By Julie Pelegrin
The legislator’s bill has passed the committee of reference, passed the Committee of the Whole on second reading, and is finally calendared for third reading and final passage. There are fewer third-reading rules to learn, but knowing these rules is crucial if the bill sponsor wants to ensure that the bill safely finishes its journey through the House or the Senate.
Voting on Third Reading
Art. V, section 22, Colorado Constitution
House Rules 20(a)(1) and 33(c) and (d)
Senate Rules 17(f)(1) and 25(b)
The state constitution and the legislative rules impose several requirements on the third reading process. Section 22 of article V of the state constitution requires that second and third reading take place on different days. For example, if a bill passes second reading on Monday, it cannot be considered on third reading until Tuesday at the earliest. Because of this requirement, it takes at least three days — from introduction in the first house through final passage in the second house — for the Colorado General Assembly to pass a bill. In the final three days of the regular legislative session, if a bill has not passed on second reading in the first house by the end of the 118th day, the bill is considered dead because it cannot constitutionally pass by the end of the legislative session.
To pass on third reading, a majority of the elected members of the House and the Senate must approve the bill, and the third reading vote must be recorded in the House and Senate journals. This requirement leads to the Rule of 33, 18, and One: To pass, a bill must receive at least 33 aye votes in the House, 18 aye votes in the Senate, and the Governor’s approval, either explicit or implied.
The constitution and the rules of the House and the Senate also require that all substantial amendments to a bill must be printed and distributed to the legislators before the third reading vote. Both houses implement this requirement by creating the engrossed version of the bill that includes all of the amendments adopted on second reading in the first house and the revised version of the bill that includes all of the amendments adopted on second reading in the second house. When a chamber votes on a bill on third reading, it is voting to adopt the engrossed version or the revised version of the bill, depending on whether the third reading vote occurs in the first or second house.
Third reading consent calendar – Senate only
Senate Rule 25A(c) and (d)
In the Senate, if a bill passes on the second reading consent calendar, it is placed on the third reading consent calendar for consideration on the next day of actual session. A senator may object to having the bill on the consent calendar at any time before the bill passes on third reading, in which case the bill is removed from the consent calendar and placed on the third reading calendar for the next day of actual session.
Senators cannot substantially debate bills that are on the third reading consent calendar, and they will not consider substantive third reading amendments to any of these bills. The Senate takes a single vote on all of the bills on the third reading consent calendar, but each senator has the opportunity to vote no on each bill. The yes and no votes are recorded in the Senate journal separately for each bill.
The House does not use a consent calendar.
Third reading procedures
House Rules 13(d); 23(h)(3); 27(b); 27A(a) and (c); 29(k); and 33
Senate Rules 9(d); 11; 17(f)(15); 22A(b); 24A(a) and (c); 25(b), (k), and (m); and 31(f)
Decorum. When the House or the Senate is considering bills on third reading, a legislator may not introduce any visitors in the gallery or chambers. During third reading in the House, representatives cannot use electronic devices to send or receive voice or data communications, including emails, texts, and tweets. And it’s worth noting that senators and representatives cannot use cell phones for voice communications at any time in the Senate chambers or House chambers.
Motions. All of the bills on third reading are read by title only unless a legislator requests that the bill be read at length. On third reading, a legislator may move to:
- Strike the enacting clause of the bill, which kills the bill;
- Amend the bill, which requires the permission of a majority of the representatives or senators;
- Adopt the bill;
- Refer the bill back to a committee of reference;
- Lay the bill over for consideration on a later date; and
- In the House, refer the bill back to second reading for consideration of a substantial amendment to the bill.
Third reading amendments. To offer an amendment on third reading, a legislator must first move for permission to offer the amendment. If a majority of the representatives or senators grants permission by voting yes on the motion, then the legislator can move for the adoption of the third reading amendment. The votes on each third reading amendment are recorded in the House and Senate journals whether the amendment passes or fails.
On third reading, if a bill is in the first house, the House and the Senate will usually consider only technical amendments to correct a drafting oversight or error. Sometimes, however, when the bill is in the second house, a legislator finds that he or she needs to substantially amend the bill on third reading. In the House, if a representative wants to offer a substantial amendment on third reading, he or she may move to refer the bill back to second reading for consideration of the amendment. In the Senate, a senator must have the amendment printed and placed on the desk of each senator, and the bill and amendment are laid over for consideration until the next day of actual session.
Limits on speaking. On third reading, the House and Senate rules limit the number of times and the length of time that legislators may speak on a question – in most cases an amendment or a bill. These rules are somewhat different for the House and the Senate.
In the House, most representatives may speak only twice on each bill or amendment. But the chairman of the committee of reference to which a bill was assigned and the representative who moves the bill or amendment may speak more than twice. Regardless of how many times a representative speaks, however, the representative cannot speak longer than a total of 10 minutes on each bill and each amendment.
In the Senate, most senators are also limited to speaking only twice on each bill, but the bill sponsor may speak more than twice. And each senator is limited to ten minutes each time he or she speaks on the bill.
Second house sponsors. Before a bill can be heard on third reading in the first house, the bill sponsor must designate a prime sponsor for the bill in the second house. The Chief Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate have forms that the legislators must complete and turn in to the House or Senate front desk before the bill can be heard on third reading.
Cosponsors. Immediately after a bill passes on third reading, legislators may add their names as cosponsors of the bill or request that their names be removed as cosponsors.
Once a bill passes on third reading in the first house, the bill, including any amendments adopted on third reading, becomes the reengrossed bill and it is sent to the second house for consideration. When the bill passes on third reading in the second house, the bill, including any amendments adopted on third reading, becomes the rerevised bill. If the second house amends the bill, the rerevised bill is returned to the first house for consideration of the second house amendments. If the second house does not amend the bill, the bill is engrossed, signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Clerk of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Secretary of the Senate, and sent to the Governor, who decides whether to sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow the bill to become law without a signature.