With Chris Holbert
In Colorado, there is an Appropriations Committee in each chamber (House and Senate) of our bi-cameral legislature. Those two committees consider bills that request an appropriation of money from state coffers or… that might actually bring money into state coffers.
Some of the ways that could happen are by reducing expenses, creating a fee, increasing the amount of a fee, proposing a new tax that would be referred to the ballot for voter approval, or a referred measure to increase a tax rate.
The Appropriations Committees don’t consider the merits of the policy in a bill, they simply look at the dollars involved. The Appropriations Committees generally don’t take public testimony because that opportunity would have occurred previously in at least one another Committee of Reference.
Those two committees tend to move very quickly when they meet and bills sponsors often say very little or nothing when sitting before the Appropriations Committee of their respective chamber.
The process for a bill hearing in an Appropriations Committee consists of the chairman calling the bill sponsor(s) to the witness table, a member of the Committee will move the bill to the Committee of the Whole, and then will move any necessary amendment to add an Appropriations Clause to the bill. The Committee will then vote on that amendment and, if that motion passes, they will vote on moving the bill as amended to the floor.
Bills can and do die in the Appropriations Committees. If there isn’t money to fund the bill, then it dies. If money can be allocated from the next fiscal year budget, then the Appropriations Clause effectively reserves the designated amount (revenue/expense) in the next fiscal year budget.
Its important to keep in mind that our state Constitution requires that a balanced budget be passed each year. The Joint Budget Committee (“JBC”) exists to craft that balanced budget every year. JBC members also serve on their respective House and Senate Appropriations Committees where bills are considered that will impact, positively or negatively, the next fiscal year budget.
In Colorado, no bill other than the annual budget bill, aka the “Long Bill” due to its length, actually spends or collects money. Every bill receives a fiscal note that explains the fiscal impact, revenues and/or expenses. However, in Colorado, only one bill each year actually allocates revenues: the Long Bill. All other bills that require funding are tied to that one bill via a potential Appropriation Clause, which can be added to a bill by an Appropriations Committee.
If a bill is denied an appropriation by one or the other Appropriations Committee, then it can’t collect or spend money. Thus, it would die (be postponed indefinitely) by one or the other Appropriations Committees.
Remember that the Colorado General Assembly operates very differently than does Congress in Washington, DC. Why? Because the People of Colorado made it that way by amending our state Constitution.