State legislature’s 120-day session rule allows for recess during COVID-19 emergency, Weiser tells Colorado Supreme Court
March 24, 2020 (DENVER, Colo.)— In a brief filed today with the Colorado Supreme Court, Attorney General Phil Weiser says that the 120-day limit on the duration of the legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly stops running while it is adjourned during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The General Assembly’s joint rules permit this approach and are constitutional and consistent with the 120-day limit that voters put in place in 1988. Governor Jared Polis joined the brief.
The state legislature’s joint rules provide that the 120 days of the legislative session are to be counted consecutively. These rules, however, also allow for a pause in the calendar in the rare event that the Governor declares a public health disaster, as he did for the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for a pause in conducting legislative business to protect the health and safety of members of the General Assembly and of the public is urgent now that a state legislator has tested positive for COVID-19, and Weiser said the court should uphold the constitutionality of the rules.
“The General Assembly’s rules do not modify the 120-day limit; the rules reasonably clarify the limit the voters put in place and recognize the importance of an exception for a public health emergency. These rules ensure that, in times of public health crises, legislators receive that full period in which to fulfill their legislative responsibilities and serve the people of Colorado effectively,” said Weiser. “In addition, the rules protect the legislators’ health by not requiring them to work during a public health emergency, and, moreover, protect the ability of citizens to engage safely in the legislative process.”
The General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 20-1006 on March 14 before adjourning for two weeks. Through an interrogatory, the legislature asked the Supreme Court to determine if the 120-day session is limited to consecutive and continuous days or, for purposes of operating during a declared disaster emergency, to days when the legislature is in session.
Click here to read the combined brief of the Attorney General and the Governor.
Contact: Lawrence Pacheco
Director of Communications
Mobile: (720) 245-4689