Electronic Participation in Committee Meetings

by Jason Gelender

Filmmaker Woody Allen and countless others have said that 80 percent of success in life is showing up. If that’s true, then the legislator who wants to be successful should probably show up for his or her interim committee meetings. But sometimes schedule conflicts, long travel times, or unexpected life events can make showing up for an interim committee in person difficult or impossible. Fortunately, for interim committee members only, and subject to certain conditions and limitations, there is an alternative to showing up in-person for interim committee meetings: Electronic, also sometimes referred to as remote, participation.

During the 2017 legislative session, the General Assembly enacted House Bill 17-1113. The act authorizes the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council (Executive Committee) to allow legislators to participate electronically in “committee meetings occurring during the legislative interim” only and to recommend and develop policies for electronic participation. The act also specifies that a legislator who participates electronically in an interim committee meeting is “deemed to be in attendance” at the meeting and is entitled to compensation of $99 per day for that attendance as specified in section 2-2-307 (3)(a), C.R.S., but not to reimbursement for any expenses incurred in connection with the electronic participation. [Note: The lack of reimbursement is an explicit exception to section 2-2-307 (3)(b), C.R.S., which implicitly assumes in-person attendance at interim committee meetings and specifies that an attending legislator is “entitled to reimbursement for all actual and necessary travel and subsistence expenses.”] During the 2018 legislative session, the General Assembly made a conforming amendment to Joint Rule 24A of the Joint Rules of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which had prohibited electronic participation, to allow legislators to electronically participate in interim committee meetings “to the extent authorized by the Executive Committee, and subject to any policies that the Executive Committee develops” as authorized by law.

The Executive Committee established electronic participation policies and notified the members of the Seventy-First General Assembly of these policies by letter. The policies are summarized as follows:

  • Committee members may electronically participate in meetings of interim committees and committees of reference conducting SMART Act hearings held at the State Capitol complex (the Capitol and the Legislative Services Building) only. Electronic participation is not allowed for meetings of year-round standing committees that may meet in the interim such as the Joint Budget Committee, Legislative Audit Committee, and Capital Development Committee [Note: The full list of year-round committees can be viewed on the Colorado General Assembly’s website at the following link under the heading “Year-Round Committees”: https://leg.colorado.gov/content/committees.]
  • Up to two members of an interim committee may participate electronically at a meeting so long as:
    • A quorum of the members of the committee are expected to be physically present at the meeting;
    • The chair authorizes the electronic participation no later than 48 hours before the meeting [Note: In an emergency, the chair and the Director of Research of the Legislative Council may approve electronic participation after the 48-hour deadline] and notifies Legislative Council Staff of the authorization at remote.part@state.co.us;
    • The member participating electronically calls in to the meeting 30 minutes before it begins to test connections and technology; and
    • Neither of the members is chairing the meeting.
  • Members participating electronically may not vote. These members count toward the quorum needed to hold the committee meeting, but a quorum of the members of the committee must be physically present at the meeting for the committee to vote on any matter.
  • Members participating electronically must follow the same rules and meeting decorum as members participating in person.
  • There is no guarantee of electronic participation. Accordingly:
    • The member chairing a meeting may discontinue remote participation if technological or other issues interfere with the meeting;
    • No additional equipment or software will be provided to members who wish to participate electronically; and
    • Members participating electronically must maintain any applicable security requirements and protect any log-in credentials.

For more information on how to electronically participate in an interim committee meeting or SMART Act hearing, please contact Colorado Legislative Council Staff at 303-866-3521.