The President of the United States appoints members of his/her cabinet, justices of the Supreme Court, and other persons to various roles in the federal government. Such appointments may require confirmation by the United States Senate.
The Governor of Colorado appoints members of his/her cabinet, justices to the Colorado Supreme Court, and other persons to various boards and commissions within his/her administration. Such appointments may require confirmation by the Colorado Senate.
The authorities and requirements of the US Senate under the federal confirmation process are different from the authorities and requirements of the Colorado Senate under the state confirmation process. It can be helpful for people who might oppose a certain appointment here in Colorado to understand how the state confirmation process works according to the Colorado Constitution.
The Senate President receives documentation from the governor’s office regarding each appointment. During an annual general session, the Senate President refers each of those appointments to a Senate committee of reference for a public hearing.
From there, the committee chair schedules with each appointee to appear before that committee. Committee members are provided background information for each appointee in advance of such hearings. Committee members may also meet with an appointee prior to such a hearing.
Here’s where things can be frustrating for people who might oppose a certain appointment. In Colorado, a committee cannot reject an appointment. Committees of reference don’t have the constitutional authority to stop a governor’s appointment. Why? Because the state Constitution degates that authority only to the Senate (as a whole), not to a committee.
Article IV, Section 6 of the Colorado Constitution states, “The governor shall nominate, and, by and with the consent of the senate appoint all officers whose offices are established by this constitution, or which may be created by law, and whose appointment or election is not otherwise provided for…”. Note that the words “consent of the senate” refers to the senate (as a whole), not to a portion of it such as a committee.
Next, we can refer to Senate Rule 36, which provides more detail regarding the state Senate confirmation process: https://www.leg.state.co.us/inethsr.nsf/Rule.xsp?id=SENRULES.36&catg=Senate&pg=4.0
According to that rule, a Senate committee of reference has the option to refer each confirmation to the Senate (as a whole) with or without a “favorable recommendation.” A committee of reference also has the option to recommend that each confirmation be placed on the Senate consent calendar, which indicates no opposition to the appointment by committee members. If one or more committee members object to a certain appointment, then the committee would refer it to the Senate general orders calendar.
However, because Article IV, Section 6 of the Colorado Constitution refers to “the consent of the senate” (as a whole), a committee of reference does not have the option to reject a confirmation, to withhold it from the whole Senate. That’s where people who oppose a certain appointee sometimes get frustrated with the state confirmation process or certain committee members.
Members of a Senate committee of reference can vote “No” on a motion to refer a governor’s appointment. That can and does occur. However, one or more committee members voting against a given appointment would simply direct that appointment to the Senate general orders calendar rather than the Senate consent calendar; it would not and could not stop the appointment in that committee.
The only opportunity for an appointment to not pass would be for eighteen or more members of the Senate to vote against that appointment. Such a vote can only take place once it reaches the Senate floor. Thus, in Colorado, there is no option for a committee of reference to reject a governor’s appointment by voting against it.