber, then that member gets to pay those costs. No joke.
So, when well-intentioned advocates point to a minority of members in some other state “shutting down the process” by refusing to vote and/or leaving that state and refusing to return, then what do we know? We know that, if such stories are true, then the state Constitution, statutes, and/or legislative rules of that state are different than those here in Colorado.
Yes, such action *might* have actually occurred in Texas, Wisconsin, or some other state. However, it ISN’T POSSIBLE here in Colorado. It WON’T work here because it CAN’T work here. Why? Because our state Constitution, statutes, and/or legislative rules don’t allow it to happen here.
Day 6 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 114 days remain.
Tomorrow, Thursday, the state House and Senate, along with members of the Executive and Judicial Branches of our state government, will meet in a joint session of the legislature to hear the “State of the State” from the governor. It is an opportunity for us to respect the Constitution and hear what his priorities are for the coming year.
Our constitutional republic relies on a separation of powers. The Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches of government each have specified powers, which are withheld from the other two Branches.
That’s what makes the “State of the State” address a special occasion. The three Branches are gathered together in one room, the People’s House, to hear from the person who was elected by the People to lead the Executive Branch of our state government.
Respecting the process of elections and the Separation of Powers doesn’t mean that we must or do agree. Rather, our structure of government, defined by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Colorado, honors the fact that we can and often do disagree.
Day 7 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 113 days remain.
State of the Judiciary
Tomorrow, Friday, members of the state House and Senate will meet in Joint Session to hear from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Colorado.
That speech is referred to as the “State of the Judiciary” and serves as a report, an update, to the Legislative Branch from the Judicial Branch of our state government.
It’s a helpful reminder and demonstration of the Separation of Powers that exists in the US and Colorado Constitutions. Our government isn’t one, monolithic entity. This nation and this state were founded on the concept of keeping the power to make law, administer the law, and adjudicate possible violations of the law separated.
Day 8 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 112 days remain.
Don’t live in the highs and the lows.
Serving in our state legislature can be stressful. In addition to the one hundred elected members, there are hundreds of lobbyists who represent thousands of clients, and millions of people who live in our state. To find disagreement among all those people is more a constant reality than rare exception.
One bit of advice that was shared with me years ago and which I now share regularly with others is that being mad or ecstatic about something in that flurry of activity is rarely helpful. And, specifically, just because you’re mad doesn’t mean you’re right.
The General Assembly is a place where most people learn to not live in the highs and lows of that experience. Rather, to find ways to be consistent and to let go of the temporary euphoria of a win and/or the temporary pain of a loss. As in life generally, it’s healthy to focus on what you can control and ignore or let go of the rest. Otherwise, the emotional rollercoaster of living from one high to the next low can become debilitating.
For everyone involved, my layperson citizen legislator advice is to know the constitutions, statutes, and legislative rules. Understand the process. Learn from your mistakes and avoid gloating over a victory. Be quick to forgive, especially with yourself. It will be a long journey to Friday, May 3. And, it’ll be here before you know it. ?
As Lincoln once advised a general, “Make haste, slowly.” ?
Day 9 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 111 days remain.
Committees of Reference
Here in Colorado, our state Constitution REQUIRES that EVERY bill that is introduced in the state House or Senate MUST have a public hearing. Such hearings occur before a Committee of Reference, which are the committees of that chamber to which bills can be referred (Referred = Reference).
Each of those Committees of Reference is comprised of members of the Majority and Minority caucuses who have been assigned to those committees by their caucus leadership. Generally, those members become subject matter experts of the types of bill topics that are assigned to a given committee.
If you support or oppose a given bill in the Colorado legislative process, then keep in mind that you are not restricted to talking only to your state Representative and/or you state Senator. You’re also free to communicate with those legislators who will vote on that bill at the next step of the legislative process. Thus, it can be helpful to know who those legislators are.
The membership roster for each House and Senate Committee of Reference are listed at the General Assembly web site along with contact information for each of those members. The Calendar of a chamber will list when bills will be heard by a Committee of Reference, which should provide time to communicate your position to those members. Do so politely and concisely. More information is NOT better and you may want to ask “How will you vote?” so that YOU WILL KNOW.
Find Colorado General Assembly COMMITTEE Members HERE
Day 10 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 110 days remain.
In Colorado, both chambers of our state legislature (House and Senate) employ a Reader who reads aloud various information at the direction of the Speaker of the House, Senate President, or chairman of the Committee of the Whole.
Our state Constitution authorizes a member to request a bill be read at length, which makes that a non-negotiable request, it must be done.
Parliamentary Procedure under Robert’s and/or Mason’s Rules of Order, embraces public disclosure or announcement of the matter at hand. Rather like a Town Crier, the Reader effectively announces “Hey, listen up, everybody, we’re going to consider this (bill, resolution, amendment, journal, report, etc.). Such out loud pronouncements help establish order and clarity during the legislative process.
Another reason why we have Readers is that, back in the day, there might have been members who couldn’t… um… read. Hopefully, that isn’t the case today.
Day 11 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 109 days remain.
Legislator License Plates
Back in 2014, I ran a bill to repeal the vague statute that authorized legislator license plates. In my opinion, there is no reason to have them. That bill did not pass. Another bill was later introduced and did pass, which improved the numbering of plates and the registration process used for legislator license plates.
While I used the plates for my first two or three years in the General Assembly, I haven’t since. Even with the new registration process with more accountable numbering and a better registration process, I see no reason to have them.
Whether you love them, hate them, or don’t care about Colorado legislator license plates, here are some facts about them so that you’ll know.
• Legislators drive their own vehicles
• Legislators pay their own auto insurance
• Legislators pay their own registration fees and must keep the registration current for their vehicle(s) using the regular license plates for each vehicle
• If a legislator wants to use the legislator plates numbered for the state House or Senate district that he/she represents, then he/she pays an additional ~$6 for the other two pieces of metal (plates)
• The legislator plates are now registered to a specific vehicle under that legislator’s name. The prior process didn’t include that information, which was worse.
• Toll road services need to be contacted to connect the legislator plates to any existing account, usually by noting the legislator plate number as a rental car associated with the account
• Legislator plates do not exempt the driver from receiving tickets… and many do receive parking tickets and/or tickets for moving violations
• The plate numbering system includes an “H” for House District or an “S” for Senate District, which eliminated 35 duplicate sets that existed prior to 2014
The bottom line for me is that anonymity is better than conspicuousness. They really are nothing more than suspicion-inducing, self-identifying decorations.
Day 12 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 108 days remain.
Each Legislator is Responsible for His/Her Own Votes
A fairly common misconception exists that leadership of a caucus or a caucus as a whole can actually tell a legislator how he/she must vote. “Whipping” votes takes place in Congress and probably other state legislatures, but not so much here in Colorado.
Why? Because the Colorado Constitution, in Article V, Section 22(a), prohibits caucus positions:
(1) No member or members of the general assembly shall require or commit themselves or any other member or members, through a vote in a party caucus or any other similar procedure, to vote in favor of or against any bill, appointment, veto, or other measure or issue pending or proposed to be introduced in the general assembly.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, a member or members of the general assembly may vote in party caucus on matters directly relating to the selection of officers of a party caucus and the selection of the leadership of the general assembly.
This simple truth is one reason why I encourage people to ask “How will you vote?” After a vote, it is effective to ask, “Why did you vote that way?” Remember: Here in Colorado, no one other than the individual legislator can be accountable for his/her votes.
Day 13 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 107 days remain.
House, Senate and Joint Rules
The Colorado Constitution stipulates that each chamber of the state legislature may make its own rules. Thus, there are separate rules for each chamber and, when at least a simple majority of both chambers agree, Joint Rules, which apply to both chambers.
It’s very important and empowering for members to learn the rules. Everything that we do in the legislature must be according to the rules. Unlike professional sports, there aren’t referees or umpires to blow a whistle and stop play if/when a violation of the rules occurs. Nope, it’s up to a member to throw a flag, to call attention to the violation. If one doesn’t know the rules, then it would be difficult to know if/when a violation might have occurred.
The Colorado House of Representatives operates under Robert’s Rules of Order unless a simple majority or more of that chamber adopt a rule specifically outside of Robert’s.
The Colorado Senate operates under Mason’s Rules of Order unless a simple majority or more of that chamber adopt a rule specifically outside of Mason’s.
No, Mason’s isn’t associated with the Masons organization. As with the Rules written by Mr. Robert’s, the rules that were written by Mr. Mason are named after him.
For more information about Robert’s Rules: https://robertsrules.org
For more about Mason’s Rules:
For more information about the House, Senate, and Joint Rules of the Colorado General Assembly:
Day 14 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 106 days remain.
Years ago, the People of Colorado voted to amend our state constitution in order to change how lobbyists lobby in Colorado. Today, I describe lobbyists in Colorado as First Amendment practitioners. Why? Because, they can’t do what most people assume they do.
The following is my layperson, citizen legislator, perceptive. Since I’m not an attorney, I cannot provide legal advice or advise anyone as to his or her rights or responsibilities under the law. If you have questions of a legal nature or about some specific scenario, then please consult with an attorney.
OK… now, back to my layperson perspective…
In Colorado, legislators are prohibited from accepting ANYTHING OF VALUE from a lobbyist. Why? Because the People of Colorado wanted it that way. Years ago, voters approved Amendment 41, which put that prohibition in our state constitution.
Thus, here in Colorado, legislators can accept no more than $59 in value (anything, not just cash) cumulative per year from non-lobbyists, people. If you’re not a lobbyist, then you can buy a cup of coffee, a meal, a ticket to an event, or other thing of value… and an elected official in Colorado could accept such… so long as the cumulative total value during any one-year rolling period does not exceed $59 (current figure, changes with inflation). A lobbyist can’t spend one cent on such things for a legislator, zero, nada, none.
From my layperson perspective, there are two types of lobbyists here in Colorado. First, registered professional lobbyists are those who are paid, compensated, while communicating with one or more elected officials. Second, registered volunteer lobbyists are those who receive reimbursement of some expense(s) related to communicating with one or more elected officials.
In Colorado, being a lobbyist doesn’t necessarily mean that you represent one or more people or organizations similar to how an attorney might have clients. Nope, it’s really more about whether you get paid to conduct such communications with/to elected officials or… receive reimbursement of expenses related to such work.
In Colorado, lobbyists convey information, explain the positions held by those whom they represent, and they count votes. They ask legislators “how will you vote?” They keep track of those answers. They encourage, persuade, and plead for votes in support of the positions for which they advocate. That’s why I think of lobbyists in Colorado as First Amendment practitioners.
Keep in mind that, if you have a position on a bill that is before the Colorado General Assembly, then one or more lobbyists are probably working in support of your position. One common assumption is that all lobbyists are somehow against We the People. Nope, on any given bill, there will almost always be lobbyists working on your side of the issue.
Here in Colorado, you can see which lobbyists and clients are working to support, oppose, or to monitor each bill. Anyone can see that information by searching the website of the Colorado Secretary of State. Such disclosure is REQUIRED of each lobbyist in Colorado.
So, who is getting paid or reimbursed expenses to support or oppose YOUR position on a given bill? Just go look…. you might discover that you have more friends than you know.
Make it a great day!
Day 15 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 105 days remain.
Yesterday, we discussed how lobbyists lobby in Colorado. Today, we’ll turn to a group of people who are similar to, but not really the same, as lobbyists.
Here in Colorado, there are at least six groups of people who advocate for or against bills that are before our state legislature:
1) Registered Professional Lobbyists – People who are paid to advocate for or against a bill, as discussed yesterday.
2) State Liaisons – People who work for a department or division of the state government, in either the Executive or Judicial Branch, who advocate for or against a bill.
3) Volunteer Lobbyists – People who receive reimbursement of expenses related to advocating for or against a bill.
4) Members of the General Assembly who talk to each other, debate for or against, offer amendments, and vote on bills.
5) Members of the Press who write news stories and/or editorials about bills.
6) Anyone else, including you, who advocates for or against a bill.
Those who are in the first two categories must register with the Colorado Secretary of State and must report their lobbying (advocacy) activities. Those reports are available to the public via the online system managed by the Secretary of State.
Volunteer lobbyists are required to register with the Chief Clerk of the House.
Those who are in the first three categories are allowed to give/spend zero dollars with/for legislators. We legislators are PROHIBITED by the state Constitution, statute, and rule from receiving anything of value from any of those people. Not one penny.
Those who are in the last three categories are allowed to give/spend up to $59 per year with/for a legislator. However, members of the press don’t do that because of their own professional standards. They are allowed to by law, but they don’t.
Those in all six categories are allowed to contribute up to $400 of their personal funds to a candidate’s campaign committee. However, those who are in the first three categories are prohibited from making any such contribution when the General Assembly is in session. Those who are in the last three categories can contribute during a session, but not lobbyists, state liaisons, political committees, or small donor committees.
A state liaison can’t buy me lunch, a cup of coffee, or anything else. If you fit into the sixth category, then you could wine and dine a Colorado state legislator to the tune of $59 per year cumulatively. But, any of the three categories of “lobbyist” can spend ZERO.
Thus, a state liaison is an employee of a department or division of state government who is registered to advocate for or against bills that pertain to the department or division, who reports all such activity conducted on behalf of his/her employer, who cannot give anything of value to a legislator, and who represents an agency that does not have a PAC or other means of making organized political contributions.
It’s understandable when taxpayers voice frustration that they might be paying for “government lobbyists” to lobby their own government. But, that isn’t really an accurate description a state liaison.
From my experience, state liaisons don’t attempt to persuade legislators to vote “Yes” or “No” on bills. As with actual lobbyists, here in Colorado, state liaisons CANNOT use money to influence legislators. That isn’t just illegal, it’s actually unconstitutional.
What a state liaison does do is to serve as a subject matter expert for his/her employer. State liaisons answer questions for legislators and provide information to us. They work mostly with the House and Senate Committees of Reference that have legislative oversight authority over their employer agency.
Please note that my intention here is to explain what is true, not to persuade you to like or dislike the truth. Make it a great day!
Day 16 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 104 days remain.
Who Drafts All Those Bills?
In Colorado, all bills are drafted by non-partisan attorneys who work in the Office of Legislative Legal Services (“OLLS”). No bill can be introduced in the Colorado General Assembly unless it has been written (drafted) by a member of the OLLS staff.
Every bill includes an “OLLS Number,” which appears in the upper left corner of a bill along with the name of the drafter who wrote the bill. An OLLS Number is assigned to each draft bill as soon as a legislator pulls a bill title. The assigned OLLS number is then associated with the Bill Number if/when that bill is actually introduced (read across the desk) of the chamber of introduction, either the House or Senate.
Pulling a bill title starts the process of drafting a bill under the Single Subject requirement found in our state Constitution. Once I tell the drafter to “pull a title,” everything in that draft bill MUST fit under the title. On THAT point, the drafter WILL offer me his/her advice if he/she believes that I am wandering outside of the single subject requirement. Why? Because he/she is acting as my attorney. His/her fiduciary responsibility is to his/her client, which means the legislator(s) who are the prime sponsor(s) of that draft bill.
OLLS keeps track in their database of how many bill titles for each session are requested (pulled) by each legislator. If a legislator attempts to pull more than five titles for any one session, then the drafter would not begin to write that next draft bill unless and until he/she receives written authorization of a late bill request from leadership. In the Senate, such authorization would come from any two of the following: the Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, or Senate Minority Leader. In the House, such authorization would come from any two of the following: the Speaker of the House, House Majority Leader, or House Minority Leader.
OLLS is organized into teams of drafters who specialize in various areas of law based on the Title structure of state statute. For example, there’s a team of attorney drafters who specialize in Title 18, which is criminal law in Colorado. Take a look at the OLLS page at the General Assembly web site. Under the “About” tab, you’ll find a Staff Directory, which lists those drafting teams based on subject matter.
Any member of the General Assembly can contact OLLS, explain what he/she is working on, and then be connected with a member of the appropriate subject matter team in order to begin the drafting process. Working under attorney-client privilege, the legislator(s) can grant access to anyone during that drafting process OR the legislator(s) can restrict access to that drafting effort to only the legislator and the attorney drafter.
The bill drafter (attorney) is also the person who would draft amendments to that bill if it is introduced. Unless that person is out-of-the-office during a committee hearing or some similar situation, all drafting (writing) involved with the text of that bill would be conducted by that one drafter.
It is important to note that, once a bill is introduced, then any member of a committee of reference that will hear that bill can request an amendment(s) to that bill. Then, if that bill heads to the floor of that chamber, then any member of that chamber can request an amendment(s) to that bill. All such requests are directed to the drafter associated with that bill unless he/she is out-of-the-office. In those situations, another member of the same statutory team would fill-in for the primary drafter.
Legislators can also give permission to non-legislators to work with the bill drafter during the drafting process or to craft amendments to a bill. A legislator can write “please draft one or more amendments to (Bill Number) for (Your Name Here)” on his/her state business card, give that card to someone, and then that person can take it to the bill drafter.
If I were to give you such a card, you could then take it to the drafter to get an amendment(s) drafted under my name and your direction. However, you couldn’t do that without permission being granted by at least one legislator.
Remember, a bill would need to be in a committee or on the floor of the chamber where that legislator serves before he/she could actually move that amendment to that bill. Then, if a simple majority or more of that committee or chamber vote in favor of that amendment, then it would pass and would add, remove, or change the words and numbers in that bill.
Finally, don’t contact bill drafters to lobby for or against a bill or amendment. As non-partisan staff, they CANNOT take positions for or against a bill or amendment. They are attorneys who do what their clients (legislators) ask them to do (write). They can’t take positions so they don’t and won’t.
Day 17 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 103 days remain.
The Colorado Channel
At the federal level, there is CSPAN. Here in Colorado, there is the Colorado Channel. Yep, you can watch and listen to the Colorado General Assembly live or by recordings that are permanently stored online.
If you subscribe to Comcast cable services in Colorado, then you can also tune to channel 165 and watch live and recorded proceedings from the floor of the state House and Senate chambers.
If you don’t subscribe to Comcast or, if you simply prefer, then you can watch and listen online via the General Assembly web site or directly through the Colorado Channel dot net
Video and audio is available for the two chambers, both for live feed when we’re on the floor and recorded sessions of prior floor work.
Audio is available for the House and Senate Committees of Reference and for year round Committees such as the Joint Budget Committee and the Legislative Audit Committee.
Pro Tip: if you click on a LIVE audio or video link and nothing happens, it’s most likely that chamber or committee is not in session. That could be at a given time during the day and during the 120-day session… or it could be during the eight months each year when the Colorado General Assembly is not convened… when our 100 part-time, citizen legislators are citizens, just like everybody else.
Links to recorded sessions should load and begin playing, but live sessions can only produce audio or video when that chamber or committee have come to order.
A special thank you goes to the folks at Comcast who donate access to one of their channels for the House and Senate video feed.
Day 18 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 102 days remain.
Effective Advocacy: Follow the bill through the process
Almost all grassroots advocacy from outside the Capitol, either for or against a given bill, is targeted to either all 100 legislators at the same time OR is limited to the sender’s one state Representative and one state Senator. Both of those tactics are, indeed, advocacy, and all advocacy is encouraged. However, for those who want to be more effective, there is a better way to advocate, which could help you achieve your desired outcome on a given bill.
As a bill moves through the Colorado state legislate process, there are opportunities to focus your advocacy only to those legislators who will vote on that bill at the next stage of the process.
For example, before a bill is introduced, the prime sponsor(s) of that bill are the ONLY legislator(s) who can make changes to that bill. If you are aware of such a bill prior to its introduction, then it would be most effective to target your advocacy for or against that bill only to the prime sponsors, if known. Why? Because no one else can change that bill at that point in the process.
After a bill is introduced, then it’s time to focus on the members of the Committee(s) of Reference to which that bill is referred. In the House, the Speaker refers each bill to at least one House Committee of Reference. In the Senate, the President refers each bill to at least one Senate Committee of Reference. All of those committees are listed here:
Link to all of the COMMITTEES
In the Senate, a Committee of Reference can be comprised of as few as five Senators. Rather than send calls or emails to all 100 legislators or the 35 Senators, advocacy could be directed to those five committee members.
Why might that be effective? Because if three or more of those legislators agree with you, then you would win. All that is required at that stage of the legislative process would be for a simple majority, three in this example, or more of those five legislators to agree with your desired outcome. In the House, Committees of Reference might be as many as eleven or even thirteen members. But, the same rule of simple majority or more applies.
If/when a bill heads to the floor of the Senate, then you could focus your advocacy on the 35 Senators. There’s little need to communicate with the 65 Representatives at that point because none of them can or could vote on the bill while it is in the Senate.
The committee process repeats in the second chamber, and only members of a committee to which the bill is assigned or routed can move amendments and vote on that bill. Then, if the bill makes it to the floor if the second chamber, then any member of that chamber can move amendments and vote on that bill. None of the members in the first chamber can do those things to the bill while it is in the second chamber.
So… follow the bill. Focus your advocacy on those who CAN help you achieve your desired outcome WHEN they can. Avoid advocating to members WHEN they can’t help you achieve your desired outcome… because they can’t.
Hope this helps you in your advocacy efforts. Make it a GREAT day!
Day 19 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 101 days remain.
In Colorado, our state constitution requires the legislature to pass a budget every year AND that the budget be balanced. Since the Colorado General Assembly is not allowed to spend or allocate more than 100 cents out of each dollar, it’s important that legislators know the fiscal impact, positive or negative, that each bill would have if it becomes law.
Thus, here in Colorado, every bill that is introduced undergoes a fiscal analysis, which examines both sides of the ledger, revenues and expenses. There may or may not be any revenue associated with a bill, but with our requirement to balance, any reduction of prior costs would free up dollars for some other purpose. And, any increase to prior cost would require more dollars to accomplish whatever is proposed in the bill.
For me, it’s always rewarding to receive a fiscal note that states “No fiscal impact.” Yes, our state legislature does pass bills into law that don’t have expense or revenue implications.
Our state legislative process is fundamentally different from how Congress operates in Washington, DC. Why? Because the People of Colorado wanted it this way. Since 1876 and subsequently over the decades, the People have voted to amend our state constitution to bring significant change to how the Colorado General Assembly operates.
Our constitutional requirement for a balanced budget is one factor and the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (“TABOR”) is another. Since our General Assembly CANNOT deficit spend, borrow, print money, raise a tax rate, or create a new tax, we must keep track of every dollar every year. That starts with a fiscal note for every bill that is introduced.
To find the fiscal note for a given bill, go to the General Assembly web site and click the “Bills” tab. Locate the bill in which you are interested and then click on the blue, linked, title of that bill. Then, scroll down the bill page to the “Status” section.
Next, click on the box labeled “Bill Text” and then scroll to “Fiscal” in the pop up menu. One or more PDF links will appear, which are listed new-to-old if there is more than one version of the Fiscal Note. Click on the most recent (newest) link for a copy of the current fiscal note for that bill.
During a session, ALL bills that pass into law MUST fit financially into the current and/or upcoming state fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). Why? Because we MUST operate on a balanced budget. Why? Because the People of Colorado wanted it that way.
Make it a great day!
Day 20 0f the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 100 days remain.
Remember that when changing state law, the bill is the only tool in the General Assembly toolbox. There are different types of bills, but those differences won’t be our focus right now.
Bills are made out of words and numbers on paper. A bill can put words into law, take words out of law, and/or change words in law. One, two, or all three of those things can be done within a given bill and still remain within the single subject requirement that is in our state Constitution.
A bill is less about a story and more like pieces of a puzzle. Some pieces are new and propose to fit into the existing statutory puzzle. Some pieces are old and are proposed to be removed from the existing puzzle. Some of them are the same or similar shapes that propose to change the existing puzzle.
Want to make a new law? Then pass a bill through the state House, Senate, and not have the Governor veto it.
Want to change (amend) the wording of an existing law? Then pass a bill through the state House, Senate, and not have the Governor veto it.
Want to repeal (get rid of) an existing law? Then pass a bill through the state House, Senate, and not have the Governor veto it.
There isn’t another way for the General Assembly to do one, two or all three of those things without a bill.
Remember that you’ll need at least 33 of the 65 Representatives in the House to vote for your bill, plus at least 18 of the 35 Senators, and for the Governor to not veto your bill.
Day 21 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 99 days remain. Down to double-digits!
The Colorado General Assembly web site provides access to all bills that are introduced during each session. Each bill has its own web page, which includes access to A LOT of information pertaining to that bill.
At the top of that page, you’ll find a brief description of the bill, followed by the prime sponsor(s) of the bill, the committee(s) to which the bill has been assigned, and then a small, framed box that, by default, says “Bill Text.”
That little box is where I want to focus today. Please click on that box and note the pop up menu that appears:
If you miss that little box and don’t click on it, then you would miss a lot of potentially helpful information.
The first, default, option “Bill Text” provides access to each version of the bill. That will evolve from “Introduced” to “Engrossed” to “Re-Engrossed” if/as a bill is amended through the process.
You can see an example of a bill with three versions by clicking the link below. It’s one of my bills, which passed the Senate unanimously and actually wasn’t amended on the floor. But, there were a series of sponsorship additions, which created new versions of that bill.
Example of a bill with three versions by clicking this link
If you were following a bill through our state legislative process, please be sure to use or access the most recent version of that bill. It is common for people to advocate for or against some aspect of the bill that no longer exists in that bill. Why? Because they’re inadvertently referring to an old version of that bill.
Yesterday, we discussed the fiscal note aspect of each bill, which is the second option under that drop-down menu. Tomorrow, will discuss Committees and what information you can obtain through that drop-down box by selecting that option.
Day 22 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 98 days remain.
Bill Page, Pop Up Menu: Committees
As discussed yesterday, the Colorado General Assembly web site provides access to all bills that are introduced during each session. Each bill has its own web page, which includes access to A LOT of information pertaining to that bill.
Link to Example Bill for reference here
At the top of that page, you’ll find a brief description of the bill, followed by the prime sponsor(s) of the bill, the committee(s) to which the bill has been assigned, and then a small, framed box that, by default, says “Bill Text.”
That little box is where I want to focus today. Please click on that box and note the pop up menu that appears:
If you miss that little box and don’t click on it, then you would miss a lot of potentially helpful information.
Yesterday, we discussed what information users can find under the default option of “Bill Text.” On Wednesday, we discussed the “Fiscal Notes” option. Today, we’ll cover the “Committees” option.
Keep in mind that our state legislative process requires three “Readings” of a bill in order for it to pass through one chamber. All three of those “Readings” of the Bill Number, Bill Title, and prime sponsor name(s) occurs in the chamber.
First Reading is when the bill is Introduced. Second Reading occurs after that bill passes out of the last committee to which it was assigned or routed due to a fiscal note. If a bill dies in Committee, then there would be no Second Reading of that Bill in that chamber. And, that’s why the “Committees” option in the above referenced pop up menu is important.
Committee work on a bill occurs between First and Second Reading. The “Committee” menu option provides access to what each committee did to that bill after First Reading.
Did a committee amend the bill? Did the bill pass or fail in committee? When did such action occur? If those things have happened, then the answers to those questions will be provided under the “Committees” menu option.
But, if you don’t know to click on that small framed box, you might never know that information is available to you. Now, you know.
Day 23 of the annual, 120 day, Colorado general session. 97 days remain.
Bill Page, Pop Up Menu: Votes
Over the past few days, we’ve been discussing the Bill Page that is provided for each bill that is introduced in the Colorado General Assembly. As you scroll through such a page, you’ll find a brief description of the bill, a list of the prime sponsor(s) of that bill, and then a small framed box that contains the default label/option “Bill Text.”
If you click on that box, you’ll find a pop up menu that lists Bill Text, Fiscal, Committees, Votes, Bill History, and Sponsors. By clicking on each menu option, you can access different lists of information.
Note that if one or more of those things hasn’t occurred for a given bill, then that/those options won’t appear in that pop up menu. Once that step of the process has occurred, then that option will appear and the related information will be listed.
Today, we’ll focus on the “Votes” option.
Link to area on General Assembly website to find bill votes
In the past, it was rather challenging to find the correct vote tally for a given bill. The most reliable source was within the House or Senate Journal where all recorded votes are recorded. Through a session, a chamber Journal becomes a big book. Finding a specific vote requires one to know the date on which that vote took place, then paging through the Journal to find that day, the right bill within that day, and then the right vote on that bill.
Today, with our updated General Assembly web site, all one need do is go to the Bill Page for that bill, scroll down to the small framed box, and click on the “Votes” option. If/once a final vote has been recorded for that bill, it will be listed right there for anyone to reference.
In the past, it was common for people to access the wrong vote on a given bill. For example, if an amendment was offered to a bill just before a final vote taken, then the vote on that amendment would be recorded in the Journal just above/before the final Third Reading vote. If a researcher was not careful, it was easy to reference the vote count on the amendment rather than the vote count relating to “Shall the bill pass?” I once received a lower score with a conservative national rating organization because their researcher made that mistake.. and… once their brochure had been printed, they weren’t willing to correct their mistake.
Today, that frustrating and sometimes embarrassing mistake can be avoided simply by using the above-referenced drop down menu. The correct vote tally is immediately available to anyone who goes to find it.
Want to see how your state Representative or state Senator voted on a given bill? Want to see which legislators were for or against a bill? Well, once the final Third Reading vote has occurred in that chamber, just head to the web site and see for yourself. As President Reagan encouraged, “Trust, but verify.”
Day 24 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 96 days remain.
Bill Page, Pop Up Menu: Bill History
Over the past few days, we’ve discussed an easily overlooked tool that is available at the General Assembly web site. Each bill has its own web page and, as a user scrolls down that page, one would find a small, framed, box that contains the default text/option “Bill Text.”
If you click on that box, you’ll find a pop up menu that contains several different options. Today, we’ll review the “Bill History” option.
If you’re looking for insight as to where a given bill has been and where it’s headed next, then this is where you can find that information. You could also refer to the House or Senate Calendars for information about where a bill will next be heard, in either a committee or chamber, but this Bill History menu option is a quick and easy shortcut to that information.
Day 25 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 95 days remain.
Bill Page, Pop Up Menu: Sponsors
Today, we’ll wrap up a review of a helpful tool at the General Assembly web site, one that can be easily missed.
Each bill has its own web page. Search for a bill under the “Bills” tab and then click on the Bill Title to access the Bill Page. From there, scroll down that page to the small framed box that contains the default text/option “Bill Text.”
Clicking on that box generates a pop up menu, which is the helpful little tool that we’ve discussed over the past several days. Please note that the items listed in that pop up menu will increase over time as a given bill moves through the legislative process.
Why? Because, for instance, if no “Votes” have occurred on that bill, then there would be no reason to list that menu option. Once a vote has occurred on that bill, then the “Votes” option would be added to the pop up menu, which would lead to a summary of that vote. Pretty simple, huh?
The “Sponsors” menu option provides a quick link to and summary of those legislators who are either Prime Sponsors or Co-Sponsors. It’s important to understand the difference between those two types of sponsors.
A Prime Sponsor is a legislator who supports the creation, the drafting, of that bill. He/she/they present his/her/their bill in committee(s) or in the chamber in which he/she/they serve. It’s his/her/their bill.
A co-sponsor has none of those responsibilities. A co-sponsor is simply indicating his/her support of the bill slightly more than by just voting for that bill.
In Colorado, can a Prime Sponsor of a bill kill his/her own bill once it has been introduced? No. He/she can ask other members to vote against the bill, but he/she can’t withdraw the bill or “kill it” on his/her own.
Can a co-sponsor of a bill kill a bill once it has been introduced? No. A co-sponsor can vote Yes or No on that bill, but he/she has no greater ability to “kill” that bill.
Can a sponsor remove his/her name from a bill? Yes, but only upon Third Reading. Once a bill is introduced, sponsor names remain on that bill unless or until that bill reaches Third Reading, the final vote, in a chamber. At that point, a member can add or remove his/her name as a sponsor.
If you advocate to a legislator to remove his/her name from a bill that you oppose, then keep in mind that asking for or demanding something that cannot happen is ineffective.
Why? Because, if it can’t happen, then it won’t happen. Focus on things that at least could happen.
The “Sponsors” menu option is a quick and easy way to see who you’re dealing with on a given bill. Focus on the Prime Sponsor(s).
Day 26 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 94 days remain.
If/when a bill passes through one or more committees in a given chamber, and then it passes on Second Reading in that chamber, it is then considered on Third Reading, which is the final recorded vote in that chamber.
According to our state constitution, Third Reading must take place on at least the NEXT LEGISLATIVE DAY following Second Reading.
Today, the state Senate conducted Third Reading on one of the most controversial bills of the session, at least thus far. Senate Bill 19-042, concerning the National Popular Vote, passed with all 19 Democrats voting “Yes” and all 16 Republicans voting “No.”
The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives where the process of First Reading (introduction), Committee hearing(s), Second Reading, and Third Reading will repeat in that second chamber.
And, remember the topics of the last several days. Anyone can go to the Bill Page for SB19-042, scroll down to the small, framed, box that contains the default option of “Bill Text,” and then select the “Votes” option.
Under that menu option, you would find the recorded Third Reading vote tally, which discloses how each member voted on SB19-042.
Summary of Votes FOR and AGAINST SB19-042
Day 27 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 93 days remain.
Quorum Requirement = A Simple Majority of Members Elected
Occasionally, we legislators hear from folks who want one or some legislators to “shut down the process” when it comes to preventing a bill from passing or to completely stop the legislature from doing its business. While such action *might* be possible in one or more other states, it is impossible in Colorado.
Because our state Constitution makes clear that a simple majority of members elected constitutes a quorum. And, when a quorum is established, business can be conducted.
Here is the cite from our state Constitution:
CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF COLORADO
ARTICLE V LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT
Section 11. QUORUM
A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members.
OK, so what does that mean? It means that 33 or more of the 65 Representatives satisfies the quorum requirement in the state House of Representatives. It means that 18 or more of the 35 Senators satisfies the quorum requirement in the state Senate.
Currently, Democrats hold 41 seats in the state House. That’s more than 33. Democrats hold 19 seats in the Senate. That’s more than 18. If the others don’t show up, they/we would simply be counted as absent or excused.
Why? Because that’s how the People of Colorado wanted it to work so that’s how our state constitution requires it.
Day 28 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 92 days remain.
Postponed Indefinitely, or “PI”
In Colorado, when a bill is killed, the motion is to “postpone indefinitely,” meaning without a date to reconsider it. That motion causes people who are unfamiliar with our legislative process to be suspect, to doubt, whether or not that the bill is actually “dead.”
Some observers might think that “killing” a bill would mean that it no longer exists. But, that isn’t an accurate perspective. What actually happens for each bill is that the legislative process either continues or stalls for that bill. It isn’t about destroying a bill, it’s more like a race car not finishing a race.
When a bill is Postponed Indefinitely, it goes into a sort of limbo where it can’t be reconsidered again during that general session. Then, on or before midnight of the 120th day, the General Assembly adjourns “sine die” (without date), which ends that session. Once the session ends, any bill(s) that failed to complete the bi-cameral process are “dead.” Using the race car analogy, the bill did not finish (DNF).
Why? Because, in Colorado, a Bill Number cannot transition from one session to another. The same words of a bill could be introduced in a future session, but that would occur under a new Bill Number and that bill would start at the beginning of the process.
A motion to “PI” *can* be reversed at the same stage of the process at which it occurred, but a majority of those in the committee or chamber where that motion was made would then need to immediately reconsider that motion and reverse what they just did. That reversal process is sometimes used to haze a new member when he/she brings his/her first bill before a committee. Otherwise, when a bill is Postponed Indefinitely, it is dead.
Day 29 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 91 days remain.
Motion to Dispense with the Reading of the Journal
Each chamber, House and Senate, keeps a detailed record of what happens in that chamber and work conducted by the committees of that chamber. That record is called the “Journal.”
A copy of the cumulative Journal for each chamber is provided at the homepage of the new General Assembly web site. Use the following link and then scroll down to the framed box labeled “Status Sheets and Journals” to find links to the House and Senate Journals: http://leg.colorado.gov
The Rules of each chamber provide for a daily Reading of the Journal. It’s rather the same as having the Reader read the title of each bill, amendments, and other information to all members of that chamber. It confirms the official business that is presently being considered or, in the case of the Journal, what business was considered the prior day.
The Journal can be quite long and listening to it being read every day would take up a lot of time. Thus, the Rules of each chamber also allow for the members of each chamber to dispense with that reading.
Every morning in each chamber, a member is designated to make the motion to “Dispense with the Reading of the Journal.” Such motions are considered on a voice vote and are almost always approved. Why? Because the members of that chamber already know what they did the prior day.
Day 30 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 90 days remain.
Governor Appointments and Senate Confirmations
Similar to appointments made by the President of the United States, the Governor of Colorado is responsible for appointing many people to cabinet leadership positions and various boards and commissions within his administration. And, similar to the Constitutional confirmation role held by the United States Senate, the state Constitution empowers the Colorado Senate to confirm appointments made by our Governor.
During the 120-day session, the Senate President receives documentation from the Governor regarding such appointments. The Senate President then assigns each appointment to a Senate Committee of Reference according to established oversight authority for those committees.
From there, the committee chairman schedules each confirmation before his/her committee and the person(s) up for consideration are notified to attend that hearing. Committee members are provided background information for each appointee in advance of the hearing. Nominees will generally meet with the committee chair and members of that committee to discuss the nomination and answer questions that those members may have for the nominee.
Here’s where things sometimes get confusing for people who support or oppose one or more appointees. In Colorado, a committee cannot “kill” an appointment. Committees don’t have the Constitutional authority to stop a Governor’s appointment. Why? Because the state Constitution provides that authority to the “whole Senate.”
Because the “whole Senate” must vote on each appointment made by our Governor, a Committee of Reference refers appointments to the Committee of the Whole with either favorable or unfavorable recommendation. There isn’t an opportunity to stop a nomination in committee because committee’s don’t have authority to do so.
Then, when the appointment reaches the Senate floor for consideration by the “whole Senate” when seated as the Committee of the Whole, each appointment must receive eighteen or more “Yes” votes from the thirty-five Senators. If not, then the appointment would fail based on the decision of the “whole Senate.”
Day 31 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 89 days remain.
Remember: Legislators are not Jurists
Legislators and jurists meet in government buildings. Those buildings can be large and ornate. There are unique rules and procedures that must be followed and are enforced in both of those settings.
Here in Colorado, one must be registered to vote in order to be eligible to campaign for public office or to serve as a jurist. Members of both groups are selected from among We the People to serve in those settings. And, that’s about where the similarities end.
People who serve as legislators go through a public selection process known as an election. Candidates communicate with people, specifically voters, in their given legislative district. Generally, a candidate will attempt to differentiate him/herself from his/her opponent(s). Voters generally seek information as to which candidate best aligns with their views on important issues. Whether right or left, conservative or liberal, whatever the voter believes is important versus whatever the voter believes is not important.
The majority of voters in each state House or Senate district then elect the candidate who best aligns with the views held by that majority of voters in that district. The majority of voters in one district might align heavily to the right while the majority of voters in the next district might align heavily to the left. And, there might be some districts that are centrist.
Regardless of where the majority of voters in each district align, it is then the responsibility of each legislator to be accountable to the voters who live in that district for his/her votes. While that legislator represents all of the people who live in that district, the question of accountability generally is to the positions held by the majority of voters in that district.
On any given issue, there will probably be less than 100% agreement among the People in a given district as to whether their legislator should vote “Yes” or “No.” Such division among voters is not just acceptable, it’s how representative government is supposed to work. The bottom line is that the legislator is accountable to those People for his/her votes.
If a minority of those People disagree with a certain vote or generally disagree with most votes cast by their Representative or Senator, then they would likely not vote for that person in a future election. And, that legislator would likely be re-elected by the majority of People who live in that district.
If a majority of those People disagree with a certain vote or generally disagree with most votes cast by their Representative or Senator, then they would likely not vote for that person in a future election. And, that legislator would likely not be re-elected by the majority of People who live in that district.
OK, so why is all of that perspective important? Because legislators are not jurists.
Jurists are selected from among the People because they have not yet made up their minds about a given case. Legislators are generally selected from among the People because they have stated their positions on issues that are important to the People who live in that respective district. Those two selection processes are very different. In fact, they are rather opposite.
That’s why it is SO IMPORTANT to ask each legislator “How WILL you vote?” Ask that question BEFORE he/she votes. He/she isn’t a jurist who must remain neutral and undecided until the end of all proceedings.
Nope. Just like anyone else, he/she can read the bill and determine whether it is a good or bad idea; whether or not it is the proper role of government; and, whether he/she wants to be accountable to voters for being a “Yes” or “No” vote on that bill.
Advocates are sometimes uncomfortable asking a legislator “How will you vote?” Why? Because the advocate wrongly assumes it to be inappropriate for the legislator to know the answer to that question; that the legislator is somehow supposed to remain neutral on that issue right up to the end… as is required of a jurist.
Please don’t make that mistake. The legislator CAN know the answer to that question, you are ENTITLED to ask that question, and the legislator SHOULD answer it.
Why? Because legislators are not jurists.
May your advocacy be effective!
Day 32 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 88 days remain.
Here in Colorado, a bill must receive three “Readings” in each chamber in order to pass into law. A “reading” occurs when the Bill Title, Bill Number, Bill Summary, and Bill Sponsor Name(s) are read in a chamber. That doesn’t mean that the whole bill is read aloud, just those bits of information.
First Reading occurs when a bill is introduced. Second Reading occurs if/when that bill passes out of committee and heads back to the floor of that chamber. If the bill passes Second Reading, then it can be heard for Third Reading and final recorded vote on at least the day after Second Reading.
There is no voting at First Reading. The Speaker of the House or President of the Senate announces to which Committee of Reference he/she has referred the bill.
In Committee, unless a decision is unanimous, voting is conducted by recorded roll call vote. Those votes are permanently recorded and publicly available.
At the Second Reading stage, both of our legislative chambers generally use voice votes to determine whether a bill passes or fails.
Third Reading votes are always recorded and the vote of every member present are permanently available for public inspection.
OK… so why the voice votes on Second Reading?
Because that is the first stage of our legislative process at which all members of a chamber have opportunity to hear, debate, amend, and generally consider a bill. That bill may have changed considerably through the committee process.
However, changes made in committee aren’t official unless and until that bill passes Second Reading. That’s when the chamber approves or rejects any committee reports, which are summaries of any/all amendments made in committee.
Voice votes are often misunderstood. If one side, meaning those who vote “Yes” or “No” yell louder than the other, some people then assume that side won. No, that’s false. Why? Because there is nothing in our federal or state Constitutions that gives priority to volume. It isn’t about how loud the vote is yelled, it’s about how MANY members vote one way of the other. If one side whispers their votes and the other side yells, then that has no bearing on the outcome. It isn’t about volume.
On Second Reading, it is at the discretion of the Chair as to which side prevails on any voice vote. Any member can call “Division,” which is a standing vote. Staff count the number of members standing and share that with the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole (“COW”). He/she then announces the outcome. Any member can also move an amendment to the Report of the Committee of the Whole, which then becomes are recorded vote.
The bottom line on Second Reading is that, if the Majority Party holds together, they can/do “win” all such votes. Since the Chairman of the COW is selected by the Majority Leader, it’s likely that the Chairman will rule in favor of the Majority on such matters.
Day 33 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 87 days remain.
The House and Senate Calendars
While the Colorado General Assembly web site sometimes uses the phrase “Session Schedule,” if you’re following one or more bills, then it is important to know how to access the Calendar of each chamber.
Each chamber Calendar is organized with floor work first, followed by Committee Meetings. Both of those sections are then organized with the business of the current day listed first, followed by business scheduled for future days, if applicable.
Since Third Reading on any given bill is the final recorded vote on a bill, any bill(s) eligible for Third Reading on a given legislative day would be listed first. Second Reading bills would be listed next, followed by Consideration of Resolutions and Memorials. In the Senate, any Governor’s Appointments would be listed last in the floor work section.
On subsequent pages of a chamber Calendar, one would find Committee Hearings listed, which would include any bill(s) scheduled for that hearing date, time, and location.
Business scheduled in a chamber can be laid over, meaning rescheduled, by a motion, generally made by the Majority Leader of that chamber, and approved by at least a simple majority of members elected to that chamber.
Business scheduled in a Committee can be laid over, meaning rescheduled, by the Chairperson of that Committee. No motion or vote is required, it is the decision of the chairperson.
When something is laid over, it could be to delay one bill, several bills, or to another day. The timing is up to the Majority Leader or Committee Chair.
You may want to bookmark the following page so that you can access the House and Senate Calendars during this and future sessions.
Day 34 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 86 days remain.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President
Born February 6, 1911 in Tampico Illinois, today marks the 108th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Wilson Reagan.
Godspeed, Mr. President.
Day 35 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 85 days remain.
The Colorado Constitution requires that the Colorado General Assembly pass a budget each year. Our state Constitution also requires at that the budget be balanced. We are not allowed to spend or allocate more than we have.
The fiscal year for the state of Colorado begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. During the annual general session, which occurs between January and May, the General Assembly considers and approves the next fiscal year budget.
Early in each annual general session, the General Assembly also considers a package of “supplemental” bills, which serve to adjust the current fiscal year budget so that it will end in a balanced form on June 30 of that year.
Supplemental bills can take money out of a line item in the state budget or put money into a line item in the state budget. Again, those adjustments are made so that the budget will be balanced at the end of the fiscal year.
Our state budgeting process is very different than that used by Congress in Washington DC. While Congress can spend more money than they actually have, borrow money, print more money, create a tax, or increase a tax rate, the Colorado General Assembly can do none of those things. In my mind, that is a good thing.
I doubt there would be need for Congress to have supplemental bills because, in Washington DC, a dollar really doesn’t mean a dollar. Here in Colorado, a dollar means exactly one dollar.
Day 36 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 84 days remain.
The Colorado Constitution includes a section that deals with… egads… privileges afforded to members of the General Assembly. I’ve added the… um… hesitation… here as a subtle hint that this probably isn’t something about which you should be concerned relative to some double standard.
Why? Because all non-felon residents of Colorado have much the same “privilege” as do the 100 members of the General Assembly. It’s just that most people enjoy such privilege less frequently than do the 65 elected state Representatives and 35 elected state Senators.
OK, so what does the state Constitution actually say?
CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF COLORADO
ARTICLE V LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT
Section 16. PRIVILEGES OF MEMBERS
The members of the general assembly shall, in all cases except treason or felony, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of their respective houses, or any committees thereof, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either house, or any committees thereof, they shall not be questioned in any other place.
OK, so does that Section of our state Constitution say that members of the legislature cannot be arrested… ever? Not in my part-time, layperson, non-attorney, citizen legislator perspective. It seems to say that, short of treason or felony, a governmental jurisdiction can’t use its power to prevent a legislator from getting to or from the state Capitol… or some other location at which legislative business is or was being conducted… in order to represent his/her constituents in our representative government.
Does Article V, Section 16 of our state Constitution say that members of the General Assembly are exempt from receiving speeding tickets? Nope, I don’t see those words there. Parking tickets? Nope, it doesn’t say that, either.
OK, does the state Constitution provide SPECIAL privileges to our state Representatives and Senators? Not really. Why? Well, because our state Constitution provides much the same “privilege” to every resident of Colorado who is eligible to vote.
Yep, here’s the text of Article VII, Section 5 of the Colorado Constitution:
CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF COLORADO
ARTICLE VII SUFFRAGE AND ELECTIONS
Section 5. PRIVILEGE OF VOTERS
Voters shall in all cases, except treason, felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at elections, and in going to and returning therefrom.
So, whether you knew it or not, if you live in Colorado and you’re eligible to vote, then government can’t use the force of government (arrest) for anything less than treason, felony or breach of the peace to deter you from… voting. Again, I’m not an attorney so I cannot provide legal advice or advise anyone as to his or her rights or responsibilities under the law. Still, a layperson’s reading of the state constitution seems clear.
That’s really the point of the legislator privilege, too. Those of us who have been elected by the People must be allowed to get to and from the Capitol (or other place where official legislative business is being conducted) in order to represent the People who have elected us.
Some have asked over the years whether the privilege is outdated. I think not. The possibility that a legislator of one Party might be deterred by some local jurisdiction controlled by another Party that is located between his/her home and the Capitol is as real today as it was in 1876. But, it doesn’t happen because the protection exists in our state constitution.
That’s what the privilege of Voters is about, too. It’s about government not being able to prevent you, the People… from voting. Since voting is what we do at the Capitol, the privilege for legislators is the same. Government can’t use the force of government in order to keep me or my 99 collages from getting to or from the Capitol in order to vote as representatives of you, the People.
The “privilege” is simply that we are allowed to do what we are elected to do.
It’s an honor and PRIVILEGE to serve.
Day 37 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 83 days remain.
Initiatives: How You the People of Colorado can make or change law or amend the state Constitution without your state legislature
If you take time to read our state Constitution, you will find that Article V, Legislative Department, includes a brief description of the law-making powers of the elected General Assembly, which is followed by a long description of the law-making powers of the People.
Wait… what? The People of Colorado can make law? Yes.
Do you remember all those questions that were on the Colorado ballot last year? Well, some of those questions were placed on the ballot by the General Assembly while others were placed their by the People via the petition process.
Want to create a new law? Want to nullify an existing law? Maybe you want to change, amend, something in existing law. You can do that via the petition process.
Want to add, remove, or change something in our state Constitution? You can do that too via the petition process. It will require more signatures and higher percentages of the vote than statutory changes, but You the People of Colorado can do that too.
I’m not an expert on the petition process, but the following FAQ from the Secretary of State provides a good tutorial and answers questions about the petition process.
I believe that, in some states, the legislature MUST be involved in order to amend the state Constitution. Not so here in Colorado. That’s why our state Constitution devotes more words to explaining the law-making power of the People than it does describing the limited law-making power of the legislature.
Day 38 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 82 days remain.
Legislators can’t provide legal advice
The Separation of Powers provides authority to the Legislative Branch to make/write our laws, the Executive Branch to enforce/administer those laws, and the Judicial Branch to interpret/adjudicate/determine whether a law(s) have been violated and, if so, what penalty is appropriate.
Attorneys are those who are authorized to interpret law and to advise someone as to his or her rights or responsibilities under the law. An attorney can explain how law applies to you and/or some specific matter.
Legislators are not authorized to interpret law or to advise someone as to his or her rights or responsibilities under the law. A legislator is not allowed to explain how law applies to you and/or some specific matter.
Why? Because that would quickly become practicing law without a license… even if the law in question was created by a bill sponsored by that very legislator. A person who is elected to “represent” people as a legislator does not somehow receive authority to “represent” people in any legal matter.
During the legislative process, legislators have immunity for what they/we say about bills, which can relate to existing law. However, if/when a bill BECOMES law, legislators can’t explain how the words and numbers of that law apply to you or any specific matter.
Why? Because only attorneys are allowed to do that. If a legislator happens to be an attorney, then he/she *could* provide legal advice or advise someone of his/her rights and/or responsibilities under the law. However, doing so would probably require some level of attorney-client relationship to exist, which rather quickly negates the legislator role of that person in such a scenario.
It can be frustrating, but keep in mind that, under the Separation of Powers, legislators can explain what the words and numbers of a bill mean, but they/we are limited in our ability to explain what those same words and numbers mean if/when that bill becomes law. Why? Because legislators can’t provide legal advice.
Day 39 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 81 days remain.
Chairing the Committee of the Whole
When the state House or Senate conduct Second Reading on the floor of their respective chamber, a member of that chamber other than the presiding officer (Speaker or President) is designated to serve for that day as chairman of the Committee of the Whole (“COW”).
The member who is selected to chair the Committee of the Whole is almost always a member of the Majority Party, but not always. The person who serves as COW chairman could rule against the Majority, but such rulings would almost certainly be overturned with a recorded vote. Thus, such rulings would be unlikely to occur.
At the conclusion of Second Reading, the Majority Leader will move to “Rise and Report” and, following approval of that motion, the chairman would then request reading of the Report of the Committee of the Whole.
That report is from chairman on behalf of all members of the chamber to the presiding officer of that chamber, meaning the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate. That report explains everything that occurred during Second Reading that day. Since that report is made to the presiding officer, he/she is the one member of the chamber who will not serve as chairman of the COW.
If anything occurred during Second Reading that the Majority doesn’t support, then a COW amendment can be offered and voted on to amend that report. Such amendments can be offered to clarify or overturn any ruling of the chairman. The outcome depends on simple majority rule, which equals 33 or more in the House or 18 or more in the Senate.
Day 40 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 80 days remain. We’re one third the way through the session!
In Colorado, every bill must have a Prime Sponsor. That legislator is the member who authorizes the bill to be written and who can freely edit the bill prior to its introduction.
There can be up to two Prime Sponsors in each chamber. If two legislators share Prime sponsorship of a bill, then that one bill counts against the five bill starting allocation for both legislators.
In order for a bill to pass out if the first chamber (where it was introduced), it must have at least one, or up to two, Prime Sponsors in the second chamber. A bill that does not have a sponsor in the second chamber can pass Second Reading in the first chamber, but, under the Rules, it cannot be considered for Third Reading (final recorded vote) unless and until it has a Prime Sponsor in the second chamber.
The name of each Prime Sponsor is listed first and in bold text near the top left corner of a bill. The bill is his/her/their bill.
Co-Sponsors are different from Prime Sponsors. The name(s) of any co-sponsors of a bill are listed in plain text following the Prime Sponsors. Co-sponsors didn’t help write the bill and cannot edit it prior to introduction without permission from the Prime Sponsor(s).
Prior to introduction of a bill, the Prime Sponsor(s) can, if he/she/they want to do so, invite other legislators to sign on to a bill as co-sponsors. Signing on as a co-sponsor indicates support for the effort, the concept or even the legislator(s) who are the Prime Sponsor(s) of that bill.
Once a bill is introduced, co-sponsors can’t amend it unless or until that bill comes before a committee on which they serve or to the floor of that chamber.
Once introduced, co-sponsors cannot add their name to or remove their name from a bill unless and until it passes Third Reading (final vote) in one or the other chamber.
When advocating for a bill, it can be helpful to review the list of Prime and Co- sponsors listed near the top of the first page of that bill. If you support the bill, then, rather than strongly urging one or more of those bill sponsors to vote for the bill, maybe say “Thank you for the bill.” Why? Because he/she already supports the bill. That’s why he/she is sponsoring it.
Day 41 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 79 days remain.
In Colorado, our state legislature can use a type of bill called a “Resolution” to make a statement.
Resolutions don’t have the force of law. We cannot add, remove, or change words in law by using a Resolution.
A Resolution is sometimes referred to as “a letter to Santa Claus” because the person(s) to whom a Resolution is sent don’t have to read it, don’t have to agree to it, and don’t have to act upon it.
A House Resolution is one that originates in the House of Representatives. If passed by a majority of the House, then it expresses an opinion of that chamber.
A Senate Resolution is one that originates in the Senate. If passed by a majority of the Senate, then it expresses an opinion of that chamber.
A Joint Resolution can originate in either chamber, but can pass only with support of a majority vote from both chambers. House Joint Resolutions start in the House and Senate Joint Resolutions start in the Senate. If the second chamber doesn’t agree to a Joint Resolution, then the Resolution does not pass.
Resolutions can be routed through one or more committees or they can be introduced directly to the floor.
Public testimony is not required and generally not taken when considering a Resolution. Why? Because it’s nothing more or less than a statement of support or opposition made by the members of one or both chambers and, specifically, isn’t law.
Day 42 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 78 days remain.
How to “kill” a bill
Here in Colorado, under our state Constitution, there is ONE WAY to “kill” a bill once it is introduced. That is, for a simple majority or more of members of a committee or a chamber to vote “No” on that bill.
Asking for a bill to be “pulled” from the processes doesn’t make sense, at least here in Colorado. Why? Because that isn’t allowed under our state Constitution.
Why? Because the People of Colorado wanted it that way.
Back in 1988, the People of Colorado approved the GAVEL Amendment to our state Constitution. In fact, 72% of those who voted that year did so in support of the GAVEL Amendment.
The selling point of the GAVEL Amendment was that EVERY bill that is introduced MUST have a public hearing. That way, the People would have opportunity to express opinion, for or against, any bill that is introduced into our state legislative process. No, that doesn’t mean that the People get to decide whether a bill passes or fails, it means that the People must be heard.
But, in order to guaranty that EVERY bill that is introduced MUST have a public hearing, certain traditional legislative actions needed to be eliminated from our state legislative process. For example, here in Colorado, we have no “pocket veto” options.
No member of legislative leadership can “kill” a bill by slipping it in his/her “pocket” and forgetting about it. In Congress, the federal legislature, if a committee chairperson does not want to hear a bill, then he/she can decide to not hear the bill in his/her committee. And, if a bill isn’t heard, it cannot pass. That isn’t an option in Colorado.
Some people are advocating that a bill sponsor(s) “withdraw” a given bill. Nope, we can’t do that, either. The ONLY way to “kill” a bill in Colorado is for a simple majority or more of a committee or a chamber to vote “No.” Why? Because the People of Colorado wanted it that way.
Here in Colorado, we have not true filibuster. Legislators must speak to/about the bill. In fact, members of the public are held to that same requirement during public testimony.
Here in Colorado, as discussed above, we have no pocket veto.
Here in Colorado, a minority of members cannot “shut down the process” by refusing to attend or refusing to vote. Nope, our state constitution defines quorum requirements as a simple majority or more of members.
Currently, one Party holds MORE than a simple majority in both chambers. Thus, if members of the minority don’t show up, they/we would simply be counted as “absent” or “excused.”
Yes, we have heard the stories out of Texas and Wisconsin about a minority of legislators “shutting down the process.” Do you know if those stories were factual? I don’t. If those stories were true, then we know one thing: the constitution of one or both of those states is different than the constitution of the state of Colorado.
The Colorado Constitution takes it a step further… a minority of members can compel members who are absent to return to the chamber… or have those absent members BROUGHT to the chamber, by force if necessary. And, if expenses are incurred, those absent members can be made to pay those expenses.
Bill passage requirements are also based on a simple majority. That’s also in our state Constitution. 33 or more of 65 in the House, 18 or more of 35 in the Senate.
The bottom line is that a simple majority or more of a committee or chamber must vote “No” in order to kill (postpone indefinitely) a bill in Colorado. The goal, therefore, is to get more “No” votes.
Day 43 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 77 days remain.
“Strike Below” Amendments
Bills are made out of words and numbers. An amendment to a bill is a proposal to add, change, or remove words and/or numbers within a bill.
A strike below amendment is a proposal to remove ALL of the words and numbers in a bill and then, to insert some new arrangement of words and numbers under the title and enacting clause of that bill.
In Colorado, everything in a bill MUST fit under the title of that bill. That’s what the Single Subject requirement in our state Constitution means. Thus, the “below” in “Strike Below” refers to what is listed (written) below the title of that bill.
Since a bill is made out of words and numbers, it is important to consider whether those words and numbers mean what we want them to mean. Does the bill accomplish what it is intended to do? If not, we can amend it.
Adding words and numbers, changing words and numbers to different words and numbers, or removing certain words and numbers while leaving others, is what takes place in committee and on the floor of each chamber.
Yes, there can be great philosophical debate over a given bill. But mostly… we just add, change, and/or delete words and numbers within bills, and then, we vote.
Day 44 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 76 days remain.
The Revisor of Statutes
As we have discussed previously, bills and laws are made from words and numbers. In Colorado, when a bill passes into law, it becomes the responsibility of the Revisor or Statutes to care for those words and numbers as they add, remove, or change the words, numbers and even punctuation, within the totality of existing state law.
Title 2, Article 5, of the Colorado Revised Statutes establishes the office of the Revisor and sets forth the authority and responsibility of that position. The Revisor works under the direction of the Committee on Legal Services and the Director of the Office of Legislative Legal Services.
The Revisor compiles, edits, arranges, and prepares state statutes for publication. Law enforcement, Executive Branch departments and divisions, the Judicial Branch, attorneys and clients, the public, anyone and everyone who needs to know what CURRENT LAW says, needs access to the RIGHT and current words and numbers on paper (laws), as opposed to any outdated, wrong words and numbers.
Statute requires the Revisor to manage a “uniform system of punctuation, capitalization, and wording.” The Revisor is also responsible for eliminating obsolete and/or redundant words and numbers from statute. And, she has the authority to make obvious corrections and to address inconsistencies.
However, state law prohibits the Revisor from making any substantial change to the wording of law. Only the legislature can do that by bill or the People by the initiative process and vote of the People.
Click this link to learn more about the Revisor and the annual list of changes that she has made to the Colorado Revised Statutes.
Day 45 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 75 days remain.
Effective Advocacy: Things to avoid and some helpful hints when advocating for or against a bill that is before the Colorado General Assembly
• Avoid pursuing the wrong goal – Whether you want a bill to pass or fail, your goal is simple: get more votes for your position. The goal is not to prove one or more people wrong. The goal is not to achieve unanimous support, though that does occasionally happen. All you need is one more vote than the other side, a simple majority or more of a committee or a chamber.
• Don’t assume that legislators know nothing about your issue – Very little occurs at the state Capitol that hasn’t happened before. It is rare that a new topic is discussed. Just because you might be new to an issue, does not mean that those to whom you are advocating are uninformed about the issue. Ask, “Are you familiar with this issue/bill?”
• Treat the three groups of legislators differently – First, understand what those three groups are: those who support your position, those who oppose your position, and those who are undecided. Ultimately, you’ll end up with only two groups: those who support your position and those who oppose your position. It is very common for grassroots advocates to treat all legislators as if they/we are all undecided on their issue and, thus, must be educated about this issue. Even worse, some advocates treat all legislators as if they/we oppose their position and, therefore, must be convinced otherwise. How do you know who supports, opposes, or is undecided on your issue? After asking, “Are you familiar with this issue/bill, follow up by asking, “Have your taken a position on this issue/bill?” If so, then ask, “What is your position on this issue/bill?” Then, thank those who support your position. Ask those who oppose your position the all-powerful question, “Why?” And, for those who are uninformed and/or undecided, pour on the education as to why your position is correct.
• Get comfortable that legislators can and do take positions on issues/bills. Why? Because there’s a common and FALSE assumption that legislators aren’t supposed to make up their minds on an issue/bill until it’s time to vote. There is no such requirement or expectation in Constitution, law, or legislative rule. Legislators are not jurists. When a legislator requests that a bill be drafted, he/she is demonstrating support for that bill well before it is introduced. When a legislator adds his/her name as a co-sponsor, he/she is indicating support for that bill well before it is time to vote on that bill. A legislator opposing a bill early is equally acceptable. Just like you, a legislator can read a bill and determine whether it is a good or bad idea.
• Ask FIRST – similar to hiking or hunting on private property, when advocating for or against a bill, it is always better to ask first. Whether you are for or against a bill, you will empower yourself by asking questions BEFORE you share your position. Don’t give away the answer by telling the legislator what you think, start by asking these questions: “Are you familiar with this issue/bill? “Have your taken a position on this issue/bill?” If so, then ask, “What is your position on this issue/bill?”
• More is not better – Asking the questions listed above BEFORE you advocate your position helps to avoid the common mistake of sharing too much information. If a legislator already shares your position, then strongly urging him/her to agree with you is unnecessary. Sharing 1,000 words about why he/she should agree with you when he/she already agrees with you isn’t ten times more effective than sharing 100 words with him or her about why he/she should agree with you. Why? Because he/she already agrees with you. Again, ask first and then treat the two or three groups differently.
• Count your votes – Remember that your goal is to get more votes for your position on a given issue/bill. Ask the questions listed above and then count your votes. If you’re headed into a Senate committee of five members, then all you need is three or more to agree with you… not all five, not thirty-five Senators, not 100 members of the General Assembly… just three or more members of that committee.
• Don’t keep good news to yourself – tell others when a legislator does something right. We humans are very good at telling others when we don’t like something. However, it takes effort to tell others when things go right, when we get what we want. If/when one or more legislators do something right, consider making the effort to share that with others. Why? Because it’s rare for advocates to do that. You’ll set yourself apart from the crowd very quickly and you’ll earn trust and appreciation from those legislators. A kind word, a “Thank You” note, a letter to the editor, a nice blog post, or a comment on Facebook goes a long way.
Day 46 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 74 days remain.
Apparently, in some legislative bodies, members have the option to vote “present” on a question that is before the body. Apparently, in such instances, voting “present” allows a member to take a pass on answering the question.
In Colorado, the standard voting options are Yes or No. A member who does not vote either Yes or No would then be marked as Excused or Absent based on whether he/she had previously asked to be excused and was granted that request by leadership. Note: just as in life outside the Capitol, people get sick, their kids get sick, they visit their doctor or dentist, and life happens.
The state Constitution also provides for a member to recuse him/herself from voting on a question when there is a direct personal financial interest. As with so many other things, the People of Colorado have also fixed that problem that exists in Washington, DC. If a direct personal financial interest exists for a legislator or a member of his/her immediate family, then he/she should request before the body to be excused from voting on that question.
Finally, there is a very rare option to declare “present, but refusing to vote.” I’ve seen that used only one time during my eight years in the Colorado General Assembly. It isn’t an easy pass like voting “present.” Rather, it was a public declaration that the member WAS there, but REFUSED to vote. As I recall, that was a protest by one or a few term-limited members of the Minority. Based on our simple majority threshold, that technique couldn’t and didn’t change the outcome of the question at hand.
Thanks to the People of Colorado for establishing, and amending along the way, a state Constitution that fixes so many of the problems that exist in federal government and some other states.
Day 47 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 73 days remain.
Petition Clause or Safety Clause?
In Colorado, each bill that is introduced includes a description of when the bill will become effective. There will also be an explanation as to whether the change in law proposed by the bill would or would not be subject to the Colorado petition process. If so, then a Petition Clause would be used. If not, then a Safety Clause would be used.
My default position when drafting a bill is to use a Petition Clause, which sets an effective date AND the option to delay that effective date IF someone pulls a petition and starts gathering signatures from registered voters in Colorado to overturn that bill. And, if such a petition is successful and IF a majority of voters who vote to cancel implementation of the bill, then the bill wouldn’t become law.
Nope, that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, I don’t know whether or not it has ever been used. But, that’s not the point. The point is that the People of Colorado are the boss, not the legislature.
Do folks even know that they can do that? That also isn’t the point. Just as not knowing the law is not an acceptable defense in a courtroom, just because you don’t know about THIS provision in Colorado law doesn’t give me or any other legislator the right to trample on you, anyone, our laws, or the state Constitution. Using a Petition Clause protects that right of the People of Colorado.
OK, so if the Petition Clause is clearly the better option that upholds freedom and liberty, then why do we even have a Safety Clause? Because, sometimes, there actually IS some change in law that protects the peace and safety of the People. In those instances, an immediate and definite effective date would be the better option. Those who might oppose a bill, no matter what, simply because the Safety Clause is used, seem to deny that such a need could ever exist.
Do many people know or care? Nope. But now, you know. Whether you care is up to you. Whether a Petition or Safety Clause is used is up to each legislator in each bill. Holding us accountable as to whether we make good decisions regarding the two Clauses is also up to you.
Day 48 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 72 days remain.
TABOR: The four options for an elected official
In Colorado, our state constitution includes a Taxpayers Bill of Rights
(“TABOR”). One of the provisions of TABOR is that elected bodies in
Colorado cannot create a tax or raise a current rate of taxation without
a vote of the people.
That doesn’t just apply to the state legislature. It also applies to county commissioners, town and city councils, school boards, and special districts.
When an elected body of government in Colorado wants to raise taxes (mill levy increase or bonding too), that elected body must refer the measure to the ballot by a vote of that body. Then, if a majority of that elected governmental body votes “Yes” to refer the question, then the question goes to the people for their vote.
That process leaves four options available for elected officials who vote on such questions to refer:
Option 1: “Yes” on the question to refer it to the ballot and “Yes” if the question is on the ballot.
Option 2: “No” on both.
Option 3: “Yes” to refer and “No” if the question is on the ballot.
Option 4: “No” to refer and “Yes” if the question is on the ballot.
As an elected official, I’ve stuck with the second option. And, there are folks who stick with the first. Both make sense to me because there is consistency in both options.
However, there are people who advocate for elected officials to support referring such questions, to vote “Yes” on referral, and then to vote their conscience, yes or no, if/when the question is on the ballot. To me, Option 3 seems inconsistent and to be very risky business. But… people, constituents, do advocate for that option. Why? Almost always it’s because they want the tax increase and Option 3 supports their desired outcome of Option 1.
The last and rather odd option for those who support such a referred measure would be to identify any elected officials who might take Option 4… to vote “No” on referral and then “Yes” if the question is on the ballot. I can’t fit into my head why anyone would take that option, but it does exist. Those who support the tax increase would certainly welcome the help if/when the question makes it to the ballot, which gets us to my point.
TABOR works to limit the growth of government in Colorado, specifically the growth of the fuel on which government runs: your money, your prosperity, your work, your effort. TABOR does a good job of limiting such growth. To TABOR critics, I point out that there are actually three options available to support raising taxes (Options 1, 3, and 4) and only one that truly stands in the gap to limit such growth: no on both.
For those who might suggest that Option 2 indicates some refusal to “let the people vote,” I point to the source of TABOR. The people voted to amend our state Constitution to add TABOR and they voted to elect their elected officials. Sticking with Option 2 wouldn’t even be an option if it weren’t for the People of Colorado.
Day 49 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 71 days remain.
In Colorado, there is an Appropriations Committee in each chamber (House and Senate) of our bi-cameral legislature. Those two committees consider bills that request an appropriation of money from state coffers or… that might actually bring money into state coffers.
Some of the ways that could happen are by reducing expenses, creating a fee, increasing the amount of a fee, proposing a new tax that would be referred to the ballot for voter approval, or a referred measure to increase a tax rate.
The Appropriations Committees don’t consider the merits of the policy in a bill, they simply look at the dollars involved.
The Appropriations Committees generally don’t take public testimony because that opportunity would have occurred previously in at least one another Committee of Reference.
Those two committees tend to move very quickly when they meet and bill sponsors often say very little or nothing when sitting before the Appropriations Committee of their respective chamber.
The process for a bill hearing in an Appropriations Committee consists of the chairman calling the bill sponsor(s) to the witness table, a member of the Committee will move the bill to the Committee of the Whole, and then will move any necessary amendment to add an Appropriations Clause to the bill. The Committee will then vote on that amendment and, if that motion passes, they will vote on moving the bill as amended to the floor.
Bills can and do
die in the Appropriations Committees. If there isn’t money to fund the
bill, then it dies. If money can be allocated from the next fiscal year
budget, then the Appropriations Clause effectively reserves the
designated amount (revenue/expense) in the next fiscal year budget.
If an individual bill has a fiscal note that states “No fiscal impact,” then that bill does not need to route through the Appropriations Committee of that chamber. Yes, there are many bills that have no fiscal impact.
In Colorado, no bill other but the annual budget bill, aka the “Long Bill” due to its length, actually spends or collects money. Every bill receives a fiscal note that explains the fiscal impact, revenues and/or expenses. However, in Colorado, only one bill each year actually allocates revenues: the Long Bill. All other bills that require funding are tied to that one bill via a potential Appropriation Clause, which can be added to a bill by an Appropriations Committee.
If a bill is denied an appropriation by one or the other Appropriations Committee, then it can’t collect or spend money. Thus, it would die (be postponed indefinitely) by one or the other Appropriations Committees.
Day 50 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 70 days remain.
Short version: No, in Colorado, the Minority CANNOT “shut down the process” by denying quorum.
The Constitution of the state of Colorado, Article V, Section 11, Quorum, states:
“A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members.”
In Colorado, quorum requirements are based on a SIMPLE MAJORITY of members elected to a chamber. Democrats currently have MORE than a simple majority (the next whole number greater than half) of members in both the House and Senate.
Mathematically, a minority of members attempting to deny quorum is impossible here in Colorado. Yes, it may work in other states, but it cannot work here in Colorado… unless members of the majority caucus were to join in the effort.
But, if Democrats were to join in the effort of denying quorum, then we wouldn’t need to deny quorum. Why? Because we would then have the required number of votes to defeat the bill, which is also defined in our state Constitution as a simple majority of members elected to the chamber.
No, having members absent or excused does not, cannot, would not, reduce the number of votes required for passage. Those numbers remain at 33 in the House and 18 in the Senate.
In the state House, there are 65 seats. A simple majority is 33. Democrats currently hold 41 seats. That’s more than 33. In the Senate, there are 35 seats. A simple majority is 18. Democrats hold 19 seats. That’s more than 18.
Yes, we might look back to stories out of Texas and Wisconsin where the media reported that a minority of members “shut down the process.” IF those stories were reported accurately, THEN it proves one thing: the state constitution in one or both of those states is different than the Constitution of the state of Colorado.
Lots of well-intentioned people offered up the ”deny quorum” idea back in 2013 when Democrats held both legislative chambers and the Governor’s office. Many of those people were *outraged* when Republicans didn’t deny quorum on one, some, or all of the Democrat gun bills that year.
And, it took a lot of time and effort to explain that it was not for a lack of resolve, but a different state constitution, that prevented that idea from working here in Colorado. It won’t work here in Colorado because it CANNOT work here in Colorado.
If all 16 Senate Republicans were to leave the state and refuse to vote, then we would be simply counted as either “Absent” or “Excused” and the Democrats would have MORE than the required number to establish quorum… in both chambers. And, they would have MORE than the number required to pass the bill.
But, here in Colorado, our state Constitution goes a step further. Note the last sentence of Article V, Section 11. Democrats could also compel all of the Republicans to return… or even to be brought back to the chamber, by force, if necessary.
Here in Colorado, there is a “Call” motion, which requires LESS than a simple majority to sustain. So, in the state Senate, when a Call is sustained, the Senate President can then send he Senate Sergeants and/or the Colorado State Patrol, to bring absent members to the chamber, by force, if necessary. And, any expenses related to that effort could be billed to those members brought back to the chamber… by force, if necessary.
Day 51 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 69 days remain.
Once a bill passes both chambers, the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, Chief Clerk of the House, and the Secretary of the Senate all sign an updated version of the bill that is entitled “An Act.” At that point, the document is no longer a bill because it has completed the legislative process and is now an Act that is ready to be signed into law or to be vetoed by the Governor.
From there, the Act is delivered downstairs to the first floor of the Capitol and to the Governor’s office. That literally moves the Act from the Legislative Branch to the Executive Branch.
During the session, the Governor has ten days to decide whether to sign the Act into law, sign it as a veto, or to allow it to become law without his signature. After the session, the Governor has thirty days to decide.
If the Governor and the bill sponsors wish to do so, a bill signing can be accommodated. During the session, those events generally take place in the Governor’s office. After the session, those events are sometimes held at locations that relate to the Act(s) being signed.
When the Governor signs a bill into law, a staffer is there to tell him the exact time and date at the moment he competes the signing process. The Governor then notes that information on the Act as an official record of the exact moment in time that the Act became law.
Since new laws can’t be retroactive, it’s important to know WHEN each Act is actually signed into law.
There are also pictures, happy faces, and a pen for each prime bill sponsor. The photo below is from my first bill signing with Governor Polis. SB19-028 passed both chambers unanimously.
Day 52 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 68 days remain.
Back in the early 1990’s, Colorado voters amended our state Constitution to put term limits on all elected officials in/from our state. That included our members of Congress, but the US Supreme Court struck down that application since it created two classes of federal legislators: those from Colorado versus every other US Representative or US Senator.
For the 100 members of the Colorado General Assembly, the term limit is eight years in each chamber. House terms are two years each and a member can serve four terms, which equals eight years. Senate terms are four years each and a member can serve two terms, which equals eight years.
There are provisions for people who are elected by vacancy. If a member resigns, passes away, or is recalled during a term, the person who is elected to replace that member *could* serve more than eight years in that chamber *if* he/she is sworn in at least one day after the mid-point of the current term. That’s rare, but it *could* mean nine years in the House or ten years in the Senate.
On the other hand, if a member is elected by vacancy and then sworn in prior to the halfway point of the current term, then it *would* mean that person would serve less than eight years in that chamber. The time served by the person who vacated would count against his/her replacement IF the vacancy occurred prior to the halfway point of the current term.
In the Senate where we have four-year terms, such a scenario would also trigger an out-of-cycle general election. In such cases, that Senate seat would be up for election at the next general election, meaning a two-year interval rather than the standard four-year interval for a state Senate seat. Then, that seat would come up for election again on its standard four-year cycle in order to put that Senate seat back in its standard four-year sequence. On the rare occasion that happens, that state Senate seat would be on the ballot for three, two-year, cycles in a row: When the original member won the seat, two years later when the vacancy winner would appear on the ballot, and then two more years later in order to put that seat back in sequence. This is why you don’t see many state Senators leaving the Senate during the first two years of any four-year term. In the House, all 65 seats are up for election every two years so it doesn’t matter as much when the vacancy occurs.
If you’d like to see the term limits for our 35 current state Senators, then click the following link:
The term limits for our 65 current state Representatives, click this link:
Day 53 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 67 days remain.
The Legislative Audit Committee (“LAC”)
The Legislative Audit Committee is a bi-cameral, bi-partisan, committee comprised of eight members, with four from each chamber and four being from each major party. It is a not a politically-driven committee and remains balanced between chamber and party regardless of majority control of the two chambers.
The Committee works with the State Auditor, who is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, to conduct audits of governmental agencies in Colorado.
Please visit the web site of the State Auditor for a TON of information about past audits, audits presently being conducted, and more.
Pro Tip: Most suggestions or demands for audits are for things that have already been audited… so take time to check the web site before suggesting an audit. SO much has already been done and SO much information is provided at the State Auditor’s web site.
This is another page that you might want to “Bookmark” or “Add to Favorites” so that you’ll have it if you ever need it.
Day 54 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 66 days remain.
Upon a vote of two-thirds or more of the body, our state House or Senate can take up Special Orders Second Reading of Bills. That means that the body, either the House or Senate, can take up debate on one or more bills not listed on the General Orders Second Reading of Bills Calendar for that day.
In the Senate, we also have a Consent Calendar, which also allows us the option to take up a Special Orders Second Reading of Bills Consent Calendar.
In the normal course of business, both chambers work from their respective General Orders Calendar, which lists bills that have passed out of the last committee and head to the floor for Second Reading.
Once a bill passes out of a committee, committee staff prepares a committee report, which is then signed by the committee chairman. Such committee reports are then sent to the desk of that chamber and were they are read aloud in the chamber while that chamber is seated.
Bills are then placed on the Calendar of that chamber for Second Reading, generally two legislative days hence, since an item must be listed on the Calendar for a day in order to provide public notice of that pending action.
That’s what defines “General Orders” as opposed to “Special Orders.” General Orders is the normal order of business while Special Orders describes something done out of the normal order of business.
By Rule, chamber staff organizes bills that come out of committee and place them on the General Orders Second Reading of Bills Calendar on a first-come, first listed basis. This is one often misunderstood aspect of our state legislative process with many incorrectly assuming that elected chamber leadership control that General Orders order if bills.
Nope, the Majority Leader of each chamber *can* reorganize the Calendar of that chamber once it is published, but and such motion must receive at least simple majority support to pass. Or, in the case of Special Orders, by a two-thirds majority.
Special Orders provide an alternative for the chamber to expedite one or more bills through the Second Reading process. You won’t see Special Orders Third Reading of Bills in Colorado because our state Constitution requires that Third Reading must take place on at least the next legislative day from Second Reading. Thus, it is not possible for a chamber to accelerate a Third Reading vote prior to the next legislative day.
Day 55 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 65 days remain.
Understanding Amendments and Bill Versions
In Colorado, as a bill moves through our state legislature, amendments can be offered by members of the various committees of reference that hear each bill. If a bill passes out of the last committee to which it is assigned or routed due to a fiscal note, it then heads to the floor of that chamber for Second Reading during which any member of that chamber is able to offer amendments to that bill.
It’s important to understand that, during the committee process, the version of the bill that is available to you online will not change. Why? Because only the entire chamber, either the House or Senate, has the authority to adopt the next version of that bill, which would include any amendments up to that point as approved by all members of that chamber.
When a bill is amended by a committee, a committee report is created. If that bill reaches the floor of that chamber, then the sponsor would move the bill and any associated committee report(s) during Second Reading before all members of that chamber.
If the body, meaning all members of that chamber, approve a committee report and/or other amendments offered on the floor, and the bill then passes Second Reading, then a new version of that bill would be created. The new version of the bill would then be uploaded and available on the General Assembly website later that day or early the next morning.
When a bill is introduced, you’ll find the word “Introduced” in the upper right-hand corner of that bill. If that bill passes second reading with one or more amendments, then you will find the word “Engrossed” in the upper right-hand corner. If that bill is amended on Third Reading, then it would become “Re-Engrossed.”
If that Bill is amended in the next chamber, then the next version would be titled “Revised.” If that bill is amended by the second chamber again then it would transition to “Re-Revised.”
It’s important to understand the process of amending bills and when bills versions are updated to include those amendments. If you’re following a bill closely through the committee process, then you might get frustrated looking at a bill that is outdated because it does not include amendments that were added during the committee process.
That’s not because Capitol staff are slow at updating bills, it’s because only the entire body of a chamber can actually update that bill and move it forward… and that just hasn’t happened yet.
Day 56 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 64 days remain.
Effective Advocacy Isn’t Easy or Obvious
Almost all grassroots advocacy efforts are designed to encourage a constituent to contact his or her state Representative and state Senator. Depending on where you live in Colorado, you live in one state House district and one state Senate district. Thus, one state Representative and one state Senator represent you in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.
That’s easy and obvious, right?
One problem that I experienced back in 2013 and 2014 is occurring again now during the 2019 general session. That is, the majority of grassroots advocacy that is sent from constituents in the district that I represent is in opposition to bills that are primarily sponsored by members of the Majority Party in one or both chambers.
It is no surprise that the majority of people here in Senate District 30 tend to be more opposed to bills that are more to the left on the policy spectrum. Furthermore, it is no surprise to see many constituents here in the district that I currently represent expressing their opposition.
The problem is that, in almost all cases, that opposition advocacy is being directed exclusively to two legislators who also oppose the given bill. Hmm… does that make such effort wrong? No, not at all. But, it isn’t effective. Why? Because those two legislators already agree with the position being advocated.
My plea, my encouragement to those who are opposed to a given bill this year or next is to start an advocacy effort by asking your two legislators, “How will you vote on [Bill Number]?” If you already agree, then respond with “Thank you.”
From there, be willing to contact OTHER legislators. Why? Because if you start and stop with the two who represent you based on geography and, if those two already agree with you, then you haven’t had much, if any, influence on the outcome of that bill. That’s where effective advocacy isn’t easy or obvious.
Because our state legislative process is based on the rule of simple majority, your goal isn’t to simply express your views on a given bill. Yes, you can do that, but the goal is to get more votes for your side of the debate… either “Yes” or “No.” Thus, limiting your communications to only your two legislators is unlikely to change the total “Yes” or “No” votes, especially if those two legislators already agree with your position.
Effective advocacy follows a given bill through the legislative process. Effective advocacy focuses on the members of a committee that will hear a given bill on a given day. At that point, only those five-to-thirteen legislators (depending on the chamber and committee) can vote on that bill on that day. And, in order to win, all you need is for a simple majority of that committee to vote the way that you want them to vote.
Does that mean that if your state Representative or state Senator doesn’t serve on that committee, then you have no say? No, it just means that you need to communicate with legislators who don’t represent you based on geography and where you chose to live. That isn’t as easy or obvious.
Effective advocacy focuses on those who CAN vote on a given bill at the next step of the legislative process, regardless of where they live or who they represent. Be comfortable advocating your position to all members of a committee or chamber.
You can find all committee and chamber rosters at the General Assembly web site along with the Calendar for each chamber. Those Calendars will provide date, time, and location for each committee hearing and/or floor work in that chamber. Bookmark that site so that you can find that information when you need it. That way, your effort will be more easy and obvious.
Make it a great day!
Day 57 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 63 days remain.
An Amendment to the Report of the Committee of the Whole
In Colorado, if a bill passes out of the last committee to which it has been assigned or routed due to its fiscal note, then that bill moves to the floor of that chamber for Second Reading, in either the House or Senate.
Second Reading provides opportunity for debate among all members of that chamber and, when all members of a chamber who are present meet, the body is referred to as the Committee of the Whole, aka “COW.” That could be the origin of the saying “A racehorse designed by a committee is a cow”
When meeting as the Committee of the Whole, the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate turns over the gavel to another member of that chamber who serves as the chairman for that meeting.
Bills that are eligible for Second Reading are then moved, debated, amended, and voted upon by all members present. Most votes that are conducted during Second Reading are based on voice votes, with the chairman determining the outcome. Those voice votes can later be challenged with a “COW Amendment,” which is the point of this session today.
Then, upon motion of the Majority Leader to “Rise and report” followed by a voice vote of the body, Second Reading ends and a Report of that work is prepared for the Speaker or President. The member who served as chairman will then request that the Report be read and then he/she will move for adoption of the Report.
That’s when any member of the chamber can offer an Amendment to the Report of the Committee of the Whole (aka a “COW amendment”). Since voting during Second Reading is conducted by voice vote, COW amendments provide opportunity to secure recorded votes. COW amendments also provide opportunity to test any ruling of the chairman who, again, had total discretion during Second Reading to determine the outcome of a voice vote.
Finally, a COW amendment provides opportunity to propose that what did happen during Second Reading didn’t happen OR what didn’t happen did. Confused yet?
Here’s an example: Back in 2002, I was part of a group that was working on a bill that was before the state Senate. We wanted that bill to pass, which meant that we needed to secure at least 18 “Yes” votes in the 35-member Senate.
When the bill came up on Second Reading, a member who was opposed to the bill called for a “Division” vote where members for or against the bill stand up to be counted by staff. The bill failed to pass (died) due to a 17-to-17 tie.
We then determined that one Senator had briefly left the floor to use the restroom. No problem. Another member who supported our effort ran a COW amendment to show that the bill DID pass. The COW amendment passed 18 to 17 and the Report of the Committee of the Whole was amended to reflect that the bill passed. The Report was then passed by the Senate, which placed that report in the Senate Journal, which is the official record of business for the Senate.
If you support or oppose a given bill that makes it to Second Reading in one or the other chamber, then it can be important to follow closely during Second Reading and through the adoption of the Report of the Committee of the Whole.
If a simple majority or more of members of that chamber agree, then an Amendment to the Report of the Committee of the Whole can correct some error or… determine that what did happen didn’t… or that what didn’t happen did.
Is that crazy? No. It’s the will of that chamber. Well, the will of at least a simple majority of members elected to that chamber. And, that’s a very important standard in our state legislative process. Our state constitution establishes that standard and only the People can change it via a statewide vote.
Day 58 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 62 days remain.
Speak to the Bill
At the end of a bill hearing or floor debate, members will vote on a question to “move the bill” to the next stage in the legislative process. That motion pertains to the words and numbers on paper that are the sum total of that bill.
When members debate a bill, our comments to the chairman of a committee or to the President/Speaker must be to the bill. We can and do get gaveled for straying away from the actual words and numbers on paper that are that bill.
It is rare for a committee chairman to actually gavel a member of the public during public testimony in a committee hearing. Usually, such an interruption would be made verbally with the chairman asking politely that the “witness” (you’re not under oath in a courtroom) speak to the bill.
The point here is that whether you’re a member of the public or of the General Assembly, the only words and numbers that can be “moved” are those contained within the four corners of the bill, plus any amendments to that bill as approved by at least a simple majority vote of that committee or chamber.
That’s why, when testifying for or against a bill, it’s very important and helpful to speak to the bill. Reference page number, line, and word. Explain why a particular section is good or bad. Refer to the good or bad aspects of the fiscal impact. Talk about the positive or negative impacts should the bill pass or fail.
Because members will vote “Yes” or “No” to move THOSE words and numbers to the next step in the legislative process – and nothing else. That’s what a bill is.
Remember to speak to those words and numbers. Speak “to the bill.”
Day 59 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 61 days remain.
Yes, Weekends and Holidays Count
In 1988, the People of Colorado voted 53% “Yes” to 47% “No” to approve Referendum 3, which limited the Colorado General Assembly to one annual general session of no more than 120 days.
That Referendum amended the state constitution so there is NO WAY for the legislature to change that limitation. Only the People, specifically those who vote, could increase or decrease the number of days per year OR the frequency from annual to an every-other-year cycle.
Furthermore, the ONLY WAY that the People could make another change would be to place a new question on a future ballot, either by referred measure from the legislature (unlikely) or by ANYONE pulling a petition and collecting the required number of signatures from registered voters in Colorado.
Yes, weekends and holidays count toward the total of 120 days. Tomorrow, Monday, March 4, will be day 60 of the 2019 general session, the halfway point!
While many states limit session time, it is common for the Governor and/or the legislature of a state to have sole or joint authority to extend session time. Not so here in Colorado. There is NO WAY for there to be a 121st day of a Colorado general session. That cannot happen under our current state Constitution.
No, the Governor cannot extend a general session by calling a special session. If/when a special session is called, any/all bill(s) introduced during a special session are specific to that special session. Such bills would have a Bill Number that would be unique to that special session.
No bill with a Bill Number associated with any prior general or special session could be introduced or moved further in the legislative process during that new special session.
Any/all bills that are introduced during a special session must start at the beginning of the legislative process: First Reading in the chamber of introduction. Nothing associated with the legislative process can carry over from a prior session. Any/all bills start from step one.
Yes, the topic of a prior bill can be revisited. Yes, a new bill could be introduced under a new Bill Number to address some topic that was addressed by some prior bill that failed in a prior session. Yes, that can and does happen. However, all such new bills start at the beginning of the process because, here in Colorado, nothing can carry over from one session to another.
Why? Because the People of Colorado wanted it that way.
Day 60 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 60 days remain. We’re half the way through the session!
The Colorado Constitution and Colorado Revised Statutes are Available Online
Most people are aware that, in addition to the US Constitution, each state has its own Constitution. However, few people, it seems, have actually read the Constitution of the State of Colorado. Our state Constitution is more an evolving book than the concise blueprint for limited government that is the United States Constitution.
If you’d like to read the Colorado Constitution, it’s available online via LexisNexis.com. Just click the link below, then the “Agree” button on the resulting web page. From there, click the “Colorado Constitution” link, which can be found in the right side menu when using a laptop or desktop computer or at the bottom of the page when using a mobile device.
Each year, the laws (statutes) of Colorado are revised by the General Assembly and then re-printed and posted online at LexisNexis to reflect the current laws (statutes) of our state. That’s why our laws are called the Colorado Revised Statutes (“CRS”).
When referring to a certain place in our state statutes in a bill, traffic ticket, or other legal document, you’ll often see reference to “CRS § ##-##-###.” The three digit numbering system refers to the Title, Article, and Section number associated with that law. For example, CRS § 18-3-102 is the statutory reference to our state law against murder in the first degree.
Once you get comfortable with the Title, Article, Section format, it is fairly easy to locate specific laws within the 43 Titles in our state law. There is also a Keyword search tool provided at LexisNexis if you need help finding something within the Colorado Constitution of Colorado Revised Statutes.
Day 61 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 59 days remain. The countDOWN has begun!
The Commodities of Numbers and Words
Bills are words and numbers on paper. Laws are words and numbers on paper that receive enough votes to pass through the legislative process. The legislature deals in the commodities of words and numbers.
When dealing with numbers, it is relatively easy to work through disagreement. If you want 100 somethings and I want 50 somethings, then 75 somethings would probably be a reasonable number for us to settle upon. That type of high-low discussion occurs in the legislative process. I consider numbers to be relatively easy when compared to the complexity and opportunity of words.
As Rush Limbaugh often reminds his listeners, “Words mean things.” Finding the right words can make a huge difference. Fierce debate and opposite outcomes can hinge on the differences between the words “Shall” and “May” or “And” and “Or.”
A bill that is before the Colorado General Assembly might contain dozens, hundreds, or thousands of words. If you and I were negotiating, discussing, or debating a given bill, then we might find dozens, hundreds, or thousands of ways to change the wording of that bill in order to achieve agreement on that bill.
If we agree on the problem to be solved and, if we agree that the bill is generally a good attempt at solving that problem, then where within that bill do we disagree? Is it a single word? That can and does happen. Is it multiple words? A sentence, paragraph, section, page, or pages? Are there other words that could be used or some other sequence of the same words that could better describe our proposed solution?
Those are the types of granular discussions that can take place on any given bill. However, such discussions might never occur if we disagree on the problem to be solved and/or that the bill is a reasonable attempt to solve a given problem.
In Colorado, such discussions also do not take place when one-Party rule exists in both chambers of our state legislature. The People of Colorado have given us a state Constitution that honors the rule of simple majority. And, that means when one Party controls both legislative chambers and the Governor’s office, then the only thing that can control them IS THEM.
Oh, that the People of Colorado will vote to restore balance in our state government in 2020.
Day 62 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 58 days remain.
Occasionally, a well-intentioned person will point to going to or past midnight on a given legislative day as a tactical opportunity to kill a bill or otherwise upset the legislative process.
? Hmm… not really.
Last night, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy completed its hearing on Senate Bill 19-181 at about 2:00 a.m. The Committee Chair will now receive a Committee Report, which shall include any/all amendments that may have been adopted by her committee and a record of the final motion that was approved by that committee. For those following that bill, I believe that motion was to refer SB19-181 to the Committee on Finance.
When the Chair signs that Committee Report, her committee staff person will then deliver that Report to the Senate desk where it will be read into the record. At that point, the bill will be eligible to be heard in the next committee.
Nothing about that long committee hearing threatens the bill or the legislative process. In Colorado, House and Senate Committees of Reference can go to or past midnight on any legislative day… except the 120th of those days.
Where our legislative process DOES matter relative to midnight is when either chamber is considering bills on Second Reading, which occurs in the respective chambers. Once Second Reading begins in a chamber, the members of that chamber MUST adopt a Report of the Committee of the Whole (“COW”) regarding their Second Reading work.
If that COW Report is not adopted at or before midnight of that day, THEN that Second Reading effort for that chamber would exist in an extension of the prior day. We saw that once two years ago when the state House of Representatives experienced two versions of a Thursday during a given week.
But, it didn’t kill any bill(s), nor did it derail the legislative process. It was just awkward. It could make a difference at or near the end of our 120-day process as time runs out for a session, but not otherwise.
Likely? No. Possible? Yes.
Day 63 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 57 days remain.
The Motion to “Reverse roll call, PI”
In Colorado, when a bill is heard in a Committee of Reference, a motion is in order at or near the conclusion of that hearing. The first appropriate motion on any bill would be to move that bill to the next step in the legislative process. For example, “Thank you Mr/Mdm Chairman, I move [Bill Number] to the Committee of the Whole with a favorable recommendation.”
Such a motion could be to another Committee of Reference such as the Finance or Appropriations Committee, or it could be to the Committee of the Whole (floor/chamber) for Second Reading if the fiscal aspects of that bill do not require it to go through Finance and/or Appropriations.
Again, the appropriate motion FOR ANY BILL would be to move that bill to the next step in the legislative process. That is true no matter what the bill is about, who is sponsoring that bill, or what Party controls the chamber/committee that is hearing that bill. Such a motion can then pass or fail depending on the votes cast by members of that committee.
However, just because it is APPROPRIATE for such a motion to be made does not mean that such a motion must or even should pass. Nope, it’s just the appropriate motion, which can then can be answered by each member of that committee by voting “Yes” or “No.” OK, so what happens if such a motion fails?
Previously, we have discussed the motion to “postpone indefinitely” (“PI”) a bill that is before a committee or the body (chamber) as a whole. Since bills that are active must be eligible to be on a Calendar, either in a chamber or a committee, when a motion passes to PI a bill, that bill is dead because it has been postponed to an indefinite time and place.
There is no proper motion to “kill” a bill. If a member were to say, “Thank you, Mr/Mdm Chairman. I move to kill [Bill Number]” the chairman would rule that motion out of order because there is no such motion. The appropriate motion is to “postpone indefinitely.” If the bill has failed to move to the next step in the legislative process, then it is stuck and effectively dead… but not quite.
Now, back to the procedural motion to “reverse roll call, PI.” Let’s say that there are five members of the committee: Smith, Adams, Washington, Flintstone, and Rubble. On a motion to refer a bill to the Committee of Whole, Senators Flintstone and Rubble vote “Yes” while Senators Smith, Adams, and Washington vote “No.” The motion fails 2 “Yes” versus 3 “No.”
In legislative longhand, the next motion could be to “Postpone indefinitely [Bill Number],” followed by another roll call vote. Based on the prior vote, a motion to PI would probably pass 3-2 with Senators Smith, Adams, and Washington voting “Yes” to PI (kill) the bill and Senators Flintstone and Rubble voting “No.” The same 3 oppose the bill and the same two support it.
Or, the same thing can be achieved with a motion to “reverse roll call, PI.” The motion proposes that the five Senators confirm the first outcome by voting the opposite way (Yes or No) on the opposite question. If all five Senators agree and there is no objection to the motion to “reverse roll call, PI,” then the five Senators agree to a 3-2 vote to postpone indefinitely the bill in question without having to call the roll a second time.
OK… before anyone gets upset about legislators hiding their final vote, please note that doesn’t happen. The second vote is still recorded and the motion does not hide or shield any of the five members from their first or second vote. Nope, both votes are recorded and each of the five made his/her position known on that bill. They just accomplished the same outcome more efficiently.
In the scenario above, Senator Smith voted “No” to move the bill further along the process and he/she voted “Yes” to postpone indefinitely (‘kill”) that same bill.
In the scenario above, Senator Flintstone voted “Yes” to vote the bill further along the process and he/she voted “No” to postpone indefinitely (“kill”) that same bill.
Both voted twice, once each on two different motions. Both votes are permanently recorded and available for public inspection. It’s just that the final motion used the previous role call in reverse rather than conducting it a second time.
Day 64 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 56 days remain.
The Legislative Library
If you’re at the state Capitol and you need a copy of a bill or fiscal note…
Or maybe you want to research information from a prior session…
Or you need copies of the Pink Book or Pink Sheet directories of legislators…
Then go to the Legislative Library and ask for what you need.
The library is located at the bottom of the main, central staircase, in the basement level of the Capitol Building. Stop by and check it out.
Day 65 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 55 days remain.
Caucus Positions Prohibited
Serving as the Leader of a legislative caucus, either Majority or Minority, means that people will ask me why I don’t require members of our caucus to vote a certain way on one, some, or all bills. The answer is found in our state Constitution.
The Constitution of the State of Colorado, Article V, Legislative Department, Section 22a.
Caucus Positions Prohibited
(1) No member or members of the general assembly shall require or commit themselves or any other member or members, through a vote in a party caucus or any other similar procedure, to vote in favor of or against any bill, appointment, veto, or other measure or issue pending or proposed to be introduced in the general assembly.
Pretty clear, huh?
And now, you know.
Day 66 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 54 days remain.
When Can a Recall Occur?
Over the past few weeks, friends have asked about the timing requirements for recalling various elected officials. As is common, there is no shortage of self-made attorneys here on Facebook, many of whom get things half right or completely wrong.
Please note that I am NOT an attorney. Thus, I cannot provide legal advice or advise anyone as to his or her rights or responsibilities under the law. If you have questions of a legal nature, then please consult with an attorney.
On this topic, the Facebook experts generally fall into two camps. First, those who have “heard” that an elected official in Colorado cannot be recalled until he/she has held office for at least six months following the last election. The other camp says that recalls can occur after only five days in office.
OK… so, which one is true?
The answer is BOTH.
Wait… what? How can that be? 😡
Rather than get angry, let’s take a layperson journey into the Colorado Revised Statutes to find the answer.
First, remember that the Constitution and laws of Colorado are available online 24/7/365. You don’t need a subscription to access that information. You don’t need a law degree to read those words and numbers. If you don’t have it Bookmarked already, then you may want to add the following URL to your Bookmarks so that you’ll have it when you need it:
When you arrive at that page, you’ll need to click “Accept” to the Terms of Service in order to proceed.
The system will then defaults to the Colorado Revised Statutes. To the left (on a desktop or laptop), you’ll see links to the Colorado Constitution and the United States Constitution. On a mobile device, those links will be listed below the Statutes.
Now, click on “Title 1. Elections”
Next, click on “General, Primary, Recall, and Congressional Vacancy Elections”
Next, click on “Article 12. Recall and Vacancies in Office”
And then, click on “Part 1. Recall from Office”
Under Title 1, Article 12, you’ll find a long list of Section numbers and topics. Now, click on Section 102, which is titled “Limitations” to read the answer to our Question of the Day.
Here’s the text:
= = =
Colorado Revised Statutes: 1-12-102. Limitations
(1) No recall petition shall be circulated or filed against any elected officer until the officer has actually held office for at least six months following the last election; except that a recall petition may be filed against any member of the general assembly at any time after the fifth day following the convening and organizing of the general assembly after the election.
= = =
OK, from my layperson, part-time citizen legislator, perspective, the first part of that long sentence seems to tell us that a recall petition cannot be circulated or filed until an elected official has been in office at least six months after the last election.
AND THEN… after the semi-colon; the word “EXCEPT” appears. And then, the sentence continues to explain that the one-hundred members of the General Assembly can be recalled after the fifth legislative day of a general session. Oh, and for reference, that occurred sixty-one days ago.
So… if you’ve heard, read, or seen one side of this argument and not the other, then now you know both sides.
No, this isn’t legal advice. It’s just my layperson attempt to direct you to the right words and numbers. You decide for yourself and, if you have questions of a legal nature, then PLEASE consult with an attorney.
Make it a great day!
Day 67 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 53 days remain.
Understanding Legal Standing
Readers will recognize the following disclosure because it is so often repeated here:
I am not an attorney. Thus, I cannot provide legal advice or advise anyone as to his or her rights or responsibilities under the law. If you have questions of a legal nature, then please consult with an attorney.
The following is my layperson perspective. Being elected to the General Assembly does not make me any more an attorney than before I was elected.
During the 2013 and 2014 general sessions, the last time that Democrats held all the power in our state legislative process, several bills passed through the General Assembly that angered the People.
One example was House Bill 13-1224, which created the “mag ban.” As that bill moved through the legislature, some well-intentioned people called for legal action to stop that bill from passing. That cannot happen. Why? The Separation of Powers.
After that bill passed through the legislature and before it became law, some well-intentioned people called for legal action to prevent it from becoming law. That cannot happen. Why? No one yet had standing.
After the bill became law, a law suit was filed. While that suit failed, it could happen. Why? Because once that bill became law, THEN at least one person could have STANDING. Before that point in time, no one could have had standing. Why? Because a bill is not a law.
Let’s back up a bit to consider the legislative process. The concept of using the Judicial Branch to stop the Legislative Branch flies in the face of the Separation of Powers. If the Judicial Branch could be used to stop the Legislative Branch, then we would have unequal Branches.
Those who support the Constitution don’t want concentrated power. Thus, we don’t want the Judicial Branch to have the power to determine which bills the Legislative Branch is allowed to pass.
🤔 Hmm… good point, huh?
As for suing to find a law to be unconstitutional, keep in mind that a BILL isn’t a LAW. That is not a minor distinction, those words mean very different things.
Once a bill becomes law, THEN it can affect the lives of We the People. At THAT point, one or more people COULD have standing. Before then, standing is probably not possible.
🤔 Hmm… good point, huh?
It is understandable that people want to do SOMETHING to stop the many bad bills moving through the General Assembly. Using the Judicial Branch to stop the Legislative Branch probably isn’t an effective means to accomplish that goal.
It would probably be more effective to focus on getting more “No” votes on a given bill. Why? Because that is the ONLY way to “kill” a bill once it is introduced into our state legislative process. Why? Because the People of Colorado wanted it this way and we voted to amend our state Constitution to make it this way.
🤔 Hmm… good point, huh?
Make it a great day!
Day 68 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 52 days remain.
Asking for a Bill to be Read at Length
Article V, Section 22 of the Colorado Constitution requires that every bill be read by title when introduced, and at length on two different days in each chamber. The Section also allows for the members of each chamber to dispense with the reading of a bill at length upon unanimous consent of all members present.
OK, so what happens if even one member of a chamber does not consent? Simple: the bill is read at length.
How often does that apply? Twice, once on two different days.
Which days? First, if/when the bill is considered on Second Reading, which is the first full debate of all members present in a chamber. Second, if/when the bill is considered on Third Reading, which is the final recorded vote of all members present in a chamber. The state constitution requires that Second and Third Reading occur on separate days so those two readings would occur on separate days.
Since this requirement to read bills at length, and the availability of dispensing with it upon unanimous consent, are in our state constitution, those provisions cannot be overruled by state statute, legislative rule, the presiding officer, or a simple majority of members. Nope, only the unanimous consent of all members present is sufficient to dispense with reading of a bill at length… on two separate days.
Here’s the language from the Colorado Constitution:
= = =
Article V, Legislative Department, Section 22, Reading and Passage of Bills
Every bill shall be read by title when introduced, and at length on two different days in each house; provided, however, any reading at length may be dispensed with upon unanimous consent of the members present. All substantial amendments made thereto shall be printed for the use of the members before the final vote is taken on the bill, and no bill shall become a law except by a vote of the majority of all members elected to each house taken on two separate days in each house, nor unless upon its final passage the vote be taken by ayes and noes and the names of those voting be entered on the journal.
= = =
Reading a bill at length is guaranteed by our state constitution as a matter of transparency. The members of a chamber are entitled to hear a bill before they/we vote on it. The public, those whom we serve, deserve to hear a bill before it becomes law. Even if the Majority considers it a nuisance, such transparency is required under the Constitution. We the People require it.
Make it a great day!
Day 69 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 51 days remain.
The Speaker of the House and President of the Senate have authority to determine whether their respective chamber will be closed for weather-related issues.
Today, Speaker Becker decided to not to convene in the state House. Meanwhile, President Garcia decided to continue business as usual in the Senate.
Make it a great… snow day!
Day 70 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 50 days remain.
Delayed Start Times
Snow Days were the topic yesterday. Today, we’ll consider delayed start times. Again, The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate have authority to determine when a delayed start will occur in her/his respective chamber.
Generally, both chambers convene at 10 AM on Mondays during the session and 9 AM Tuesday through Friday. If/when the presiding officer orders, her/his chamber may begin at a later time on any day during the session.
Today, we in the Senate Minority have been notified that the Senate will convene at 11 a.m. That does not mean that the House must embrace a similar delayed start, but they may. That’s a decision that the Speaker would make for her chamber.
Day 71 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 49 days remain.
Because the Colorado Constitution requires the General Assembly to pass a budget each year and, because the state Constitution requires that each budget be balanced, it is therefore necessary for the Legislative Branch to understand how many dollars we have to allocate each year through that budget.
Today, upon adjournment of the state House and Senate, the six members of the Joint Budget Committee (“JBC”) will receive the final revenue forecast prior to introducing the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, which should occur on or about Monday, March 25, 2019.
This morning, upon adjournment of the two chambers, the JBC will convene to receive a revenue forecast from Legislative Council staff. That last forecast is now more a report of actual revenues because April 15, tax day, is one month away. A lot of the total revenue has been collected, we’re near the end of that annual process.
With that information, the JBC can finalize their proposed balanced budget based on increasingly accurate revenue collections from this fiscal year and, now, projecting what revenues might be during the next fiscal year. For reference, the Colorado fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30 each year.
Visit the JBC web page for more information about the revenue forecast. FYI: Information will be posted once that meeting begins and staff begins to present their report.
Day 72 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 48 days remain.
The Colorado Capitol Complex, aka “Capitol Hill” is similar to the geographic area of Washington, DC in that both areas serve as a sort of neutral ground for those elected to serve in the state or federal legislature. While the state Capitol is located in Denver, that geographic area and the people within it are protected by the Colorado State Patrol, not the Denver Police Department or the Denver Sheriff.
The Executive Protection Unit of the Colorado State Patrol provides transportation and protection services to the Governor and the First Family. They also provide security services at the Capitol Complex and the Governor’s residence.
When a crime is committed on Capitol grounds, the State Patrol will work with the Denver Police Department to investigate, but the immediate response to a threat within the Capitol Complex comes from State Troopers.
Those men and women are each outstanding individuals and, collectively, form a stellar organization. I am proud and grateful to work with and among them.
If you visit the Colorado Capitol, please take time to thank those State Troopers for their work. They deserve to hear it.
Make it a great day!
Day 73 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 47 days remain.
The Long Bill
Here in Colorado, our state constitution requires the General Assembly to pass a budget each year. The state constitution also requires that each budget be balanced. Our state legislature cannot spend or allocate more money than it actually has… or will have… during each fiscal year.
For reference, the State of Colorado operates on a fiscal year that begins on July 1 of each year and ends on June 30 of the following year.
Our state constitution also limits the General Assembly to only one “omnibus” bill each year, that being the budget bill. All other bills must comply with the Single Subject requirement, which is also required by our state constitution.
The annual budget bill is more commonly known as “The Long Bill” due to its length. While many bills require an appropriation of money, the budget is where all such appropriations are made in total.
It’s common for people to assume that the state budget includes a deficit as exists each year in the federal budget. Nope. While Congress, the federal legislature, can print money, borrow money, raise tax rates, or create a new tax, our state legislature cannot do any of those things.
The Long Bill should be introduced on or about Monday, March 25. The Joint Budget Committee (“JBC”) received the final revenue forecast last Friday and they are now working to align expenses with that final forecast of revenue. That way, the budget they introduce next week will be balanced based on that most recent revenue forecast.
Once approved by both chambers, the 2019-20 fiscal year budget will be ready for implementation by all three branches of our state government starting July 1, 2019.
Next session, starting in January 2020, the General Assembly will pass a series of “supplemental bills” that will add to or take away revenues or expenses based on actual revenues and expenses in order to re-balance the 2019-20 budget heading into the second half of that fiscal year.
And then, the process will repeat for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
One common wrong assumption: The state budget is not a ‘roll up’ of all county, municipal, school district, or special district budgets in Colorado. Each taxing jurisdiction has its own budget.
You can follow the Joint Budget Committee via the link.
Day 74 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 46 days remain.
Here in Colorado, 96 of our 100 part-time, seasonal, citizen legislators do not have a taxpayer funded “office budget” or, technically, their own staff.
Four of the six members of Executive Leadership (President, Speaker, and the two Minority Leaders) do have a taxpayer funded budget from which partisan caucus staff are paid.
Each individual legislator is allocated a number of hours per year that each may hire and pay one legislative aide, but those legislators do not have access to a budget, nor do they determine how much their one, part-time, aide is paid.
For the 2019-20 Legislative Branch budget, it is proposed that each legislator would have 1,300 hours of Legislative Aide support at $15 per hour. No health insurance or other such benefits are offered or available.
With that appropriation, each legislator would have a average of 25 aide hours per week and each aide could earn a gross amount of $375 per week. That aide would be the one who would answer the phone if/when you were to call your state Representative or Senator.
Most legislators would probably skew those hours more toward the four-month session and less to the eight-month interim with the intent being to provide better service to constituents who attempt to contact their state legislators.
It’s common for constituents to assume that a state legislator has a staff similar to that of members of Congress. The fact is that 94 of the 100 part-time, seasonal, citizen legislators does not have a chief of staff, a legislative director, or a team of legislative aides. Nope, there’s just the legislator and one, part-time, aide.
Those of us who serve in the Colorado General Assembly learn to be grateful for those who work as legislative aides at our state Capitol. Hopefully, constituents, those for whom we work, will also find reason to be thankful for their work.
Day 75 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 45 days remain.
Message from the Governor
If you follow the Colorado House and/or Senate in person, via television on Colorado Comcast channel 165, or by online video and audio streaming via coloradochannel.net, then, on some days, you’ll hear reference to a “Message from the Governor” announced during floor work. Given that two of the three Branches of our state government are required to interact in order to pass a bill into law, it’s necessary and helpful for the two Branches to communicate with each other.
When a bill passes both chambers, it is signed by the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, Chief Clerk of the House, and the Senate Secretary. Those four signatures verify that the Constitutional and statutory requirements of our legislative process were followed by members and staff as that bill went through our bi-cameral legislative process. Further, that at least 33 of 65 Representatives and at least 18 of 35 Senators voted in favor of the final version of that bill, which, at that point, has become an Act.
The Act, meaning a bill that
has now been enacted, is then sent to the Governor for his/her
consideration. In Colorado, our Governor has three choices when
considering an Act:
1) Sign it into law
2) Allow it to become law without his/her signature
3) Veto the bill
The Governor of Colorado has 10 days during a session or after 30 days after a session ends to determine which of those options he/she will take on each Act that reaches him/her.
The “Message from the Governor” announcements that you’ll hear in the House and Senate on some days during the general session indicates the Governor has sent word back to the bi-cameral legislature that he/she has taken action on one or more bills (Acts). That’s important to know because that’s almost always the final action in the process of how a bill becomes law in Colorado.
It is possible for 2/3 of both chambers to overrule a Governor’s veto, but that would be an extreme rarity and can only happen if the legislature is still in session. If it were to occur after the 120th day of the general session, then the General Assembly could not return in order to overrule a veto.
Day 76 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 44 days remain.
Message from the House/Senate
Previously, we discussed the need for the Governor to send correspondence to the House and Senate regarding bills that he/she has signed into law or signed as a veto. When such correspondence is received, it is read before the body so that all members in each chamber hear and are then aware of such messages.
The same applies to correspondence between the two chambers. When the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House sign bills, they send a message to the other chamber confirming that action to the other chamber.
While other action on each bill is conducted in public, either in a committee or on the floor of the respective chamber, such administrative steps are not. Thus, such actions are made public and confirmed by transmitting correspondence to the other chamber and then having that message read aloud in the other chamber so that the public and members are aware of that action.
While a Message from the Governor is correspondence between two Branches of government, such messages between chambers are equally important and helpful. Why? The easy answer is for transparency and certainty.
What might not be so apparent to those outside the Capitol is how separate and distinct the House and Senate actually are from each other. Yes, we all work at the Capitol, but the two chambers are rarely together and there is very little knowledge or awareness in one chamber as to what is occurring in the other. It was designed that way on purpose to protect in interests of the People.
Day 77 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 43 days remain.
Message from the Revisor
Over the past two days, we’ve discussed various “messages” that are sent to the state House and Senate and then read aloud in those two respective chambers. The Governor and the other chamber correspond with a chamber in order to publicly communicate actions taken that affect that chamber and the work it has done.
Likewise, the Revisor of Statutes, who is a non-partisan staff attorney within the Legislative Branch, communicates to the two legislative chambers when she has taken action relative to bills that have passed and are about to become law. Thus, if you watch or listen to proceedings in the state House and/or Senate during a session, you’ll occasionally hear a “Message from the Revisor” to let that chamber know what the Revisor has done.
If you’d like to review all of the Revisor’s revisions made during 2018, then just click the link below. The booklet also explains more about the authority of the Revisor.
Day 78 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 42 days remain.
If/when a bill passes out of the last committee to which it has been assigned by the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate or routed due to its fiscal note (Finance and/or Appropriations), then that bill heads back to the floor of that chamber for Second Reading.
First Reading would have occurred when the bill was introduced in that chamber. At that time, the bill title, number, sponsor name(s), and the first committee to which the bill has been assigned is announced (read) in that chamber for the first time.
Second Reading is when all members of that chamber may debate, amend, and vote on a given bill. Some members of that chamber would have heard the bill in one or more committees of that chamber. For other members, Second Reading would be the first opportunity to weigh in on that bill.
Generally, votes on Second Reading are conducted by voice. A standing “Division” vote can be requested by any member present.
Bills are considered on Second Reading by all members of that chamber, which is referred to as the “Committee of the Whole” or “COW.”
The Committee of the Whole *MUST* approve a Report that is presented to the presiding officer (Speaker or President) at the end of each Second Reading session. That Report describes what occurred during that Second Reading.
Amendments can be offered to the Report of the Committee of the Whole. Such amendments are referred to as “COW Amendments.” Votes on those amendments are recorded.
A bill that passes Second Reading is then considered on Third Reading on at least the next legislative day. Our state Constitution prohibits Second and Third Reading occurring on the same legislative day.
Day 79 of the annual, 120-day, Colorado general session. 41 days remain.
The Fixed Costs of the Legislature
People sometimes ask how much it costs to run a bill. The answer often surprises those who ask.
Most costs associated with the Legislative Branch are fixed costs. Most employees are paid on a salary basis. The elected members are paid a base salary, plus a per diem for each legislative day. For example, I receive $45 per diem for each legislative day.
If more bills are run during a session, then the average cost-per-bill goes down. If fewer bills a run during the legislative session, and the average cost-per-bill goes up.
The same principle applies to the number of hours worked. Recently, the Senate has experienced longer hours because of prolonged debate and the reading of bills at length.
Does that cause costs to increase? Not really, it causes the average cost-per-hour to go down. Why? Because most of the costs associated with the legislative session are fixed costs.
If you earn a salary, then this perspective will probably be familiar to you. If you earn an hourly wage, it may not. If you’re eligible to earn overtime in your job, then it may be a relief to know that we don’t have that in the legislature.
And now, you know.