Thursday, April 2, 2020

Update: COVID-19 stalls Colorado legislative session

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 10:18 AM

  • Arina P Habich /

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled in favor of state Democrats, saying that the 120 days in the legislative session do not need to be counted consecutively.

State statute and the Assembly's joint resolution "together operate to count the 120 calendar days of a regular session consecutively except during a declared public health emergency disaster, in which case only days on which at least one chamber convenes count toward the 120-day maximum."

This means state legislators should be able to tack on extra days to the end of the legislative session after they return to the Capitol.


After a two-week, unplanned break in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a handful of Colorado lawmakers gathered at the state Capitol on March 30.

The state Assembly had voted March 14 to postpone the session until that date, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

But on March 30, neither the Senate nor the House had enough people present — as expected — to establish a quorum, the minimum number of lawmakers required to vote on legislation. (That's 18 senators and 33 representatives, or a simple majority.)

So, both chambers adjourned for at least a few days.

House lawmakers are planning to adjourn again "in some way" when the chamber is scheduled to meet next April 2, says Jarrett Freedman, communications director for House Democrats.

State Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, says the general consensus among Senate Democrats is to "continue the adjournment for the foreseeable future."

(There had been some discrepancy about whether legislators needed to return March 30 to vote on extending the adjournment, the Colorado Sun reports.)

In Lee's view, legislators have a responsibility to follow the stay-at-home order: "For us to go in when we do not have a critical function to perform to me seems foolhardy," he says.

It's unclear when the lawmaking session will resume.

On March 27, however, Gov. Jared Polis signed a batch of bills that had already been passed by state lawmakers. Some of the highlights from that list include:

House Bill 1275, which allows service members, veterans and their dependents to receive in-state tuition at Colorado community colleges;
House Bill 1178, which requires the Colorado Department of Transportation to study whether speed limits can be increased on certain rural highways; and
House Bill 1300, which makes technical changes to the local school food purchasing program.

You can read the full list here.

Meanwhile, House Democrats and Republicans are in the midst of a legal battle over what happens after lawmakers are able to return to the Capitol.

State law says that the legislative session is only 120 days, and that has been interpreted in the past to mean consecutive days.

Democrats — who hold the majority in the House, Senate and governor's office — want the session to be extended past its scheduled end date, due to this unplanned break.

Republicans, on the other hand, want the session to end on May 6, as scheduled. This would greatly hamper Democrats' ability to pass their legislative priorities.

Both sides have submitted briefs to the Colorado Supreme Court, which could issue a decision by the end of the week, CBS Denver reports.

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