The Colorado General Assembly
Colorado’s state legislature is called the General Assembly. There are 100 elected members serving as the legislature – 35 senators and 65 representatives. The legislature is one of the three branches of government – the executive and the judicial being the other two branches.
Candidates for the General Assembly must be at least 25 years old, a U.S. citizen, and live in the district he or she is seeking to represent for at least 12 months prior to the election.
In 1990, Colorado voters approved an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that limited the terms of office for state legislators. Senators are limited to two consecutive four-year terms and representative are limited to four consecutive two-year terms. Additionally, every ten years the state’s house and senate districts are redrawn to reflect changes in state demographics from the U.S. Census. The process was last completed in 2011.
The Legislative Session
Colorado’s annual convening of the legislature occurs no later than the second Wednesday in January and is limited to 120 consecutive calendar days. The 120-day calendar includes weekend days, thus the legislative session ends in early May. A “special session” is one called at a time other than the regularly scheduled session, and is usually called by the Governor to address an urgent issue. The General Assembly may also call itself into a special session by a two-thirds vote of the members.
Membership of the General Assembly
The Colorado General Assembly is considered a “part-time legislature” as most of the members do not devote all of their time to legislative business. Most legislators have other full time occupations, such as attorneys, educators, farmers/ranchers, health care workers and many other fields of industry.
Of the 35 Senate members, there are currently 16 Republicans and 19 Democrats. Of the 65 members in the House of Representatives there are 42 Democrats and 24 Republicans.
The Committee Process
Once a bill has been introduced in the House or Senate, it is assigned to a committee of reference. The assignment is made by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House and is based on the subject matter of the bill. The committees of reference are considered the “workshops” of the General Assembly. It is at these meetings, which are open to the public, where the details of the bill are carefully analyzed and debated by legislative members and testimony is heard from interested citizens. A committee may change or amend the bill, refer it to another committee, postpone indefinitely (kill) the bill, or recommend it for “floor debate” and refer it to the full house for second reading. If a bill originates in the Senate and passes second and then third hearing on the Senate floor, it is then sent to the House of Representatives where the process begins all over again.
House Committees of Reference
Business Affairs & Labor
Energy & Environment
Health Insurance and Environment
Public Health Care & Human Services
State, Veterans and Military Affairs
Senate Committees of Reference
Agriculture, Natural Resources & Water
Business, Labor & Technology
Health & Human Services
State, Veterans & Military Affairs
Joint Budget Committee
The Joint Budget Committee is also a standing committee, composed of six members – three from the Senate and three from the House of Representatives. The JBC meets year round and is responsible for the state’s budget and appropriation of funds to all state agencies. This appropriation bill is called the “Long Bill” as it is the longest bill introduced in the legislative session (usually around 200 pages).