The Colorado General Assembly
is the state legislature of the State of Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...
The Colorado Constitution establishes a system of government based on the separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...
doctrine with power divided among three "departments": executive
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...
. Article V vests the legislative power of the state in the General Assembly, while reserving to the people the power to propose, approve, and reject both laws and amendments to the state Constitution by initiatives or referendums
The General Assembly is bicameral, composed of the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate. The House has 65 members and the Senate 35. Members of the House are elected to 2-year terms, and members of the Senate are elected to 4-year terms.
General legislative election
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...
s are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in each even-numbered year. The entire House is elected in each general election. Senators are elected in two classes such that, as nearly as possible, one-half of the senators are elected in each general election.
House members are limited
A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms a person may serve in a particular elected office. When term limits are found in presidential and semi-presidential systems they act as a method to curb the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes "president for...
to 4 consecutive terms in office, and Senators are limited to 2 consecutive terms. However once term-limited former members can run again after a 4 year break. Senators who have served the limit can run again after 4 years.
The vast majority of members of the General Assembly who are ultimately elected (in excess of 90% of members ultimately elected in all recent sessions) are nominated through a major political party caucus process that places candidates on a primary ballot for the position sought in their political party, which generally requires 30% support from delegates to the relevant nominating body of the political party. It is also possible for individuals who have been registered to vote and affiliated with the political party in question for at least a year to gain access to a partisan primary ballot by petition.
Minor party candidates can gain access to the general election ballot through a minor party caucus process. Unaffiliated candidates can gain access to the general election ballot by petition. Rep. Kathleen Curry of House District 61 is now registered as "unaffiliated" and will be the first unaffiliated member of the Colorado General Assembly since 1891, according to the clerk of the house.
Vacancies in legislative offices are generally filled by political party vacancy committees, rather than by-elections. Vacancy appointees who fill the first half of a state senators term must stand for election at the next even year November election for the remainder of the state senate term for the seat to which the state senator was appointed.
The state auditor is appointed by the General Assembly, as are many members of independent boards and commissions.
Procedure and powers
With the notable exceptions listed below, the Colorado General Assembly operates in a manner quite similar to the United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....
Regular sessions are held annually and begin no later than the second Wednesday in January. Regular sessions last no more than 120 days. Special sessions may be called at any time by the Governor
The Governor of Colorado is the head of the executive branch of Colorado's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has a duty to enforce state laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Colorado General Assembly, to convene the...
or upon written request of two-thirds of the members of each house, but are infrequent. Some committees of the General Assembly work between sessions and have limited power to take action without General Assembly approval between legislative sessions.
Joint procedural rules of the two chambers require most legislation to be introduced very early in the legislative session each year, and to meet strict deadlines for completion of each step of the legislative process. Joint procedural rules also limit each legislator to introducing five bills per year, subject to certain exceptions for non-binding resolutions, uniform acts, interim committee bills and appropriations bills. Most members of the General Assembly decide which bills they will introduce during the legislative session (or most of them) prior to its commencement, limiting to ability of members to introduce new bills at constituent request once the legislative session has begun.
Most bills adopted by the General Assembly include a "safety clause" (i.e. a legislative declaration that the bill concerns an urgent matter) and take effect on July 1 following the legislative session unless otherwise provided. Some bills are enacted without a "safety clause" which makes it possible to petition to subject those bills to a referendum before they take effect, and have an effective date in August following the legislative session unless otherwise provided.
Colorado's legislature does not have an analog to the filibuster
A filibuster is a type of parliamentary procedure. Specifically, it is the right of an individual to extend debate, allowing a lone member to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal...
in the United States Senate requiring a supermajority for approval of any matter. The Lieutenant Governor does not have the power to preside or break tie votes in either house of the General Assembly. All new executive branch rules are reviewed annually by the legislature and the legislature routinely invalidates some of them each year.
The General Assembly does not have a role in the appointment or retention of state judges, although it must authorize the creation of each judgeship.
Many state agencies and programs are subject to "sunset review" and are automatically abolished if the General Assembly does not reauthorize them.
The state budget process
The Governor submits a proposed budget to the Joint Budget Committee each year in advance of the year's legislative session. Colorado's fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30.
All bills introduced in the General Assembly are evaluated by the non-partisan state legislative services body for their fiscal impact and must be provided for in appropriations legislation if there is a fiscal impact.
A state budget, called the "long bill" is prepared each year by the Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly. The House and the Senate alternate the job of introducing the long bill and making a first committee review of it. Colorado's state legislature is required to obtain voter approval in order to incur significant debt, to raise taxes, or to increase state constitutional spending limitations. It is also required to comply with a state constitutional spending mandate for K-12 education. The Governor has line item veto power over appropriations.
Based on the 2010 census, each House member represents about 77,372 constituents
An electoral district is a distinct territorial subdivision for holding a separate election for one or more seats in a legislative body...
and each Senator 143,691. The 2010 Colorado elections resulted in a change in majority party status for the House (33 Republicans; 32 Democrats) but the Democrats retained their majority in the Senate (20 Democrats; 15 Republicans).
Brandon Shaffer is the current President of the Colorado State Senate representing Senate District 17, which encompasses the cities of Longmont, Lafeyette, Erie, and Louisville. Shaffer, a lifelong Democrat, was first elected as a State Senator in November 2004, and was reelected in 2008...
is the President of the Senate
The President of the Senate is a title often given to the presiding officer of a senate, and is the speaker of other assemblies.The senate president often ranks high in a jurisdiction's succession for its top executive office: for example, the President of the Senate of Nigeria is second in line...
and Frank McNulty
Frank McNulty is a legislator in the U.S. state of Colorado. First elected to the Colorado House of Representatives as a Republican in 2006, McNulty represents House District 43, which centers around the community of Highlands Ranch. McNulty was elected Speaker of the House on November 9,...
is the Speaker of the House.