You’ve Got Mail!

By Jery Payne

Imagine you’re a senator in the Colorado General Assembly. You’re sitting at your desk and feeling good. Session is winding down, and you’re done with that monster bill you’ve been working on. All you have left is a short cleanup bill.

Then, you get a letter from the Publications Coordinator and the Revisor of Statutes. It’s titled “Revisor’s Comment.” Your heart sinks. It looks pretty official. The letter tells you that your short cleanup bill conflicts with another bill. Darn it!

But what does this mean?

This means that at least one provision in your bill cannot be harmonized with at least one provision of another bill. You begin to wonder: “Will my bill die because of this?

It’s true that if one of the bills doesn’t change, then one of the conflicting provisions may not take effect. Or the conflicting provisions will be included in the law for courts to determine what takes effect.

If two bills change the same section of law, then normally the provisions will be harmonized. Here’s an example: If a law says “A person shall pay a tax of one dollar to the department of revenue …” One bill might change the tax to two dollars. Another bill might change the name of the department of revenue to the tax collectors. These bills will be harmonized to say that “A person shall pay a tax of two dollars to the tax collectors.” But if one bill repeals the tax and the other increases the tax, then these bills cannot work together.

So what should you do?

Go talk to the bill drafter.

By the time you have received the letter, the drafter has already been notified of the situation and has probably determined how to make the bills work together. In most cases, the language technically conflicts but the conflicting provisions can be made to work together. An amendment to your bill or the other bill will usually solve the problem.