Government of Colorado
Constitution and law
The Constitution of Colorado provides derives its authority from the sovereignty of the people and is the foremost source of state law. In addition to providing for voting, the people of Colorado have reserved initiative of laws and referendum of laws enacted by the legislature to themselves and provided for recall of office holders.
Legislation is enacted by the Colorado General Assembly, published in the Session Laws of Colorado, and codified in the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.). State agencies promulgate regulations in the Colorado Register, which are in turn codified in the Code of Colorado Regulations (CCR). Colorado's legal system is based on common law, which is interpreted by case law through the decisions of the Colorado Supreme Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals, which are published in the Colorado Reporter and Pacific Reporter. Counties and municipalities may also promulgate local ordinances.
The legislative body of Colorado is the Colorado General Assembly made up of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate. Members of the House are elected for two year terms from single-member, equal population districts. Approximately half of the members of the state senate are elected each two years to four year terms from single-member, equal population districts. The House of Representatives has 65 members and the Senate has 35 for a total of 100 legislators in Colorado.
Currently, Democrats are in control of the Senate and House. The 64th Colorado General Assembly was the first to be controlled by the Democrats in forty years, as the Republican Party traditionally held control of the state government. Colorado now being a swing state has seen increased competitiveness and consequently, variation in partisan control of the statehouse from election to election. The current Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives is Mark Ferrandino.
The Governor of Colorado heads the state's executive branch. The current governor is John Hickenlooper (D). Colorado's other statewide elected executive officers are the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado (elected on a ticket with the Governor), Secretary of State of Colorado, Colorado State Treasurer, and Attorney General of Colorado, all of whom serve four-year terms.
There are also elected members of the Colorado State Board of Education and the Regents of the University of Colorado are elected from districts coterminous with Colorado's congressional districts or at large. As a result, the Governor does not have direct management authority over either the Department of Education or any of the state's institutions of higher education.
Most crimes in Colorado are prosecuted by a district attorney. One district attorney is elected for each of the state's 22 judicial districts in a partisan election. The state attorney general also has power to prosecute certain crimes, and in rare circumstances a special prosecutor may be appointed to prosecute a crime on a case by case basis. Municipal ordinance violations are prosecuted by city attorneys.
The executive branch of Colorado state government comprises 19 departments:
- Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) website
- Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) website
- Colorado Department of Education (CDE) website
- Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (CDHCPF) website
- Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) website
- Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) website
- Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) website
- Colorado Department of Law and the Office of the Attorney General (CDOL) website
- Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) website
- Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) website
- Colorado Department of Natural Resources (CDNR) website
- Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration (DPA) website
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) website
- Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS) website
- Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) website
- Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) website
- Colorado Department of State (DOS) website
- Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) website
- Colorado Department of the Treasury (CDT) website
- Colorado Supreme Court;
- Colorado Court of Appeals;
- Colorado District Courts for each of the 22 judicial districts;
- Colorado County Courts for each of Colorado's 64 counties;
- Denver Probate Court;
- Denver Juvenile Court;
- Colorado Water Courts for each of seven water court districts; and
- Municipal Courts (which are merged with County Courts in the City and County of Denver, but separate from County Court in the City and County of Broomfield) in most, if not all, of Colorado's 270 active municipalities.
Colorado once had "Superior Courts" but they were merged into the District Courts effective November 14, 1986. References to "Small Claims Court" in Colorado are to a subdivision of County Court.
The jurisdiction of the Denver Probate Court and Denver Juvenile Court, respectively, are part of the jurisdiction of the District Courts in judicial districts outside of the City and County of Denver. Water Courts are presided over by District Court judges who have simultaneously been given responsibility for water court cases in each of the state's seven drainage basins.
All of the courts above, other than municipal courts and Denver's county court, are part of the state court system. The administration of the state judicial system is the responsibility of the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court as its executive head, and is assisted by several other commissions.
Municipal courts and the Denver County Court are administratively separate from the state court system and are operated by incorporated municipalities with jurisdiction only over cases arising in the municipality proper. In Denver, County Courts and Municipal Courts are integrated with each other, but in Colorado's other combined City and County government in Broomfield County, there are separate County and Municipal Courts. Municipal court jurisdiction is limited to municipal ordinance cases, including traffic violations imposed under municipal ordinances rather than state statutes, which have maximum penalties similar to those of state law petty offenses. These courts have no statutory jurisdiction over other classes of cases, although municipal courts do have inherent procedural powers associated with their status as a court, such as contempt of court powers and powers related to the calling and compensation of jurors.
Colorado's state government also has a number of executive branch administrative law courts and independent tribunals outside the judicial branch. Some of the most notable of these are the administrative law judges handling election law violations in the Colorado Secretary of State's office, the Public Utilities Commission when it acts in a quasi-judicial manner, unemployment hearing officers, administrative law judges handling motor vehicle license revocations, quasi-judicial municipal land use boards, professional regulatory boards, and an Independent Ethics Commission.
Colorado is divided into 64 counties. Counties are important units of government in Colorado since the state has no secondary civil subdivisions, such as townships. Two of these counties, the City and County of Denver and the City and County of Broomfield, have consolidated city and county governments.
Colorado municipalities operate under one of five types of municipal governing authority:
- 2 consolidated city-counties, Denver and Broomfield
- 61 cities and 35 towns that are home rule municipalities
- 12 statutory cities
- 160 statutory towns
- 1 territorial charter municipality
Colorado law makes relatively few distinctions between a city and a town. A municipality may extend into multiple counties.
Colorado has elected 17 Democrats and 12 Republicans to the governorship in the last 100 years. Incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper, who was elected in 2010, is a Democrat, and his predecessor, Governor Bill Ritter, who won election in 2006 is also a Democrat, though his predecessor Bill Owens is a Republican.
The people of the state of Colorado are additionally represented in the federal government of the United States by two United States Senators and seven Congressional Representatives. Of Colorado's seven members of the United States House of Representatives, four are Republicans and three are Democrats following the 2010 election. The Senators were Mark Emery Udall (D) and Michael Farrand Bennet (D). The Representatives were Diana Louise DeGette (D), Jared Schutz Polis (D), Scott Tipton (R), Cory Gardner (R), Douglas L. "Doug" Lamborn (R), Michael "Mike" Coffman (R), and Edwin George "Ed" Perlmutter (DD).
- "Constitution of the State of Colorado". The State of Colorado. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
- Article II of the Constitution of Colorado on Justia.Com, accessed September 21, 2010
- Section 1, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
- Section 2, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
- Section 5, Article II, Constitution of Colorado
- Article VII, Constitution of Colorado
- Section 1, Article V, Constitution of Colorado
- Article XXI, Constitution of Colorado
- "The Denver Post – Colorado House Democrats pick Ferrandino for speaker, historic first for gays".
- "CO – Election Results – Colorado Secretary of State".
- "State House 2012 Election Results – Denver Post".
- Colo. Public Law 1985, page 572
- Colorado Revised Statutes, Sections 13-10-104 and 13-10-113.
- Hylton v. City of Colo. Springs, 32 Colo. App. 9, 505 P.2d 26 (1973)
- See, e.g., Thrap v. People, 192 Colo. 341, 558 P.2d 576 (1977)
- Colorado Constitution, Article XXIX, Section 5.
- Colorado Governor Bill Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to serve the remaining two years of United States Senator Ken Salazar term of office which was left vacant on 2009-01-20, when new United States President Barack Obama appointed the Colorado Senator to serve as his Secretary of the Interior.
- State of Colorado government website
- Colorado at Ballotpedia
- Colorado at Judgepedia
- Colorado at Sunshine Review