2024 Election, Elections, Featured, Gold Dome, Politics

Voters may get to decide on shortening the Colorado legislative session

DENVER — Independence Institute* President Jon Caldara has become well known for his willingness to take issues directly to the voters, and one topic has catapulted to the top of his “must do” list.

Caldara is hoping to take what is currently known as Initiative 183 to the 2024 ballot, asking voters to reduce the annual Colorado legislative session from its current 120 days down to just 90 days.

The initiative is now in the petition approval phase, after which Caldara will need to collect 124,238 valid signatures of registered voters (5 percent of the total votes cast for secretary of state in 2022). Additionally, because the initiative amends the Colorado Constitution he will need to collect at least 2 percent of that number from inside the boundaries of each of Colorado’s 35 state senate districts. It will then need to pass by more than 55 percent of the votes cast in the 2024 election.

Constitutional amendments are a large undertaking, and getting this one on the ballot and its successful passage will require somewhere the neighborhood of $1.5 million, according to Caldara, a number that is daunting, but that he will work to secure as the issue is of extreme importance, he said.

Shortening the session

Caldara says his reasons behind wanting to take the number of days legislators spend in session from 120 down to 90 should be obvious to those who have followed the number of new laws created over the past 10 years.

In 2013, when Democrats first took over the majority in the House of Representatives, there were 441 bills passed by both chambers of the legislature.

Ten years later, in 2023, after Democrats gained a veto-proof supermajority in the House and came within one seat of the same in the Senate, the number of bills passed was up to 484.

So far this session, the legislature has introduced 665 bills. Only time will tell how many of those actually pass, but the number introduced already is far more than the total introduced in 2023 (617). There are still more than three weeks remaining in this session.

This isn’t the first time Caldara has tried to get this before the voters. In 2023, he presented a similar initiative that worked its way through the process until the title was approved, but he let it expire.

The new measure would amend Article V, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution by just four words — ninety consecutive calendar days — 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.”

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 majority Democrats stopped and started the session to compensate for shutdowns due to COVID.

In 2023, Caldara laughed when he was asked if he was concerned about whether shortening the session by an entire calendar month would limit the work of lawmakers.

“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.”

Thirty-nine states limit the number of days lawmakers can pass new statutes. In fact, many of those (32) have legislative sessions much shorter than Colorado. And many of those states limit legislative work to every other year.

However, the cost savings as noted in a fiscal impact summary for Initiative 183 has increased substantially since 2023, when it was predicted to save the state $372,000 a year in expenses such as travel and per diem reimbursements to $557,000 in just one year.

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.”

* Independence Institute is the publisher of Complete Colorado.


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