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The Legislative Process

Question

Briefly, what steps will my bill go through from beginning to end?

For your bill to become law, it must jump through many "hoops" along the way. As the prime sponsor, you will be guiding your bill through the "hoops" in the house of introduction while your opposite house prime sponsor will take over when the bill gets to the second chamber. The following is a relatively simple explanation of those hoops.

House of Introduction

When your bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee of reference (or maybe two). During the committee hearing on your bill, a member of the committee may offer an amendment to your bill, and if you are a member of the committee that's hearing the bill, you can offer an amendment. If you are not a committee member, you will need to ask a legislator who serves on the committee to offer amendments to the bill for you.

After a hearing, for your bill to continue on, it must be referred out of the committee favorably to another committee of reference, to the Appropriations Committee, or to the Committee of the Whole (COW).

Your bill may have been assigned to the Appropriations Committee when it was introduced, or it may be referred to the Appropriations Committee by the committee of reference if the fiscal impact of the bill requires that it go to the Appropriations Committee. During the hearing, a member of the Appropriations Committee may offer an amendment to your bill, and if you are a member of the Appropriations Committee, you may offer an amendment. If you are not a committee member, you will need to ask a legislator who serves on the committee to offer your amendments for you. For your bill to continue, the Appropriations Committee must refer your bill favorably to the COW. Under some circumstances, the Appropriations Committee may re-refer a bill back to a committee of reference where the process above is repeated.

Your bill must next pass Second Reading (or, as it may be called, the Committee of the Whole or COW). Any amendments recommended by the committee of reference and the Appropriations Committee, if applicable, will be considered as "committee reports," and you or other individual members may offer additional amendments as "floor amendments." Bills and amendments pass on Second Reading by a voice vote, unless a member requests a standing vote. To complete Second Reading, the house of introduction must adopt the report of the COW.

Your bill must then pass on Third Reading, which, by rule, cannot take place the same calendar day as the bill's Second Reading. Generally, only technical amendments may be offered on Third Reading.

Second House

If your bill passes the house of introduction, congratulations! That, in itself, is an achievement. In the second house, your bill will undergo the same process—introduction, assignment to a committee or committees, debate and possible amendments on Second Reading, and, hopefully, Third Reading and Final Passage.

When Your Bill Passes the Second House

If there were no amendments in the second house, your bill will be sent to the Governor for action.

If your bill was amended by the second house, one of three things may happen:
• You may recommend that your colleagues accept the second house amendments and repass the bill.
• You may recommend that your colleagues reject the second house amendments and adhere to the version of the bill that your chamber passed originally. If your motion to reject the second house amendments and adhere to your house's version passes, then the bill is returned to the second house.
If the second house also adheres to its position, your bill is deemed lost. On the other hand, the second house can recede from its position (thereby taking its amendments off the bill) and adopt the version of the bill passed by the house of introduction. Your bill would then be sent to the Governor.
• You may recommend that your colleagues reject the second house amendments and request that a conference committee be formed. If you are not in favor of the second house amendments but want to try to work out a compromise on changes, you can have the house of introduction reject the amendments and ask for a conference committee.
If the motion to reject the amendments and request a conference committee passes, a message will be sent to the second house. The second house must agree to the request for a conference committee.
Once the conference committee adopts compromise changes to the bill, which are reflected in a report, the second house votes on adopting the conference committee report and readopting the bill. If the second house adopts the conference committee report and readopts the bill, then the first house votes on adopting the conference committee report and readopting the bill. If this happens in both houses, then the bill can be sent to the Governor for action. Either house can reject the conference committee report and ask for a second conference committee. But if the second conference committee cannot work out a compromise that is adopted by both houses, then your bill is deemed lost.

Governor's Action - Override of Governor's Veto

When a bill is sent to the Governor, he or she has three options:
• He or she may sign the bill, and the bill becomes law;
• He or she may let the bill become law without the Governor's signature; or
• He or she may veto the bill. If the Governor vetoes the bill while the General Assembly is still in session, he or she will return the bill to the house of introduction along with the veto message. The General Assembly can override the Governor's veto if both chambers of the General Assembly repass the bill with a two-thirds majority vote from each chamber. If the General Assembly has adjourned, there is no opportunity for an override.

What is the deadline for submitting bill requests?

For the 2019 legislative session, returning members have until November 26, 2018, to submit their first three of five requests. Newly elected members have until December 10, 2018, to request their first three of five requests. OLLS must receive the remaining two bill requests for all members no later than January 10, 2019.
For purposes of the 2019 legislative session, if you were a member of the Seventy-first General Assembly, you're considered a “returning” member, even if you were elected to a new legislative seat or to a different legislative chamber at the 2018 election. Similarly, if you were appointed to fill a vacancy before the 2018 election, you are a member of the Seventy-first General Assembly and therefore considered a “returning” member.

You are not required to submit five bill requests, but you may not request more than two bills after the early bill request deadlines in November and December unless the you receive special permission from the leadership in your chamber to request additional bills.

What happens if I don't make the bill request deadline?

Bill requests cannot be made after the bill request deadline without special permission from your chamber's leadership through the "delayed bill" process.

Is there a deadline for making resolution and memorial requests?

Except for resolutions and memorials that concern the business of either house, in 2019 resolutions and memorials must be requested by the 85th day of session (March 29, 2019) and introduced by the 90th day of the session (April 3, 2019).

Are there other deadlines that I should remember?

Yes. In addition to bill request deadlines, there are bill introduction deadlines.

One of your first three bills requested must be “prefiled” – that is, given to the House or Senate front desk staff for introduction on the first day of session – for the 2019 legislative session, that deadline is December 28, 2018. The other two of your first three bills must be introduced by January 8, 2019 for the Senate or January 11, 2019 for the House. All remaining bills (normally the last two of the five bill requests allotted to each member) must be introduced by January 22, 2019 in the Senate and January 25, 2019 in the House.

Other deadlines apply to passage of bills out of committee, final passage of bills, and other important steps in the legislative process.

What happens if I forget to give a bill to the House or Senate Front Desk before the introduction deadline?

If you forget to give a bill to the House or Senate front desk by the established introduction deadline for the bill, you will not be allowed to introduce the bill unless you get a delayed bill request signed by the House Committee on Delayed Bills (for House bills) or the Senate Committee on Delayed Bills (for Senate bills) waiving the introduction.

For this reason, the OLLS suggests that, unless you have a good reason for wanting to personally turn the bill in to the front desk (such as obtaining additional bill sponsors), you may wish to give staff permission to take your bill directly to the front desk and have it filed on your behalf.

Bills are called by other names as they move through the legislative process. What are these other names, and what do they mean?

Once a bill is introduced and begins to move through the legislative process, the name of the version of the bill changes as follows:
• Engrossed: The bill has passed Second Reading in the house of introduction, either amended or unamended.
• Reengrossed: The bill has passed Third Reading in the house of introduction, either amended or unamended.
• Revised: The bill has passed Second Reading in the opposite house, either amended or unamended.
• Rerevised: The bill has passed Third Reading in the opposite house, either amended or unamended.
• Enrolled (An Act): The bill has passed both houses of the General Assembly, either amended or unamended, and has become an act that is now ready to go to the Governor for action.

How do I get a copy of the new version of a bill?

As soon as a new version of a bill is printed, House and Senate staff file copies in each member's filing cabinet next to his or her desk on the chamber floor. Copies are also available through the iLegislate app on members' iPads or online through the General Assembly's public home page.

What is a preamended bill?

A preamended bill reflects the amendments recommended by a committee of reference before the committee report has been voted on by the Committee of the Whole. A preamended version of a bill is created to expedite the preparation of the bill for printing after it passes on Second Reading.

Is the preamended version of a bill available to me?

Yes. Preamended versions of the bill are available on the iLegislate app and on the General Assembly's public home page. The preamended version of a bill is not an official version of the bill and cannot be amended.

Why isn't there a version of the bill as amended by a conference committee?

Once a conference committee report is adopted in both houses and the bill is repassed, there is no time to prepare a final version of the bill as it is immediately sent through the enrolling process to be prepared as a final act.

What if I have a procedural or parliamentary question?

You should consult first with the Chief Clerk of the House and the leadership in the House of Representatives if the question arises in the House, or with the Secretary of the Senate and the leadership of the Senate if the question arises in the Senate. You may also ask the OLLS Director or senior legal staff for information concerning the history of, or prior interpretations concerning, a particular legislative rule or legislative procedure.

What is a conference committee?

After a bill is amended and passed by the second house, the house of introduction may accept or reject the second house's changes. If the house of introduction rejects the changes, a conference committee may be formed to work out compromise language. A conference committee is composed of three members of each legislative chamber who work to produce a report consisting of amendments that reconcile the versions of the bill. Upon completion, this report is sent back to each chamber for consideration. Each chamber may accept or reject this report but may not amend it.

Do all bills go to conference committee?

No. A bill only goes to conference committee when the second house amends the bill and the first house rejects the amendments and asks for appointment of a conference committee.

If my bill goes to conference committee, will I be on the conference committee?

Not necessarily. Each conference committee consists of three members from each chamber. There is no rule that guarantees that the sponsor of the bill will be appointed to the conference committee. In practice, the sponsor is usually a member of the conference committee, but he or she may not necessarily be the chairman if he or she is a member of the minority party.

What does "beyond the scope of the differences" mean?

The "scope of the differences" means only those amendments made in the second house.

Generally, a conference committee may only consider matters that are within the scope of the differences. However, a conference committee, with the consent of a majority of members elected to each chamber, may go beyond the scope of the differences. A conference committee authorized to go beyond the scope of the differences may consider any language in the bill, recommend new provisions concerning the subject matter of the bill, or even rewrite the bill so long as the rewrite fits within the bill’s title. Although a conference committee may talk about issues that are beyond the scope of the differences before obtaining the required consent, it must get the consent from both houses before signing a conference committee report that includes matters that are beyond the scope of the differences.

Can a conference committee decide not to adopt a report?

Yes. There are two situations in which a conference committee may decide not to adopt a report:
• A conference committee that cannot reach agreement on the differences will not necessarily report. A conference committee in this situation may decide to report that it is unable to reach an agreement on the differences between the two chambers and ask to be dissolved and either a second conference committee be appointed or no new conference committee be appointed; or
• If the committee decides to accept either the reengrossed bill or the rerevised bill, then the conference committee does not need to adopt a report. In this situation, a member of either house can make a motion requesting that the conference committee be discharged and that the house adhere or recede from its position, whichever will result in adoption of the selected version of the bill.

What happens if the conference committee can't come to an agreement and adopt a report?

If the conference committee cannot come to an agreement and adopt a report, the committee members can return to their respective chambers and ask for dissolution of the committee. At this point, one of three things can happen:
• Both chambers may appoint a second conference committee to consider the measure;
• Either chamber may vote to recede from its position and readopt the bill with the other chamber's language; or
• Either chamber may decide not to appoint a second conference committee and to adhere to its position. If one of the chambers adheres, the bill will be deemed lost unless the other chamber recedes from its changes and accepts the version passed by the adhering chamber.

How many reports can a single conference committee adopt? What is a minority conference committee report?

Generally, each conference committee may adopt one majority report, which is a conference committee report approved by at least two conference committee members from each chamber. In addition, a member of the conference committee may request a minority report; however, neither chamber can consider a minority conference committee report unless the minority report is approved by at least one member of the conference committee from each chamber.

What happens after a conference committee adopts a report?

The second house considers the report first. It may adopt the report and repass the bill or reject the report and ask for appointment of a second conference committee. As an alternative to considering the report, it may adhere to its position on the bill or recede from its position on the bill and agree to adopt the version of the bill passed by the first house.

If the second house adopts the first conference committee report, the bill is returned to the first house for consideration of the conference committee report. It may adopt the report and repass the bill or reject the report and ask for appointment of a second conference committee.

As an alternative to considering the report, the first house may adhere to its position on the bill or recede from its position on the bill and agree to adopt the second house's version of the bill.

In most cases, both chambers adopt the conference committee report and repass the bill. The bill is then enrolled and sent to the Governor for action.

Neither house can request or agree to appointment of a third conference committee.

What is meant by "sending interrogatories to the Supreme Court?"

The Governor, the Senate, or the House of Representatives may ask the Colorado Supreme Court for an opinion on the constitutionality of pending legislation. This process is based in section 3 of article VI of the Colorado Constitution, which provides that the Colorado Supreme Court "shall give its opinion upon important questions upon solemn occasions when required by the governor, senate, or the house of representatives...".

At what stage of the legislative process can interrogatories be sent to the Colorado Supreme Court?

To demonstrate to the Court that the bill at issue is likely to be enacted, interrogatories on a bill are usually submitted when the bill is pending between Second Reading and Third Reading in the second house or while the bill is pending in conference committee.

Does the Colorado Supreme Court always take interrogatories submitted by the General Assembly?

No. The constitutional provision requires the Colorado Supreme Court to give its opinion "upon important questions on solemn occasions...". However, the Court decides what are "important questions on solemn occasions" and may therefore decline to answer interrogatories submitted by the executive or legislative branches.

What is an interim committee, and how is one created?

An interim committee is a committee that is created by statute or through a letter request process or by the Executive Committee and that only meets during the legislative interim, which is the period when the legislature is not in session.

A member or members who are concerned about a specific issue may request creation of an interim committee to study the issue. To request an interim study committee, a member must submit a formal letter to the Legislative Council for consideration and prioritization. A member may also introduce a bill to create a statutory interim committee. As part of the legislative process, the Legislative Council will consider this bill and decide whether to prioritize it for funding. The scope and purpose of each interim committee, including its ability to recommend legislation, must be approved by the Legislative Council and, if the interim committee is created by a bill rather than a letter, by the General Assembly. Letter requests to create interim committees must meet specific deadlines in order to be considered by the Legislative Council.

A member who wishes to request the creation of an interim committee should contact either the OLLS or the Legislative Council staff.

Are there certain committees that meet every interim?

Yes. Committees created in statute like the Transportation Legislation Review Committee meet every interim. There are also other committees that are appointed to meet for multiple interims, such as the Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems.

Does every legislator serve on an interim committee?

No. The letter requesting an interim committee or the bill creating an interim committee specifies how many members of the General Assembly will serve on the interim committee and who will appoint them. The person making the appointments will select who among the members of the General Assembly will serve on the interim committee.