Colorado Senate

Last updated
Colorado State Senate
73rd Colorado General Assembly
Seal of Colorado.svg
Term limits
2 terms (8 years)
New session started
January 13, 2021
Leroy Garcia (D)
since January 13, 2021
President pro Tempore
Kerry Donovan (D)
since January 13, 2021
Majority Leader
Steve Fenberg (D)
since January 13, 2021
Minority Leader
Chris Holbert (R)
since January 13, 2021
Colorado Senate 2019.svg
Political groups
  •    Democratic (20)


Length of term
4 years
AuthorityArticle V, Colorado Constitution
Salary$30,000/year + per diem
Last election
November 3, 2020
(18 seats)
Next election
November 8, 2022
(17 seats)
Redistricting Colorado Reapportionment Commission
Meeting place
ColoradoStateCapitolSenateChamber gobeirne.jpg
State Senate Chamber
Colorado State Capitol, Denver
Colorado General Assembly

Coordinates: 39°44′21″N104°59′05″W / 39.7392°N 104.9848°W / 39.7392; -104.9848


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. [1] Lafayette Head was the first state senate president. [1]

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. [1] Fred Anderson was the first state senate president elected after the amendment. [1] Ruth Stockton was the first woman to become Senate's president pro tempore, serving from 1979 to 1980. [2] [3]

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 senator's 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. [4]

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. [4]

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. [1] 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. [5]

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 2020 Colorado Elections resulted in the Democratic Party maintaining a majority of seats in the senate. Democrats currently hold a majority in the Senate in the 73rd General Assembly: 20 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

With the Democratic majority, Leroy Garcia serves as President of the Senate and Steve Fenberg is the Majority Leader.


(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Democratic Independent Republican Vacant
70th General Assembly17018350
Beginning of 71st General Assembly17018350
End of 71st General Assembly16118350
Begin 72nd Assembly19016350
Begin 73rd Assembly20015350
Latest voting share


President Leroy Garcia Democratic 3
President pro Tempore Kerry Donovan Democratic 5
Majority Leader Steve Fenberg Democratic 18
Assistant Majority Leader Rhonda Fields Democratic 29
Majority Whip Jeff Bridges Democratic 26
Majority Caucus Chair Julie Gonzales Democratic 34
Minority Leader Chris Holbert Republican 30
Assistant Minority Leader John Cooke Republican 13
Minority Caucus Chair Jim Smallwood Republican 4
Minority Whip Paul Lundeen Republican 9

Members of the Colorado Senate

DistrictSenatorPartyResidenceTerm Up
1 Jerry Sonnenberg Republican Sterling 2022
2 Dennis Hisey Republican Cañon City 2022
3 Leroy Garcia Democratic Pueblo 2022
4 Jim Smallwood Republican Sedalia 2024
5 Kerry Donovan Democratic Vail 2022
6 Don Coram Republican Montrose 2022
7 Ray Scott Republican Grand Junction 2022
8 Bob Rankin Republican Carbondale 2024
9 Paul Lundeen Republican Colorado Springs 2022
10 Larry Liston Republican Colorado Springs 2024
11 Pete Lee Democratic Colorado Springs 2022
12 Bob Gardner Republican Colorado Springs 2024
13 John Cooke Republican Greeley 2022
14 Joann Ginal Democratic Fort Collins 2024
15 Rob Woodward Republican Fort Collins 2022
16 Tammy Story Democratic Evergreen 2022
17 Sonya Jaquez Lewis Democratic Lafayette 2024
18 Steve Fenberg Democratic Boulder 2024
19 Rachel Zenzinger Democratic Arvada 2024
20 Jessie Danielson Democratic Wheat Ridge 2022
21 Dominick Moreno Democratic Commerce City 2024
22 Brittany Pettersen Democratic Lakewood 2022
23 Barbara Kirkmeyer Republican Weld County 2024
24 Faith Winter Democratic Thornton 2022
25 Kevin Priola Republican Aurora 2024
26 Jeff Bridges Democratic Greenwood Village 2024
27 Chris Kolker Democratic Centennial 2024
28 Janet Buckner Democratic Aurora 2024
29 Rhonda Fields Democratic Aurora 2024
30 Chris Holbert Republican Parker 2022
31 Chris Hansen Democratic Denver 2024
32 Robert Rodriguez Democratic Denver 2022
33 James Coleman Democratic Denver 2024
34 Julie Gonzales Democratic Denver 2022
35 Cleave Simpson Republican Alamosa 2024

Past composition of the Senate

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Presidents and Speakers of the Colorado General Assembly: A Biographical Portrait from 1876 Archived January 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine ,, 2013 Revised Edition. (accessed May 27, 2013)
  2. "COLORADO LEGISLATORS PAST AND PRESENT". Colorado State Legislature. Colorado State Legislature. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  3. "Ruth Stockton". Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  4. 1 2 How a Bill Becomes Colorado Law Archived October 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine , Office of Legislative Legal Services, October 2001 (accessed May 27, 2013)
  5. "Verifiable Oddities in Colorado's History-The Snowshoe Chaplain of the State Senate". Retrieved January 19, 2014.External link in |title= (help)