To Prime or to Joint Prime

by Patti Dahlberg

Every introduced bill has at least one prime sponsor, but many bills introduced in the  Colorado General Assembly have joint prime (or co-prime) sponsors. There are many good reasons to either add a joint prime sponsor to a bill or to be added as a joint prime sponsor to a bill.

In fact, there are enough good reasons for joint prime sponsorship that both the House and Senate changed their respective rules a few years ago to allow a legislator to sign on as a joint prime sponsor without first getting Leadership’s approval . . . so long as the bill does not need delayed bill approval.Joint Prime Sponsorship occurs when two legislators in the same house decide to jointly and equally sponsor a bill through that house’s legislative process. On the bill itself, joint prime sponsorship is indicated by the word “and” between the first two names listed on the bill.

In the initiating house, a bill that is jointly sponsored counts against both legislators’ five-bill limit. (A synopsis of the rules regarding joint prime sponsorship is included below.) Please also note that joint prime sponsorship must be decided before the introduction of the bill.

Whatever the reasons to introduce a bill with joint prime sponsorship, one of the most important factors for the sponsors to consider is whether adding a joint prime sponsor to a bill will cause the bill to need delayed bill authorization. This is important to consider so that the sponsors have adequate time to obtain the authorization needed without causing the bill to miss other deadlines.

Both the House and the Senate rules also allow for joint prime sponsorship in the second house. Since prime sponsorship in the second house does not count against a legislator’s five-bill limit, joint prime sponsorship in the second house also does not count against the five-bill limit.

The rules for joint prime sponsorship are similar in the House and Senate. Here are a few highlights from House Rule 27A and Senate Rule 24A:

  • A prime sponsor in the first house may designate another legislator to act as a joint prime sponsor on his or her bill as long as the joint prime sponsor adds his or her name to the bill prior to introduction and adding the joint prime sponsor does not cause the legislator to exceed the five-bill limit.
  • Bills with joint prime sponsors are counted as being requested and sponsored by both the prime sponsor and the joint prime sponsor. If the joint prime sponsor already has five active bill requests, then he or she will need permission from the delayed bill committee to exceed the bill limit before the legislator’s name can be added to the bill.
  • Both a prime sponsor and a joint prime sponsor are responsible for carrying the bill through the legislative process. Either sponsor or both of them together may present the bill in committee or on the floor. If any rule or procedure requires notice, filing, or other communication with the sponsor of a bill, the person required to provide the notice, filing, or communication will comply with the rule or procedure by providing the notice, filing, or communication to either the prime sponsor or the joint prime sponsor.

To submit a bill request with joint prime sponsorship, contact the Office of Legislative Legal Services. A legislator can either:
✓    Indicate joint prime sponsorship when submitting a bill request; or
✓    Add a joint prime sponsor to a bill request while it is in the drafting process.

The OLLS will need both prime sponsors to verify the joint prime sponsorship directly with the Office. In addition, we cannot add a joint prime sponsor to a bill if that person already has five active bill requests without first getting delayed authorization from the appropriate Committee on Delayed Bills.

General Assembly members can submit bill requests to the OLLS by calling 303-866-2045 or by emailing olls.ga@state.co.us. Be sure to include as much drafting information as possible with your request so that our drafters can start working on the bill request right away.