Legislative Lingo

 “Any time you think some other language is strange, remember that yours is just as strange, you’re just used to it.”

Sometimes listening to the legislature can be like listening to an entire different language. Here's a few key phrases to help you along the way!

  • 1st Reading- This is when the bill is first introduced on the floor of either the House or Senate. In Colorado, all bills must be heard before a committee, they cannot be killed on first reading. After first reading, bills will be assigned to the committee by the leadership in that chamber.

  • 2nd Reading- After a bill passes through the assigned committees in either the House or Senate, it is read and voted on by all members of that chamber. 

  • 3rd Reading- After a bill passes through committee, and then passes 2nd reading, it is referred to 3rd reading. This takes place on the floor of the chamber and upon passage the bill is sent to the other chamber. If the bill has already passed the other chamber, it will move to the Governor for his signature. 

  • Adjournment sine die- this refers to the end of the legislative session. It translates to "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing." 

  • Amendment- Amendments may be introduced at any time and are voted on by either the committee or the committee of the whole. 

  • Committee of the Whole (COW)- is a term used to refer to either the entire House or the entire Senate. It is often seen after bills pass committee and they are referred to the "Committee of the Whole" for 2nd reading. 

  • Dead bill- A dead bill is a bill that has been postponed indefinitely. 

  • HB/SB- When bills are introduced they are given a numerical and alphabetic designation. This is the bill number. It begins with the year they were introduced, follow by HB or SB, which designates which chamber they started in. Bills that include HB originated in the House and are "House Bills." Bills that include SB, originated in the Senate and are "Senate Bills." 

  • Joint Budget Committee (JBC)- The Joint Budget Committee is made up of members from both parties as well as the House and Senate. They are responsible for developing the budget and working with all members of the House and Senate to pass the state budget annually. 

  • Kill committee- Occasionally bills are introduced that the party in the majority feel are outrageous or not at all in line with their values. These bills may be given to a committee that has little relevance to the assigned topic, knowing that the committee will not move the bill forward. 

  • Long Bill- The long bill refers to the state budget bill. 

  • Majority/Minority Whip- This person is elected by their party to assist in gathering support for their parties position on major legislation or issues.

  • Postponed Indefinitely- If a committee or the majority of the chamber during 2nd or 3rd reading, vote against moving a bill forward, it is postponed indefinitely. The bill may be introduced again later in the session under a different number, or it may be reintroduced in future session. 

  • Upon Adjournment- Upon adjournment means after they leave the House or Senate floor that day. Many committees meet directly after. There is no exact time for when they adjourn each day, it is based on the business on the floor that morning, but it is generally between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm.