From the Legislative Chambers to the Governor’s Desk – The Process for Enrolling Bills

The main goal of the Legislative Session is to pass bills. So what happens to a bill once the bill sponsors have championed it through both houses? Sure, it goes to the Governor for his signature, but why does it take so long to land on his desk?

lawIf you have been following bills as they go through the legislative process you probably noticed that early in the legislative session there is a fairly quick turnaround time in getting bills to the Governor’s desk. But, as session moves on and more bills pass, the enrolling of the bills can bog down a bit because of the volume. Last session, for example, the Governor took action on 180 bills from January 9 to April 30 — 112 days. But he took action on 262 bills from May 1 to June 7 — 38 days!

All bills must go through a series of checks to verify that all amendments are correctly incorporated into the final document so that all of the changes in the laws are incorporated correctly into the Colorado Revised Statutes. Under the authority of Joint Rule 18, “the enrolling clerk of the originating house and the Office of Legislative Legal Services shall coordinate and work together jointly to prepare the bill as passed in final form.”

The series of steps that are necessary to prepare a bill have been in place for years. The Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) refers to the process as “enrolling into an act:”

  • Enrolling room staff verifies that all sponsors and co-sponsors who signed on to the bill are correct and sends the bill to the OLLS.
  • The OLLS then creates Red Book entries for each provision affected by the bill. The Red Book is a listing referenced by statute number of each section of law amended during the Legislative Session. You can find this quick reference of amended statutes with the Session Laws of Colorado on the General Assembly’s home page.
  • The OLLS reviews the bill against other bills that have already passed during the session to determine whether there are any conflicts and, if necessary, whether the conflicting provisions can be harmonized. During this review, the OLLS may create a Correction Schedule, pursuant to Joint Rule 16, to correct “errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and matters of form, where no change of meaning will occur”. The correction schedule, if created, is attached to the bill back and becomes a part of the permanent record of the bill.
  • The OLLS prepares an “Advance Unofficial Copy” of the bill. The OLLS staff ensures that the correct bill version is enrolled and the amendments are all included in the unofficial copy, and they make any corrections noted on the Correction Schedule. The staff then checks the legislative history and notes any inconsistencies for the historians in the House and Senate to review and correct.
  • The OLLS then delivers the “Advance Unofficial Copy” to the Governor’s office for their preview and to the appropriate enrolling room for proofing. The House and Senate enrolling rooms proof each of their bills word-for-word against the adopted version of the bill to verify that all changes made to the bill by amendment or correction schedule are incorporated into the unofficial copy.

Once proofing is complete, the bill is returned to the OLLS for preparation of the Final Act copy. A Final Act copy and Bill Jacket is prepared and, pursuant to Joint Rule 20, it is signed by the President, the Speaker of the House, the Secretary of the Senate, and the Chief Clerk of the House before it is delivered to the Governor for his “official” action. The Governor may choose to sign the Final Act, veto the Final Act, or allow the Final Act to become law without his signature.

During the first 110 days of session, the Governor has ten days, including weekends, after lawa bill arrives on his desk in which to act on the bill or the bill becomes law without his signature.

For the bills that arrive on the Governor’s desk on or after the 111th legislative day, the Governor has until thirty days after the General vetoAssembly adjourns sine die to act on the bill. This year the action due date is June 6, 2014. A thirty-day bill that the Governor does not act on by the action due date becomes law without his signature at 12:01 a.m., June 7, 2014.