DENVER, CO — House and Senate Democratic leadership today announced a plan for the beginning of the First Regular Session of the Seventy-third General Assembly.
The General Assembly will convene on January 13 and meet for as little time as is necessary to address urgent business and attend to certain constitutional and statutory obligations such as swearing in new members. The General Assembly will then go into a temporary recess, with the aim of returning to the Capitol tentatively on February 16 to continue the legislative session when the peak of the pandemic will hopefully have subsided. However, if an emergency arises that requires immediate legislative attention, the General Assembly maintains its commitment to responding with resolve in whatever format deemed necessary, including temporarily coming back into session to pass urgent legislation.
After making this announcement, Democratic leadership released the following statements:
“From the very beginning, we’ve worked hard to find ways to protect the health and safety of the public, legislative staff, and lawmakers while allowing for public participation,” said Speaker-designate Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “Recessing until mid-February will place us farther out from the holiday spike in COVID cases and will allow the bulk of our legislative work to take place when we hope it is safer and more Coloradans will have received the COVID vaccine. We’ll continue to look at the data and listen to public health experts to guide our decisions. When we return, we’ll take up the people’s work and pass laws to build back a stronger Colorado.”
“It is extremely important that as we navigate returning for legislative session, we weigh the safety concerns for people’s health alongside the many changing factors that will guide our decision making,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. “Last month, with a great deal of planning and coordination, we were able to convene a highly-effective special session aimed at alleviating Colorado’s most immediate needs going into the winter season. Now as we approach our regular session, we are committed to acting with the same precision and forethought – diligently prioritizing what matters most to our state and completing mission critical work before temporarily exiting the building. That’s why we have decided to delay our official legislative session until safer conditions in the state become more clear.”
“With the first vaccines being distributed in our state, the end of this pandemic is finally in sight– but it’s time for Colorado to be more vigilant, not less,” said House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “Delaying our legislative session is a responsible and science-driven choice that will protect the health and safety of the public while ensuring that we’ll be able to get our work done on behalf of the people of Colorado. This pandemic has exposed and heightened many existing inequities in our economy, and we’ll come back in February ready to work towards ensuring every Coloradan has a fair shot at success.”
“The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are currently being administered in Colorado, which is promising news for the future, but the pandemic is far from over,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “As our state works to administer the vaccine over the next several months, we must remain cautious and do everything we can to limit large gatherings and potential super spreader events. With that in mind, we have decided that the most responsible way to ensure the health of the public as well as our legislative staff is to delay session until we can more safely reconvene. We will continue to closely monitor public health data in the coming weeks and months as we eagerly await our return to the Capitol. In the meantime, we are firmly committed to crafting the most effective legislation we can to support hardworking Coloradans in their recovery.”
On January 13, space inside the Capitol will be limited to ensure social distancing. Most ceremonial activities will be postponed to a later date, and few guests are expected in the building.
Earlier this year, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the General Assembly’s position that Joint Rule 44 allows the legislature to pause its work during a declared public health emergency and return at a later date without those days during the recess counting towards the 120-day limit.
While the General Assembly is in a temporary recess, the Joint Budget Committee will continue to meet, with virtual participation continuing for those hearings. Additional year-round committees may also meet during this time. Given the new timeline, deadlines for members to finalize and introduce their bills will be pushed back.