DENVER — The president of the Denver-based Independence Institute*, Jon Caldara, along with the think tank’s publications coordinator, Hilleary Waters, have passed a major hurdle toward a 2024 ballot initiative that would ask voters to drastically change the way the Colorado legislature conducts business.
The measure, titled “Limit Regular Session of the General Assembly to 90 days” was approved by the title board on April 19.
Currently known as Initiative 25, the measure would amend Article V, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution by just four words, but would have a large impact on the time legislators spend under the gold dome.
Currently the state Constitution reads: “Regular sessions of the general assembly shall not exceed one hundred twenty calendar days.” If Initiative 25 is passed by Colorado voters, it would read: “… ninety consecutive calendar days” instead.
The implications are not only 30 less days spent passing laws, but those days would need to be consecutive, and not at the whim of the party in power, as happened in the recent past when Democrats stopped and started the session to compensate for shutdowns due to COVID.
The changes would become effective after successful passage in the 2024 election and a subsequent proclamation by the governor.
Opponents only have a few days to challenge the title, after that, next steps would be to get petitions printed and begin gathering signatures.
Because it is a change to the Constitution, proponents would need to gather nearly 125,000 signatures from least 2 percent of registered voters in all 35 Colorado Senate districts, In addition, 55 percent plus-one of voters would need vote in favor of the initiative for it to pass.
One of those questions asked of proponents during the title setting process was “Given the amount of work that the general assembly ordinarily completes during the last 30 days of a regular session, do the proponents anticipate any issues with limiting the length of a regular session to 90 days?”
Caldara laughed at the question.
“None whatsoever,” Caldara said. “There is nothing the legislature can’t do in a quarter of the year, given that 80 percent of what they get done every year is in the last two weeks of the session. I wish they would just have a two-week session so we could get back to our lives.”
Caldara pointed out that many states have legislative sessions much shorter than Colorado and get their work done just fine. In fact, 32 states are currently shorter than Colorado, or have longer sessions in odd or even years and shorter sessions in the opposite years.
Many of those states limit legislative work to every other year.
A fiscal impact summary conducted by Legislative Council staff said lowering the time in office to 90 days would decrease state expenditures by nearly $400,000 per year in travel and expense reimbursements and per diem for legislators.
Caldara said he added “consecutive days” to the initiative language to guarantee the legislative session is “in fact shorter.”
“Calendar days were intended to mean consecutive,” Caldara said. “Then with the COVID executive order that changed. But when you get a bill from your insurance company and you have 30 calendar days to pay that, they mean consecutive. We expect the legislature to work in consecutive days, too.”
This is not Caldara’s first rodeo, having been a proponent on successful citizen-initiated ballot measures to lower the state income tax in in 2020 and again in 2022, as well as Proposition 104 in 2016, which opened up school board negotiations with teachers’ unions to the public.
*Independence Institute is the publisher of Complete Colorado.
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