Postponed Indefinitely

In the Colorado legislative process, once a bill has been introduced, it must continue through that process unless a motion is approved to remove that bill from that process. Our legislative process exists according to a calendar and everything that occurs during a session must be accounted for during the term of that calendar.

It can be helpful to keep in mind that, with passage of the GAVEL Amendment to the state constitution in 1988, opportunities for one legislator to stop a bill once it has been introduced had to be eliminated from the Colorado legislative process. Thus, starting in 1989, so long as a given bill is within its deadlines, neither a bill sponsor, chamber presiding officer, committee chairperson, or any other single legislator can stop a bill on his/her own once it has been introduced.

It might also be helpful to consider that there is no motion to “kill” a bill. That word would be inappropriate and ruled out of order by a committee chair or chamber presiding officer. Bills are not actually “killed”, they are removed (derailed, uncoupled) from the legislative process. Once a bill is officially uncoupled from that process, it cannot proceed further in that process.

A variety of appropriate motions are available to remove a bill from the legislative process. For example, a motion to layover a bill to a date beyond the 120th day of a general session would “kill” that bill because there can be no more than 120 days in an annual general session. In such cases, if that motion were to be supported by at least a simple majority of members of the committee or chamber, then further action on that bill would be postponed until that date. Then, at or before midnight of the 120th day, both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly must adjourn “sine die” (without date) from the annual general session. At that point, the term of the Calendar of that session ends and anything remaining on the calendar for a date beyond the 120th day could not be considered and would be “dead” because the process could not continue beyond that date.

The most common motion used to remove a bill from the legislative process is referred to as “postpone indefinitely.” Rather than layover or postpone action on that bill until a specific date, the motion is to postpone action on that bill on an ongoing, indefinite, basis. That motion is often questioned by people who are less familiar with the Colorado legislative process. It is common for people to be concerned that “indefinitely” might mean for some short period of time and that the bill might reappear. While such concerns are understandable, they are unnecessary.

When at least a simple majority of a committee vote in favor of a motion to “postpone indefinitely” a given bill, memorial, or resolution, that motion can only be reconsidered by the members of that committee prior to the chairperson signing the committee report and delivering it to the desk of his/her chamber. Such reconsideration is rare and, when it does occur, generally takes place immediately.

If the chairperson signs his/her committee report and that report is then delivered to the front desk of his/her chamber, then no further action can be taken on a bill that has been “postponed indefinitely.” While the words “kill” and “dead” are not actually used in our legislative process, the result is the same.

** 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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