A couple of women walk their dogs past the Colorado state capitol building in downtown Denver on Oct. 3, 2020. (Forrest Czarnecki/The Denver Gazette)

Both Senate and House Democratic leaders gave the first indication Tuesday on just when the 2021 legislative session could come to an end.


It's a question that has come up more often as lawmakers (and others) start to think about a break from 15 months of off-and-on legislative work and campaigning. 

Speaker of the House Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, both were talking about a Memorial Day break, but whether that's adjournment or recess is still unknown. There's a big difference between the two.

Adjournment means sine die, the end of the session. Were the session to end the Friday before Memorial Day, posed by Garnett on Tuesday, that would be May 28. 

Lawmakers would still have to come back sometime after that to figure out how to spend $3.9 billion in federal stimulus money from the American Rescue Plan. Adjournment would mean a special session, either to be called by Gov. Jared Polis or with a two-thirds vote of each chamber.

Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, has said previously that he believes a two-thirds vote would be achievable, given that the purpose of the special session would be to take care of Coloradans affected by the pandemic. 

But that also means additional cost for taxpayers, upwards of at least $25,000 per day, based on previous special sessions. 

The second option would be to recess, sometime around May 28 or perhaps in the week that follows. The 120th day — the maximum allowable — is June 12, so any days they save between May 28 and June 12 could be held in reserve to deal with the stimulus spending. That's allowed under a Colorado Supreme Court ruling from 2020 that said the 120 days did not have to be consecutive, although Republican lawmakers insist that a 1988 voter-approved amendment limiting the session to 120 days was sold to voters on the basis of a consecutive calendar. 

Fenberg said in a Tuesday press conference that their goal is Memorial Day, but much depends on workload and what's left on their schedule.

The timing of the federal stimulus also plays a role, Fenberg indicated.

According to a spokesman for the state controller, the process is expected to work this way: the U.S. Treasury has to issue guidelines on how to spend those American Rescue Plan dollars. Those guidelines are then sent to the states — in Colorado, it would go to the state controller — asking if the states accept the guidelines. Colorado would issue a certificate of need that goes back to Treasury, and then a check would be issued within 60 days. 

An April 15 update from Treasury said those guidelines are still being developed and would be released "in the coming weeks."

Given that Tuesday is the 67th day of the 120-day session, that 60-day window for getting the dollars to the state before the General Assembly adjourns is gone unless lawmakers intend to figure out how to spend the money before it shows up in the bank.

Fenberg said Tuesday that they might start those discussions before the session ends. It depends on when the state gets the guidance from the Treasury, he added. 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.