Where do all those bills come from and why are there so many long committee hearings?

In the Colorado General Assembly, all bills are drafted by non-partisan attorneys who work in the Office of Legislative Legal Services (“OLLS”). OLLS staff draft bills only for members of the General Assembly. If a member of the public wants to have a bill drafted, then the first step would be to find a state legislator to act as its prime sponsor. That legislator would then request drafting of the bill by OLLS.

When a bill is ready for introduction, it is sent from OLLS upstairs to the second floor where the two legislative chambers are located. If a bill was requested by a member of the House, then it is drafted as a House Bill and it is delivered to the front desk of the House of Representatives. If a bill was requested by a member of the Senate, then it is drafted as a Senate Bill and it is delivered to the front desk of the Senate.

Once a bill arrives in that first chamber, the presiding officer (Speaker of the House or President of the Senate) must decide to which Committee of Reference each bill will be referred. In some legislatures, the presiding officer or a committee might have discretion as to whether each bill will be introduced and/or referred to a committee.

Here in Colorado, Article V, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution requires that every bill that is within its bill deadlines be introduced, that each of those bills be referred to at least one Committee of Reference, and that a public hearing be held by that committee.

Those requirements were added to the Colorado Constitution by a vote of the people in November 1988. What was known as the “GAVEL Amendment” (Give a Vote to Every Legislator) was approved with 72% of the vote that year.

With passage of the GAVEL Amendment, the only thing that should stop a bill once it has been introduced would be a vote of at least a simple majority of members of a committee or a chamber. Such a vote would be in support of a motion that would prevent that bill from advancing further in the legislative process.

Thus, when advocating for or against a bill that is before the Colorado General Assembly, it is important to keep in mind that advocating for a bill be “pulled” or not scheduled for a public hearing would be ineffective because those options are not allowed to happen.

That is why there are so many committee hearings during each 120-day general session and why such hearings often last for many hours, occasionally through the night. It isn’t optional.

** 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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