What does it take to get a bill to the Governor?

by Kathy Zambrano and Anja Boyd

You’d think that once a bill makes it through both houses and the first house concurs with second house changes, if necessary, the bill would land on the Governor’s desk in a day. But in most cases, there’s a lag time of up to five working days – oftentimes more as we move to the end of the legislative session – before an enacted bill gets presented to the Governor for action. So what really happens to a bill before it is delivered to the Governor on act paper?

First thing to know is that, pursuant to Rule 18 of the Joint Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives, “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 Office of Legislative Legal Services shall prepare the bill in the form in which it shall appear in the session laws. . . “. So over the years, the House and Senate enrolling rooms and the OLLS have developed a process that allows for the efficient preparation of the bills on act paper and the development of the Session Laws.

Once the enrolling room receives a bill for enrolling into an act, they verify sponsors before delivering the bill to the Publications Team in the OLLS. But before they can even do that, they typically prioritize their other work to focus on engrossing bills as they pass on second and third reading, since those bills must be made available the same day they pass on the floor, and on preparing preamended bills that are reported out of committees so that those are available to legislators and the public as soon as possible.

Once the Publications Team receives the bill for enrolling, they begin processing the bill by checking the bill for errors that may be fixed by correction schedule[1]. Then they input the bill’s information into the bill disposition tables and the Red Book, which is a tabulation of all C.R.S. sections affected by bills passed during the legislative session. The bill disposition tables and the Red Book are mandatory parts of the Session Laws, which are prepared by the OLLS following each legislative session as required by statute. By preparing the red book entries at this point, it allows the Publications Team to determine whether new statutory sections added in the bill need to be renumbered to make room for other new statutory sections added by other bills and which provisions need to be harmonized or superseded. This is the beginning of the steps in preparation of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Once the Publications Team finishes with the bill, they deliver it to the subject matter team in the OLLS that is responsible for the bill to prepare an advance unofficial copy. The subject matter team reviews the bill attachments for completeness and accuracy as a courtesy to the House and Senate front desks, then they verify which version of the bill should be enrolled, check the sponsors on the bill, input any conference committee report changes that were adopted, make sure all amendments that were passed appear in the bill, and check to ensure that no current law has been dropped and that all new language appears in capital letters. If they find grammatical or punctuation errors, they include those on the correction schedule before making any corrections in the copy. If the subject matter team is enrolling a bill during the legislative session, then other session-related work often takes priority, like bill and amendment preparation, so there could be delays.

When the unofficial copy of a bill is ready, it is delivered to the enrolling room for proofing. Yep, the bill is proofed yet again even though it has been proofed after each reading during its travels to become a final act. The enrolling room also checks sponsorship of the bill and ensures that any corrections to the bill and any conference committee report that was adopted appear in the copy. Great care is taken to ensure that the bill is correctly enrolled.

When the enrolling room completes their proofing, they deliver the bill to the Publications Team again; the Publications Team reviews it and determines whether further grammatical or punctuation corrections need to be made. The bill is then put on act paper by the subject matter team, subject to other priorities. The act paper copy, which is the version of the bill the Governor receives for signing, is then delivered to the appropriate enrolling room.

Now that the enrolling room has the final act copy, they prepare a fancy bill jacket that goes along with the act to the Governor’s office. But before it goes to the Governor, there are a few more stops on a bill’s journey to the Governor’s desk. First, if it’s a House bill, it goes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chief Clerk for their signatures and then to the President of the Senate and the Senate Secretary for their signatures. If it’s a Senate bill, the President and Senate Secretary get to sign first. And, of course, messages are prepared to notify the body that the bill was signed by the Speaker or President, if the legislative session is still in progress.

So then, after all of that action takes place, the enrolling room contacts the Governor’s office and makes arrangements for someone to be physically present in the Governor’s office to sign for and receive the bill.

And now you know what really happens before a bill lands on the Governor’s desk.



[1] The correction schedule is a list of grammatical and punctuation errors that may appear in a bill, along with numbering changes required due to other bills amending the same section, which are automatically corrected when the bill is enrolled into an act.