by Patti Dahlberg
Each member of the Colorado General Assembly is allowed five bill requests (Joint Rule 24(b)(1)(A)). These five bill requests are in addition to any appropriation, committee-approved, or sunset bills that a legislator may choose to carry. Seems pretty simple — every legislator gets five bills?
If only it were so . . . there are a few rules legislators need to follow in order to make and keep their five bill requests.
According to Joint Rule 24(b)(1)(A), each legislator is allowed five bill requests each session. These five bill requests are in addition to any appropriation, committee-approved, or sunset bills that a legislator may choose to carry — seems pretty simple doesn’t it?
Not so fast. In order to make and keep his or her five bill requests, a legislator will need to meet specific bill request and bill introduction deadlines.
Bill request deadlines
According to Joint Rule 24(b)(1)(A), only two of the five bill requests may be requested after December 1. Bill requests are considered to be early requests when made by the December 1 deadline and regular requests when made after the December 1 deadline. To get five bill requests, legislators need to file at least three of their requests with the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) by the first of December and then file the remaining two bill requests with the OLLS by the second bill request deadline. The second or regular request deadline is the 6th legislative day, usually the first Monday of the session. This year it falls on Monday, January 16, 2012. If a legislator only submits one early request, he or she forfeits the other two requests that were due by the December 1 deadline.*
We actually encourage legislators to submit more than three early requests so that they have an opportunity to withdraw and replace at least one of those requests after the early request deadline without losing the request. If a legislator has only three early requests filed by the early deadline and later withdraws one of those requests, he or she will forfeit that bill request because the rules allow each legislator to have only two regular requests. In this case, after withdrawing one of the three early requests, the legislator now has only two early requests left. Because it is after December 1, he or she can only make two regular requests, thus limiting the legislator to four bill requests.
On the other hand, if a legislator has four bill requests filed by December 1 and later withdraws one of those requests, he or she will still be left with three bill requests that meet the early deadline plus two regular requests he or she can still file, for a total of five bill requests. If a legislator has five early requests and withdraws two of them, he or she can replace the two withdrawn requests with two regular requests. If that same legislator later withdraws another early request, he or she will forfeit that request because he or she already has the two regular requests filed that are allowed by rule.
Bill introduction deadlines
We’re not done yet — that’s only the bill request part. Not only does a legislator have to request his or her five bills by specific dates, in order to keep all five requests he or she will also need to make certain that each of those five bill requests meets a specific introduction deadline. (Joint Rule 23.) If a legislator’s bill does not meet a designated introduction deadline, the legislator forfeits that bill.*
Each legislator must introduce a prefile bill, two early bills, and two regular bills. The prefile deadline is five days prior to the start of session, usually the Friday before session starts. This year the prefile deadline is January 6, 2012. (See the bill deadline schedule)
Joint Rule 23 indicates in 23(a)(1) that a legislator should choose his or her prefile and early bills from the three requests made by December 1, but the rule also allows a legislator (in 23(a)(2)) to instead choose a bill request made after December 1 to meet the early introduction deadlines. Generally speaking, most early requests become early bills — early requests are filed by the December 1 deadline and therefore have had more time to be drafted than a regular request. But sometimes an early request may be more complicated than expected, and it is easier to choose a relatively simple regular request to be an early bill so as to have more time to work on the complicated early bill request. We encourage legislators to designate their prefile and early bill choices (“bill order”) as soon as possible so that the office can prioritize these bill requests accordingly. As session gets closer, if we do not have a legislator’s bill order on record we will contact that legislator for the information.
* A legislator can ask for permission from the Committee on Delayed Bills to put in additional bill requests or to waive a specific introduction deadline to a different date.