How a Bill Becomes Colorado Law
The Legislative Process
Each legislator serves on several committees, appointed to these positions by his or her political party’s leadership. The committees that generally hear bills of interest to our Association are Education; State Affairs; Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions; Finance; and Business Affairs and Labor. Most bills in which we are interested begin in either the House or Senate Education Committees. Bills with a fiscal impact are usually heard in the committee of origin and in the Appropriations Committee.
The process by which a bill is passed is a series of hearings and votes. Passage of a bill requires a majority: 33 votes in the House and 18 votes in the Senate.
- Introduction in either the Senate or the House:
A Senator or Representative introduces a bill as the bill’s sponsor. Other legislators may sign on as co-sponsors. A bill has a House sponsor and a Senate sponsor.
- First Reading:
The bill is read in the House or Senate (wherever it is introduced) and is given a number and a committee assignment. The bill may be assigned to more than one committee.
- Committee Hearing:
The committee reviews the bill in a hearing. Supporters and opponents can testify for or against the bill; citizens can attend the hearing and testify on the bill. The committee decides whether to amend the bill (by adding language, taking language out, substituting language for the original language, and voting on the amendment) or vote on it as introduced. Then the committee votes to pass the bill, refer the bill to another committee, or kill the bill. Killing the bill is technically called “Postponing Indefinitely” or PI. (If the committee refers the bill to another committee, that committee has a hearing on the bill.)
- Second Reading:
If the committee passes the bill, it goes to the House or Senate floor, depending on whichchamber introduced it. The bill is read to the entire House or Senate. The legislators can amend the bill (and vote on the amendment). Then they vote on the bill in its final form. When a bill is killed on the floor of either house, it is considered “Lost.”
- Third Reading:
If the full chamber passes a bill, it takes a “third reading” vote as its final approval before sending it to the other house. Or it can kill the bill on third reading.
- Repeat of Process:
If the first chamber passes a bill, the bill goes to the other house and the process repeats.
- Conference Committee:
If a bill passes both chambers, but the version of the bill are different, the bill goes to a conference committee. The House and Senate leaders appoint conference committee members who try to work out the differences and end up with one compromise bill. The compromise bill then goes back to both chambers for final votes.
If a bill passes both chambers (with or without a conference committee), it goes to the Governor for his signature. The Governor can sign the bill (make it law); not sign the bill and allow it to become law without his approval; or veto the bill. If he vetoes a bill, the bill returns to the Legislature where the Senators and Representatives may try to override the Governor’s veto.