On Thursday afternoon, leadership of all four legislative caucuses in the Colorado General Assembly agreed on the following “Plan of Action” over the coming days in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak:
Step One: House Bill 20-1359 was introduced this afternoon and has passed the House Judiciary Committee and Second Reading in the House of Representatives. This bill will move swiftly through the General Assembly with the goal of being delivered to Governor Jared Polis by Saturday, March 14. This legislation, drafted with the leadership of all caucuses and with the support of both the Colorado Democratic Party and the Colorado Republican Party, will give county political parties more control regarding where their assemblies are to be conducted and what procedures they must follow. This includes allowing for changes in location and allowance of electronic means of participation for delegates and candidates if such means can be secured by those entities.
Step Two: A Joint Resolution will be introduced in the House of Representatives to ask the Colorado Supreme Court – via an interrogatory – to clarify the General Assembly’s ability to count legislative days non-consecutively. The State Constitution limits the General Assembly’s session to “no more than 120 calendar days,” but does not clearly define whether that means consecutive days; and a Joint Rule provides for the ability to meet non-consecutively when a public health-related emergency has been declared by the Governor. Clarification from the Supreme Court would avoid the potential risk of litigation over ambiguity regarding the counting of those 120 days.
Step Three: A Joint Resolution is currently being drafted that would allow both the Senate and the House to adjourn temporarily. As of now, there is no plan on when that Resolution would be introduced or for what period of time the General Assembly might be adjourned. This is being drafted as a precaution so that we are prepared in the event that the General Assembly decides it is in the best interest of staff, legislators, lobbyists, and the public at large to temporarily adjourn for some length of time.
Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) released the following statement:
“Protecting the health and safety of state employees as well as the public, is our top priority right now. We are currently navigating all of our options and will continue to do our due diligence in determining how to proceed in the coming weeks. By taking these next steps, we are laying the groundwork to act quickly if necessary, while allowing essential tenets of democracy to continue. In moments like this, Coloradans need unity, and I applaud my colleagues in both chambers in working together during this difficult time.”
Speaker of the House K.C. Becker (D-Boulder) released the following statement:
“The health and safety of all Coloradans is our top priority. We are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and are in close contact with state agencies, public health experts and the governor. Any decision we make will be informed by public health experts and our State’s Constitution. Today we are taking steps to prepare the General Assembly for actions we may need to take to protect the public, and I am grateful for the willingness of leaders in both parties and in both chambers to work together during this public health emergency.”
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Douglas County) released the following statement:
“Unlike a sports league, an amusement park, or a parade, the General Assembly is obligated to follow the Colorado Constitution. We are determined to prioritize the health and safety of all who work in – or visit – the Colorado State Capitol, and that means taking these steps to ensure we remain constitutionally compliant in every action we take. I am thankful for Democrat and Republican leadership in both chambers for working collaboratively. This is truly a Colorado effort.”
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock) released the following statement:
“As a legislature, we need to ensure the safety of not only this body, but more importantly the public. The Capitol sees hundreds, sometimes thousands, of visitors a day and we have a duty to protect them. That being said, we, as legislators, are unable to perform our duties without public input. I cannot represent the people of Colorado if they are shut out of the building. If we go into recess, we have to make certain that no legislative business is done without the participation of the people. As many of my colleagues know, public testimony can make or break a bill.”