The Colorado Supreme Court In Denver

The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in downtown Denver, home of the Colorado Supreme Court.

The Colorado Supreme Court announced Monday afternoon it had accepted the request from the Colorado General Assembly to look into a constitutional question related to the 120-day calendar.

At issue: whether the 120 days must be consecutive or, if under a legislative rule, whether the assembly can take a time out without losing any working days.

The Court announced that briefs on House Joint Resolution 1006  would be due by no later than 5 p.m. on March 24. 

In 1988, voters approved shortening the legislative session from 140 days to 120 days. The intent of proponents, as outlined in the election guide — also known as the Blue Book — was that the 120 days could not be changed by legislative rule.

The General Assembly's Rule 23 says the 120 days are consecutive. And lawmakers have operated under that rule since then. 

But in 2009, the General Assembly adopted Joint Rule 44, intended to provide preliminary guidance on what lawmakers should do in case of a public health emergency. And within that rule, lawmakers decided that the 120-day calendar could be considered separate working days, rather than consecutive days. 

The difference matters. If the General Assembly came back to work on March 30 as scheduled and continued with the 53 days remaining in the 120-day calendar, they would adjourn around May 20.

But if it's decided that all legislative days are consecutive, and don't allow for the two-week pause approved by the General Assembly last Saturday, any measure adopted after the regularly scheduled adjournment date of May 6 could be rendered unconstitutional. 

That could put at risk controversial bills opposed both inside and outside the state Capitol, such as the public option bill or the yet-to-be-introduced paid family and medical leave proposal.

The joint resolution said the legislature is "faced with the difficult choice to either protect public health and potentially fail to meet the public's need for legislation or meet the public's interests and needs by continuing to work on legislation while ignoring the danger to public health."

The Court's order on Monday did not set a date for oral arguments, although the General Assembly's resolution sought hearings no more than five days after the due date for briefs.

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