Bills don’t read like stories

In simple terms, a bill is a collection of words and numbers on paper.

Each bill that is introduced during a Colorado legislative session proposes to add words and/or numbers to current Colorado statute, remove words and/or numbers from current Colorado statute, or change words and/or numbers in current Colorado statute. A given bill can seek to do one, two or all three of those things (add, remove, change).

Article V, Section 17 of the Colorado Constitution states, “No law shall be passed except by bill”. Thus, it can be helpful for advocates – for or against a given bill – to keep in mind that the only way for the Colorado state legislature to add, remove or change the words or numbers in state law is by considering a new bill to affect such change.

When reading a Colorado bill, you’ll find that it doesn’t read like a story; there isn’t a beginning, middle, and end. Rather, a bill is more like a collection of puzzle pieces. Some pieces are new and propose to add to the current overall puzzle of state statute. Some pieces are old and are proposed to be removed from the existing puzzle. Other pieces are the same or similar shapes to existing pieces and propose to replace those pieces in the existing puzzle.

Also, when reading a Colorado bill, also keep in mind that, below the Enacting Clause found on Page 1, words that appear in upper- and lower-case letters represent text from existing statute – current law. It’s very common for people to overlook that formatting rule and to inadvertently argue for or against existing law.

Words that appear in upper case represent words that would be added to existing statute if the bill were to become law. Those would be the new puzzle pieces.

Words that appear in strike though would be removed from existing statute if the bill becomes law.

Words that appear with a gray shaded background represent words that were added to that bill by a House amendment.

Words that appear with double underlining represent words that were added to that bill by a Senate amendment.

At the bottom of Page 1 of any Colorado bill, you’ll find a reference guide that explains the meaning of those different text styles.

Finally, when reading a Colorado bill, it can be helpful to refer to existing statute so that you can see how the words and numbers of that bill would fit into existing law. The current Colorado Revised Statues are available online and no subscription, username or password is required:

** The information provided herein is intended for general educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have questions of a legal nature, please consult with an attorney.

** Civics Corner content was written with the help of former Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert.

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