Skip to main content
Colorado General AssemblyToggle Main Menu
Agency NameToggle Agency Menu

Bill Drafting

Question

What are the different parts of a bill, and what are their purposes?

Below you'll find a short explanation of each part of a bill:

Title - A clear expression of the single subject of the bill.
Bill Summary - An objective explanation of the changes to existing law contained in the bill, as it was introduced. (Note: The OLLS posts updated bill summaries on the General Assembly's website after the bill passes in the first house.)
Enacting Clause - Language that the Colorado Constitution requires in all bills: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Colorado"
Body of the Bill - Changes to the existing law.
Appropriation Clauses - Identification of the amount and source of state money to implement the bill, if necessary.
Special Clauses - Safety or referendum clauses, effective date clauses, or applicability clauses that indicate when a bill takes legal effect and the circumstances to which the bill applies.

Is the bill summary changed as the bill moves through the legislative process?

No. The bill summary reflects the bill as introduced, before any committees have discussed the bill and before any amendments have been adopted.

The OLLS posts an updated bill summary on the General Assembly's website after the bill passes in the first chamber. Due to the often very short turnaround time for enrolling and printing amended versions of bills, bill summaries are not updated on subsequent printed versions of the bill, including PDF versions of printed bills.

Can a bill summary contain arguments "for" my bill?

No. A bill summary is an objective explanation of the changes to existing law contained in the bill, not the reasoning or justification for those changes.

What is an enacting clause?

Section 18 of article V of the Colorado Constitution requires every bill to contain the following enacting clause: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Colorado:". The enacting clause is placed immediately before the first section of a bill. Its wording cannot vary since it is fixed by the Constitution. A bill without an enacting clause is invalid. If the House or the Senate adopts an amendment to remove the enacting clause, the bill is deemed lost because it does not meet the constitutional requirement of containing an enacting clause.

What is an effective date clause, and is it necessary to include one in my bill?

An effective date clause indicates when a bill takes legal effect. An effective date clause is not necessary if the bill contains a safety clause. If the bill does not contain a safety clause, an appropriate effective date clause should be included.

If there is no effective date clause, when does my bill take effect?

If the bill has a safety clause, it will take effect when the Governor signs the bill. If the Governor allows the bill to become law without his or her signature, and there are at least 10 days left in the legislative session when the Governor receives the bill, the bill will take effect 10 days after the Governor receives the bill. If the Governor allows the bill to become law without signature and there are fewer than 10 days left in the legislative session when the Governor receives the bill, the bill will take effect 30 days after the General Assembly adjourns the legislative session sine die.

What is an applicability clause, and is it necessary to include one in my bill?

An applicability clause specifies that the statutory changes in a bill will apply to certain events or transactions that occur on or after a specified date. An applicability clause is usually included in a bill that regulates conduct or affects contracts, contractual relationships, or court proceedings. A bill that concerns tax liability usually specifies the earliest date upon which the bill should take effect, either in a separate applicability clause or in the body of the bill.

What is a safety clause, and what are the reasons for and against having one in my bill?

A safety clause, when included, is the final section of the bill. The safety clause is based on the language in section 1 (3) of article V of the Colorado Constitution and reads as follows: "The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety."

A bill that does not contain a safety clause is subject to the citizens' constitutional power of referendum and cannot take effect sooner than 90 days after adjournment of the General Assembly, which is usually in early August. Including a safety clause in a bill prevents a referendum on the bill. Some members feel that it is inappropriate to preclude a citizens' referendum on a bill if the act is not truly necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety.

However, certain bills may need to take effect earlier than 90 days after adjournment of the General Assembly. These could include bills that impose new criminal penalties and bills that relate to fiscal or tax policy that are intended to apply to either the fiscal year in which they are enacted or to the entire upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

When will my bill take effect if it does not have a safety clause?

Bills that do not have a safety clause are subject to the citizens' constitutional right of referendum in section 1 of article V of the Colorado constitution. If a bill does not have a safety clause, the drafter will include a clause at the end of the bill that indicates that the bill may be subject to a referendum petition. A citizen will have 90 days to collect signatures and file a petition with the Secretary of State's office to place the bill on the ballot for voter approval. If a citizen does not file a referendum petition against the bill within that 90-day period, the bill takes effect on the 91st day after the General Assembly adjourns sine die. However, the clause at the end of the bill may identify an effective date that is later than the 90-day period, in which case the bill will take effect upon that later specified date.

What happens if someone files a referendum petition against my bill or a portion of my bill?

Filing a referendum against a portion of a bill or the entire bill prevents the bill or that portion from taking effect until the people vote on and approve the bill or portion of the bill. The bill or portion of the bill then takes effect on the date on which the Governor officially declares the vote by proclamation or on a specified effective date that is later than the proclamation date. If a referendum petition is filed against the bill or a portion of the bill and the voters do not approve the bill or portion, the bill or that portion of the bill never takes effect.

Why is the title of my bill so important, and what happens if the title is too "broad"?

The title of a bill serves as notice of the contents of the bill. Section 21 of article V of the Colorado Constitution requires that the subject matter of a bill be "clearly expressed in its title..." and that the bill contain only one subject. The title must also state the purpose of the bill. This means the title must accurately reflect the substance of the bill without being so broad as to violate the Constitution's single-subject requirement.

The bill title must be broad enough to include everything that is in the bill as introduced and any amendments that may be added as the bill goes through the process. A title that is broad will allow the members to consider a wide variety of amendments to the bill as it goes through the House and the Senate. As a bill sponsor, you may want a "broad" title to allow flexibility and latitude in amending the bill during the legislative process, but you may also have to deal with unwanted amendments offered by other legislators. Usually a bill sponsor will try to limit the breadth of a title to include only those policies that the bill sponsor wants to include in his or her bill.

Can a bill title ever be too "narrow"?

Yes. If a title is too "narrow," it may cause problems in the legislative process or even after a bill becomes law. In the legislative process, a member may ask the committee chair to determine whether an amendment "fits under the title." The committee chair will then consider whether the subject or purpose of the amendment is germane or contains a close logical connection to the single subject of the bill's title. If the committee chair rules that the amendment does not fit under the title, the committee will not consider the amendment.

After the General Assembly passes a bill, the Governor may decide that part of a bill is overly broad and does not fit within the title. The Governor may veto the bill for this reason. Even if the Governor signs a bill, someone may challenge the legislation on the grounds that it contains more than one subject. The court may rule that the portions of the legislation that do not fit within the title are unconstitutional. In the judicial process, the courts presume that legislation is constitutional and may therefore show some deference to the General Assembly in determining whether a portion of the legislation fits within the title.

Can the title of my bill be amended after it is introduced?

To ensure that the single subject and change of original purpose sections of the Colorado Constitution are not violated, the general rule is that the members will not amend a bill title to broaden the subject of the bill title as introduced. However, a member may amend a bill title to narrow the subject of the bill by adding words to limit the subject. If that occurs, the title may be changed back to the original, broader title at a subsequent stage of the legislative process.

Why must a bill have a single subject?

Section 21 of article V of the Colorado Constitution says that "[n]o bill, except general appropriation bills, shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall clearly be expressed in its title…." Courts have indicated that this provision has two purposes: First, to avoid inserting matters into a bill that are not mentioned in the title; and second, to prohibit putting together two or more unrelated provisions to enlist support for policies that would not pass on their own merits.

Can you give me an example of a single subject and a multiple subject for a bill title?

The key issue is whether the various topics addressed in the bill can be said to have a "common denominator" that creates a single unifying theme. A bill title such as "A bill for an act concerning apples and oranges" violates the single-subject requirement because apples and oranges are two distinct and separate topics. However, by changing the title to read "A bill for an act concerning fruit," the two topics are brought together under a single subject that includes both. This title meets the Colorado Constitution's single-subject rule. Keep in mind, though, that the title also allows a legislator to amend the bill to regulate pineapples, which the bill sponsor may not want to do.

What does "change of original purpose" mean?

Pursuant to section 17 of article V of the Colorado Constitution, ". . . no bill shall be so altered or amended on its passage through either house as to change its original purpose." In short, the Constitution prevents a bill that deals with one subject from being amended to deal with an entirely different subject.

If I know my bill is going to have a fiscal impact, must I include an appropriation section in the bill when it is introduced?

A sponsor may choose whether to include an appropriation section in a bill when it is introduced. This is true even if the sponsor knows that the bill, as introduced, will have a fiscal impact. If a bill with a fiscal impact is introduced without an appropriation section, the section will be amended into the bill at a later time, typically in the Appropriations Committee of the first chamber, unless the bill is amended to remove the fiscal impact.

When does my bill have to go to the Appropriations Committee?

If the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President of the Senate assigns a bill to the Appropriations Committee, then the bill must go to the Appropriations Committee. In addition, Senate Rule 25 (d) (1) specifies that each bill that provides directly for the increase of a salary or that requires an appropriation from the state treasury must be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee before the Committee of the Whole or the full Senate considers the bill.

In prior sessions, the legislative leadership in both chambers have issued directives to the committees of reference that certain bills with a fiscal impact, such as an increase or decrease in general fund revenue or general fund expenditures or an increase or decrease in cash fund expenditures, must be referred to the Appropriations Committee and, in some cases, to the Finance Committee. These policies usually have a threshold amount of state revenue impact that triggers the referral.

What happens if my bill is assigned to the Appropriations Committee and is later determined to have no fiscal impact?

If a bill has been assigned to the Appropriations Committee, it must be referred to that committee by the committee of reference even if the Legislative Council fiscal note staff prepares a memo indicating that a bill has no fiscal impact or if an amendment removes the fiscal impact. The Appropriations Committee will then act on the bill.

What does it mean if I'm told my bill has a TABOR impact?

The "Taxpayer's Bill of Rights" (TABOR) is a constitutional provision that places a number of restrictions on the state and local governments in Colorado. Although it contains numerous provisions, TABOR is perhaps best known for requiring voter approval to impose or increase taxes and for limiting the amount of revenues that the state and local governments can collect and expend each fiscal year.

When someone says that a bill has a TABOR impact, it may indicate that the bill is affected by any one of the provisions of TABOR. Usually it means that a bill affects the amount of state revenues that are subject to TABOR's revenue limits or that the bill affects the amount of money required to be refunded to taxpayers as excess state revenues.

What is the difference between a bill that has a general fund fiscal impact and a bill that has a cash fund fiscal impact?

A bill that has a general fund fiscal impact either contains an appropriation of money from the general fund or will otherwise affect the revenues in the general fund, for example by creating a tax credit. A bill that has a cash fund impact either contains an appropriation from a cash fund or will otherwise affect the revenues in a cash fund, for example by increasing or decreasing a fee. A cash fund is a special funding mechanism for a bill by which revenue needed to implement the bill is collected and credited to a special fund rather than the general fund. Cash-funded programs support themselves through fees or charges and are usually created to allow the state to separately account for the amounts of fees or charges collected.

My bill increases the penalty for an existing felony crime. I'm told the bill needs a "five-year appropriation." What does that mean?

Section 2-2-703, C.R.S., requires a bill that results in a net increase in periods of imprisonment in state correctional facilities (generally, those that involve felony crimes) to include an appropriation "sufficient to cover any increased capital construction costs and any increased operating costs which are the result of such bill in each of the first five years in which there is a fiscal impact as a result of the bill." The introduced version of a bill that meets the criteria of section 2-2-703, C.R.S., may include a potential appropriation clause as a placeholder for any necessary appropriation. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees, using information provided by the Legislative Council fiscal note staff, estimates the amount of money necessary to cover the increased costs, and then the General Assembly determines how much money will be appropriated in the bill from the general fund in the years affected. Generally, this type of appropriation is included in the substantive text of the bill rather than in a separate appropriation section.

What is a "prefiled" bill?

A "prefiled bill" is a bill that an OLLS staff member delivers, with the bill sponsor's approval, to either the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives or the Secretary of the Senate 5 days before the first day of the legislative session. Joint Rule 23(a)(2)(C) requires that each member designate one of his or her bills to be prefiled 5 days before the first day of the legislative session. Prefiled bills are introduced on the first day of the legislative session.

If a bill is delivered to me, how long can I wait before giving it to my chamber's front desk?

Bills must be submitted to the House or Senate Front Desk on or before each applicable bill introduction deadline. The date that a bill must be submitted to the front desk is usually stamped on the cover sheet attached to the bill. Be sure to check the date when your bill is delivered to you and make sure you submit it to the House or Senate Front Desk on or before this date.

What happens if I forget to give a bill to the front desk?

Generally, if you do not turn the bill in to the House or Senate Front Desk by the date specified on the cover sheet attached to your bill, you will have to obtain a delayed bill form from the Committee on Delayed Bills in your chamber waiving the introduction deadline. Historically, announcements are made on the House and Senate floors reminding members that bill introduction deadlines are approaching and how late in the day the House or Senate Front Desk will accept bills.

Do I have to introduce a bill if it is delivered to me?

Once a bill is delivered to you, you have the option of declining to introduce it. If you choose not to introduce a bill, it is important to tell either the drafter of the bill or the OLLS Front Office so that we may maintain accurate records in the General Assembly's bill tracking system.