by Julie Pelegrin
The opening day of the First Regular Session of the Sixty-ninth General Assembly is just around the corner: Wednesday, January 9, 2013. For many legislators and legislative watchers, the hoopla and falderal will be old hat, but for those who are new to the process, here’s a quick overview of what to expect and some explanation of why they do what they do.
The official ceremonies will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m. with the posting of the United States and Colorado flags in both the Senate and House of Representatives. This year, the Colorado Springs Police Department Honor Guard will post the colors in the Senate and the Colorado National Guard Honor Guard will post the colors in the House. Once the colors are posted, guests in each house will sing the national anthem and lead the assembled crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Senate will also call the role of the returning Senators.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives will receive from the Secretary of State the abstract of the vote and the certification of the November 2012 General Election. In each house, the Reader will read the list of newly elected senators and representatives. Pursuant to section 2-2-303, C.R.S., each house will appoint a three-member committee on credentials to review the Secretary of State’s certification of the votes and submit a report confirming that it is a true, complete, and authentic list of those elected. These committees are necessary because, under this statute, “each house will be the sole judge of the election returns and qualifications of its own members.” The Senate and the House will adopt the committee’s report by a voice vote. Only after this can the newly elected senators and representatives take the oath of office.
Section 2 of article V of the state constitution requires each member of the general assembly, before entering upon his or her official duties, to take an “oath or affirmation to support the constitution of the United States and of the state of Colorado and to faithfully perform the duties of his [or her] office according to the best of his [or her] ability.” Each house will appoint a three-member committee to escort Chief Justice Michael L. Bender of the Colorado Supreme Court to the front of each chamber where he will administer the oath of office to all of the representatives in the House and to the newly elected members in the Senate. Once the new legislators have taken the oath of office, each house will officially call the role of the Sixty-ninth General Assembly.
After roll call, the Senate will take nominations for and elect the new Senate President. The Senate will then take nominations for and elect the new Senate President Pro Tem. In the House, the representatives will take nominations for and elect the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. These votes are taken as voice votes.
Both houses will consider resolutions to adopt their respective rules as the temporary rules of the Senate or the House of Representatives. Section 12 of article V of the state constitution gives to each house of the General Assembly plenary authority to determine the rules of its proceedings. Based on this provision, every two years, each house readopts its rules and may amend its rules at various times during the legislative session. In the Senate, adopting the rules as temporary rules allows the Senate to amend the rules by a majority vote without first giving three-days’ notice as required in Senate Rule 34. In the House, adopting the rules as temporary rules allows the House to amend the rules by a majority vote rather than the two-thirds majority vote that is otherwise required in House Rule 47.
At some point during the course of the morning, the Senate will nominate and elect the Secretary of the Senate and the House will appoint the Chief Clerk. Each house will also read the new membership of the committees of reference and elect the members to serve on certain of the joint legislative committees.
Next, the new President of the Senate will address the Senate and the new Speaker will address the House of Representatives. The speeches of the President and the Speaker are followed by speeches by the Minority Leader in each house. These speeches traditionally set forth each leader’s priorities for the coming legislative session and often set the tone for the operations in each house.
Finally, each house will likely close with first reading – reading of the bill number, title, and committee assignment – for the bills that are delivered to each house prior to the opening day of session. As many as one hundred bills, more in some years, may be read across the desk at this point.
The House and the Senate usually adjourn on the first day at about noon, with a motion to reconvene at 10:00 a.m. the second legislative day. But the end of the first legislative day does not mean the end of the formal speeches. The Governor is scheduled to deliver his state of the state address to a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, January 10, 2013. Chief Justice Bender is scheduled to deliver his state of the judiciary address to a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at 11:00 a.m. Friday, January 11, 2013. After that, the real work of the 2013 regular legislative session will begin.