End of Session Approaches Triggering Exceptions in Legislative Rules

by Julie Pelegrin

For the second year in a row, we know we’re close to the end of the regular legislative session, we just don’t know how close. We know the General Assembly must adjourn sine die no later than 11:59 p.m. on June 12. But rumors have been circulating for some time now that “the plan” is to finish early. How early is anyone’s guess.

First, a brief reminder of why we know everything must come to a screeching halt no later than June 12. Article V, section 7 of the Colorado Constitution requires the General Assembly to meet annually in regular legislative session for no more than 120 calendar days. Normally, these legislative days are counted as consecutive calendar days, starting with the first day of the session, regardless of whether the House or the Senate actually convenes on a particular day.

Last year, the Colorado Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality of Rule 44 of the Joint Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives, which at the time provided that, during a declared state of emergency based on a public health epidemic, the General Assembly would only count those days on which one or both of the houses actually convened toward the 120-day limit. The General Assembly amended Rule 44 last January to state that every day after the General Assembly convenes counts toward the 120-day limit, except when both houses temporarily recess for longer than three consecutive days. So, since January 13, 2021, every calendar day has counted, except the 31 days beginning January 16, 2021, and continuing through February 15, 2021. So that’s how we know today—May 28, 2021—is the 105th legislative day and June 12th is the 120th legislative day (assuming both houses don’t adjourn for more than three days before the 12th).

The Senate Majority Leader has issued a memo stating that, as of Wednesday, May 26, the Senate is in the last three days of session. The House Majority Leader has announced that as of Thursday, May 27, the House is in the last three days of session.

This does not necessarily mean the General Assembly will adjourn sine die in three days, but it means that the exceptions in the legislative rules that apply only during the last three and the last two days of the session are now in effect.

Those exceptions are:

Last 3 days of session:

  • House Rule 25 (j) (3); Senate Rule 22 (f): Each House committee chairperson must submit committee reports to the House front desk as soon as possible after the committee acts on a bill. No more waiting for two or three days to turn in the report. This requirement—to submit the committee report as soon as possible—actually applies to Senate committee chairs in the last 10 days of session. See Senate Rule 22 (f). And during these last 10 days, at the request of the Senate Majority Leader or President, the chairman must submit the committee report immediately. If that doesn’t happen within 24 hours after the request, the committee staff person is required to submit the report to the Senate front desk on the chairman’s behalf.
  • House Rule 36 (d); Senate Rule 26 (a): The House and the Senate can consider the amendments made in the second house without waiting for each legislator in the first house to receive a copy of the rerevised bill and for the notice of consideration to be printed in the calendar.
  • House Rule 36 (d); Senate Rule 26 (b): Legislators can vote on conference committee reports as soon as the reports are turned in to their respective front desks—even if the report has not been distributed to the members and has not been calendared for consideration. The usual practice, however, is to try to distribute copies of conference committee reports to legislators before the vote.
  • House Rule 35 (a): Throughout most of the session, a Representative may give notice of the intention to move to reconsider a question. In this case, the Representative has until noon on the next day of actual session to move to reconsider. However, during the last three days of session, a member may not give notice of intention to reconsider.
  • Senate Rule 18 (d): Throughout most of the session, a Senator may give notice of reconsideration, and the Secretary of the Senate must hold the bill for which the notice was given for up to two days of actual session. During the last three days of session, however, this rule is suspended, and a Senator cannot hold up a bill by giving notice to reconsider.
  • House Rule 33 (b.5): Usually, the House rules only allow technical amendments on third reading; offering a substantial amendment on third reading may result in the bill being referred back to second reading. During the last three days of session, however, a Representative may offer a substantial amendment to a bill on third reading.

Last 2 Days of Session:

  • House Rule 35 (b) and (e): A motion to reconsider in the House usually requires a 2/3 vote to pass. In the last two days of session, however, a motion to reconsider – in a House committee or in the full House – requires only a majority vote.

And there are a couple of additional rule changes that have apparently been in effect for some time:

Last 5 Days of Session:

  • Joint Rule 7: One day after a bill is assigned to a conference committee, a majority of either house may demand a conference committee report, and the committee must deliver the report before the close of the legislative day during which the demand is made. If a bill has been assigned to a conference committee at any time during the session and the committee hasn’t turned in a report, the committee must report the bill out within these last five days of session.

Last two weeks:

  • Senate Rule 22 (a)(2): During the final two weeks of a legislative session, allows a Senate committee chairman to schedule a committee hearing on a day other than the usual day the committee meets.

While we don’t know exactly the date on which the General Assembly will finally adjourn this year’s legislative session, we may, with some confidence, plan to sleep in on June 13th.