Navigating the General Assembly Website: The “Initiatives” Menu

When visiting the Colorado General Assembly website, you’ll find a menu of topics that organize that massive and growing library of information into general topics. Where that menu will appear on your screen and how you might go about selecting a category depends on whether you are using a desktop or laptop computer versus a mobile device such as tablet or phone. From a computer, the menu will likely appear horizontally along the top of your browser window. From a mobile device, look for three horizontal bars and then press that icon to open the menu.

The sixth category in that menu is titled “Initiatives”, which provides access to the following information:

  • Overview – General information about the Initiative Process
  • Initiatives Filed – A searchable database of current and prior initiatives
  • Ballot Analysis – A searchable database of staff research, public comment, and deadlines pertaining to any current or prior initiatives
  • Blue Book – Information about any current Blue Book language and Historic Ballot Information

Dating back to statehood in 1876, the people of Colorado reserved for themselves the power to place constitutional or statutory questions on the on the ballot by initiative. That reservation of power can be found in Article IV, Section 1 of the Colorado Constitution. That Section of the Colorado Constitution briefly defines the delegated law-making power of the General Assembly and then extensively defines the reserved law-making power of the people of Colorado

A resident of Colorado may attempt to use the initiative process to add something to the state constitution or state law, remove or repeal something that currently exists in the state constitution or state law, or change (amend) something in the current state constitution or state law. So long as an initiative is determined to satisfy the Single Subject Requirement, it could seek to do one, two or all three of those things (add, remove, change). 

Information is provided at the website of the Colorado Secretary of State that explains how a measure can be placed on the statewide ballot. That process involves an application to, and approval by, a Title Board. If approved, a petition is then circulated to gather the required number of signatures from registered Colorado voters. If the required number of signatures are collected, then the matter is eligible to appear on the statewide ballot as an initiated measure or initiative.

While the General Assembly can refer constitutional questions to voters, it does not have the power to amend the state constitution. In Colorado, only the people – voters specifically – have that power. When the General Assembly refers a constitutional question to voters, it uses a legislative document called a Concurrent Resolution (“CR”) to consider that matter through the bicameral legislative process. In layman terms, a CR is simply a type of bill. In order for the legislature to refer a constitutional question to the voters, a CR must pass through both chambers with the support of at least 2/3 of the members elected to each chamber. That requirement translates to at least 44 of 65 state Representatives and at least 24 of 35 state Senators. If a CR receives that required support in the legislature, then it would appear on the statewide ballot as a referred measure or referendum.

The Overview option under the Initiatives menu provides access to information about the initiatives process. Additional information about the initiatives process is available at the Colorado Secretary of State website.

The Initiatives Filed option provides access to a searchable database of any current initiative and prior initiatives dating back to 2015. That database provides access to an analysis of each initiative. Links are also provided to a History of Election Results for Ballot Issues and an Online Database of Statewide Ballot Measures Dating Back 1880.

The non-partisan Office of Legislative Council at the Colorado Capitol analyzes each statewide initiative and publicly distributes a series of drafts of each such analysis. That information is provided in the Ballot Analysis section under the Initiatives menu. Any person may sign up to receive those drafts and to file comments about any one or more current initiative.

In Colorado, a book of information is distributed to voters that provides information about any question that will appear on the upcoming statewide ballot. The cover of that booklet is blue, thus the name. The objective of each Blue Book is to provide fair and impartial information about each initiated or referred constitutional amendment, law, or question on the upcoming ballot. The Blue Book menu option provides access to the English and Spanish language versions of each Blue Book, along with fiscal impact statements, dating back to 2012. A separate link is also provided, which directs to a database of Blue Book information dating back to 1954.

** 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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