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Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether General Assembly can continue interrupted session

March 17, 2020, 12:15 pm

DENVER, CO — The Colorado Supreme Court late Monday announced that it would take up the question of whether, under the current circumstances of a declared disaster emergency, the General Assembly can suspend the legislative session and pick up where it left off at a later point.

Leroy Garcia

The court accepted the bipartisan interrogatories passed by the General Assembly on Saturday, and the court will be accepting briefs on the case over the next week.

“The Constitution gives the legislature 120 calendar days to accomplish the important work our constituents elected us to do,” said Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder. “We are in an impossible situation of either not taking care of the public’s needs by not passing critical legislation, or not taking care of the public’s needs by continuing our work in the middle of a public health emergency. I’m glad that the court has acted rapidly to take up this question, and hope they will see the wisdom in allowing us to suspend operations during this crisis and come back to continue our work when appropriate.”

“We are grateful that the court has taken up our request with such speed and urgency,” said President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. “It is imperative that we get an answer regarding if the Legislature is Constitutionally permitted to suspend the counting of legislative days during a state emergency. The work we do on behalf of Coloradans is critical to the wellbeing of our state, and we sincerely hope to continue our efforts once public safety is secured.”

HJR20-1006 asks the Colorado Supreme Court to answer the following question:
Does the provision of section 7 of article V of the state constitution that limits the length of the regular legislative session to “one hundred twenty calendar days” require that those days be counted consecutively and continuously beginning with the first day on which the regular legislative session convenes or may the General Assembly for purposes of operating during a declared disaster emergency interpret the limitation as applying only to calendar days on which the Senate or the House of Representatives, or both, convene in regular legislative session?

The Interrogatory argues that “If the General Assembly is required to adjourn for a significant period of time to protect the public health[…] legislators will be unable to serve their constituents by debating and acting on many of the bills introduced during the 2020 regular legislative session, and the citizens who elected those legislators to act on those bills will be deprived of representation by their chosen representatives[…]”

The Interrogatory asks the court to determine if the General Assembly should be forced to either reduce the length of the session and thereby fail to meet its responsibility to serve the citizens of the state by passing legislation in the public interest, or jeopardize the constitutionality of that legislation, including the state’s annual budget.

Interested parties may file a brief by 5:00 PM on Tuesday March 24, and the Colorado Supreme Court case number is 2020SA100.

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