Contracting for the Publication of the Colorado Revised Statutes

by Jennifer Gilroy

Have you ever stopped to wonder how those pretty red statute books, the Colorado Revised Statutes, are published? As you can imagine, it’s very important that citizens have access to the law. So important, in fact, that the state constitution requires the General Assembly to publish the laws it passes at each legislative session. The General Assembly satisfies this requirement by annually publishing the Session Laws of Colorado, a three-volume set of books in which every bill enacted during a legislative session is published.

In addition, the statutes that are created, amended, or repealed in each of those bills are then codified by subject matter in the collective body of Colorado law known as the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS)—the previously mentioned red books on your book shelf and at public libraries and courthouses. There are 26 volumes including a two-volume index and a two-volume publication of the Colorado Court Rules.

The legislature’s Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) prepares the databases for both the Session Laws and the CRS, by making the necessary changes in the former year’s CRS database to reflect the additions, changes, and repeals resulting from the work of the General Assembly during the legislative session.  The work of the OLLS in preparing the CRS also includes drafting the history (or “source”) notes, the editor’s notes, and the annotations of relevant appellate court opinions for each statutory section of law. Once the OLLS has completed compiling the Session Laws and the CRS—which takes a lot of meticulous work and time (the law needs to be published accurately!)—the OLLS sends the giant databases to the contract printer to format, print, bind, and distribute. But who is the contract printer, how is the contract printer selected, and when?

Like most things, the actual printing of the Session Laws and CRS are governed by state statute. The statute requires that the contract must be bid and awarded in a manner directed by the Committee on Legal Services (Committee), a bipartisan committee of ten legislators, five each from the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Committee must employ standard bidding practices to select the contract printer. Historically the Committee has done so through the use of a request for proposals or “RFP” process.

The governing statute also sets some limits on the contract. For example, the term of the contract may not exceed five years.  The statute allows a contract to be extended once for up to five more years, but requires the contract to be rebid no less frequently than every 10 years.  Since 2002, the Committee has awarded the print contract to LexisNexis out of Charlottesville, Virginia. The contract awarded to LexisNexis in 2002 was for five years, and the Committee extended it in 2007 for an additional five years.  In 2012, the Committee put the print contract out to bid as required by the statute, and the Committee awarded a five-year contract to LexisNexis. That contract was extended for an additional five years in 2017.

So now another 10 years have lapsed, and the Committee must once again put the print contract out for bid because the current extension will expire December 31, 2022. The RFP process is lengthy and requires a significant amount of the Committee’s time. Therefore, meetings for the OLLS to advise the Committee about the RFP process, for the Committee to review the RFP before it is published, and for the Committee to meet with those who submitted proposals and select a contract printer must begin sooner than later. The Committee will have its first meeting to address the publications contract on March 25, 2021, with more meetings to follow over the summer and fall months. Once the Committee selects a contract printer, the OLLS will negotiate the actual terms of the contract with the successful bidder and draft the contract. The statute requires the state controller and the attorney general to approve the contract, and, ultimately, the contract must be executed by a representative of the selected contract printer and the chair of the Committee.

It’s a long and time-consuming process but one that is intended to provide fairness, transparency, and reliability in the quality of the final products: The Session Laws and the Colorado Revised Statutes.