The Colorado Senate is the upper house of the Colorado General Assembly, the state legislature of the US state of Colorado. It is composed of 35 members elected from single-member districts, with each district having a population of about 123,000 as of the 2000 census. Senators are elected to four-year terms, and are limited to two consecutive terms in office.

The Colorado Senate convenes at the State Capitol in Denver.


The first meeting of the Colorado General Assembly took place from November 1, 1876, through March 20, 1877.[2] Lafayette Head was the first state senate president.[2]

The lieutenant governor served as Senate President until 1974 when Article V, Section 10 of the state constitution was amended, granting the Colorado Senate the right to elect one of its own members as President.[2] Fred Anderson was the first state senate president elected after the amendment.[2]

Terms and qualifications

The Colorado Senate has 35 members, elected to four-year terms. State senators are term-limited to two consecutive terms. Term-limited former members can run again after a four-year break. Vacancies in legislative offices are generally filled by political party vacancy committees, rather than by-elections. Vacancy appointees who fill the first half of a state senators term must stand for election at the next even year November election for the remainder of the state senate term for the seat to which the state senator was appointed.

Procedure and powers

With the notable exceptions listed below, the Colorado Senate operates in a manner quite similar to the United States Senate.[3]

Regular sessions are held annually and begin no later than the second Wednesday in January. Regular sessions last no more than 120 days. Special sessions may be called at any time by the governor of Colorado or upon written request of two-thirds of the members of each house, but are infrequent. Some committees of the General Assembly work between sessions and have limited power to take action without General Assembly approval between legislative sessions.

Joint procedural rules of the two chambers require most legislation to be introduced very early in the legislative session each year, and to meet strict deadlines for completion of each step of the legislative process. Joint procedural rules also limit each legislator to introducing five bills per year, subject to certain exceptions for non-binding resolutions, uniform acts, interim committee bills and appropriations bills. Most members of the General Assembly decide which bills they will introduce during the legislative session (or most of them) prior to its commencement, limiting the ability of members to introduce new bills at constituent request once the legislative session has begun.

Most bills adopted by the General Assembly include a "safety clause" (i.e. a legislative declaration that the bill concerns an urgent matter) and take effect on July 1 following the legislative session unless otherwise provided. Some bills are enacted without a "safety clause" which makes it possible to petition to subject those bills to a referendum before they take effect, and have an effective date in August following the legislative session unless otherwise provided.[3]

Colorado's legislature does not have an analog to the filibuster in the United States Senate requiring a supermajority for approval of any matter. The state lieutenant governor does not have the power to preside or break tie votes in either house of the General Assembly.[2] New executive branch rules are reviewed annually by the legislature and the legislature routinely invalidates some of them each year.

The General Assembly does not have a role in the appointment or retention of state judges, although it must authorize the creation of each judgeship.

Many state agencies and programs are subject to "sunset review" and are automatically abolished if the General Assembly does not reauthorize them.

In 1885, the Colorado Senate appointed its first chaplain, Methodist circuit riding missionary, "Father" John Lewis Dyer.[4]

The state budget process

The governor submits a proposed budget to the Joint Budget Committee each year in advance of the year's legislative session. Colorado's fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30.

Bills introduced in the General Assembly are evaluated by the non-partisan state legislative services body for their fiscal impact and must be provided for in appropriations legislation if there is a fiscal impact.

A state budget, called the "LONG Bill" (Legislation on Operations and Normal Governance) is prepared each year by the Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly. The House and the Senate alternate the job of introducing the long bill and making a first committee review of it. Colorado's state legislature is required to obtain voter approval in order to incur significant debt, to raise taxes, or to increase state constitutional spending limitations. It is also required to comply with a state constitutional spending mandate for K-12 education. The governor has line item veto power over appropriations.

Current makeup

Based on the 2010 census, each state senator represents 143,691 constituents. The 2014 Colorado elections resulted in the Republican Party winning their first majority in a decade, a majority they maintained in the 2016 elections. Republicans hold a majority in the 71st General Assembly (18 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and 1 independent).

With the Republican majority, Kevin Grantham serves as President of the Senate and Chris Holbert is the Majority Leader.

Composition of the Senate

16 18 1
Democratic Republican Ind.
Affiliation Party
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Democratic Republican Independent Vacant
70th General Assembly 17 18 0 35 0
Beginning of 71st General Assembly 17 18 0 35 0
December 29, 2017[5] 16 18 1 35 0
Latest voting share 45.7% 51.4% 2.9%


Position Senator Party District
President Kevin Grantham Republican 2
President pro Tempore Jerry Sonnenberg Republican 1
Majority Leader Chris Holbert Republican 30
Assistant Majority Leader Ray Scott Republican 7
Majority Whip John Cooke Republican 13
Majority Caucus Chair Vicki Marble Republican 23
Minority Leader Lucia Guzman Democratic 34
Assistant Minority Leader Leroy Garcia Democratic 3
Minority Caucus Chair Lois Court Democratic 31
Minority Whip Michael Merrifield Democratic 11

Members of the Colorado Senate

District Senator Party Residence Term Up
1 Jerry Sonnenberg Republican Sterling 2018
2 Kevin Grantham Republican Cañon City 2018
3 Leroy Garcia Democratic Pueblo 2018
4 James "Jim" Smallwood Republican Sedalia 2020
5 Kerry Donovan Democratic Vail 2018
6 Don Coram Republican Montrose 2018
7 Ray Scott Republican Grand Junction 2018
8 Randy Baumgardner Republican Steamboat Springs 2020
9 Kent Lambert Republican Colorado Springs 2018
10 Owen Hill Republican Colorado Springs 2020
11 Michael Merrifield Democratic Colorado Springs 2018
12 Bob Gardner Republican Colorado Springs 2020
13 John Cooke Republican Greeley 2018
14 John Kefalas Democratic Fort Collins 2020
15 Kevin Lundberg Republican Fort Collins 2018
16 Tim Neville Republican Golden 2018
17 Matt Jones Democratic Longmont 2020
18 Stephen Fenberg Democratic Boulder 2020
19 Rachel Zenzinger Democratic Arvada 2020
20 Cheri Jahn Independent Wheat Ridge 2018
21 Dominick Moreno Democratic Commerce City 2020
22 Andy Kerr Democratic Lakewood 2018
23 Vicki Marble Republican Fort Collins 2020
24 Beth Martinez Humenik Republican Thornton 2018
25 Kevin Priola Republican Aurora 2020
26 Daniel Kagan Democratic Littleton 2020
27 Jack Tate Republican Centennial 2020
28 Nancy Todd Democratic Aurora 2020
29 Rhonda Fields Democratic Aurora 2020
30 Chris Holbert Republican Parker 2018
31 Lois Court Democratic Denver 2020
32 Irene Aguilar Democratic Denver 2018
33 Angela Williams Democratic Denver 2020
34 Lucía Guzmán Democratic Denver 2018
35 Larry Crowder Republican Alamosa 2020

Past composition of the Senate

See also


External links