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Colorado legislation ‘safety clause’ being overused

What is this “safety clause” used at the end of our Colorado legislation? It is attached to the end of a bill, which in essence prevents Colorado voters from reviewing the bill.

The verbiage reads: “The general assembly finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety or for appropriations for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state and state institutions.”

Pretty important, but is it necessary on all these bills?

Article V, section 1(3) of the Colorado Constitution reserves the power to refer all or a portion of an act to the ballot for the voters to approve. There is an exception to this power: if an act is necessary “for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety,” or for appropriations to support and maintain a state department or institution. The General Assembly invokes this exception by including a “safety clause” at the end of a bill. They are given the exclusive power to determine whether the clause applies, and courts will not review the decision.

If there’s not a safety clause, bills are subject to referendum by voters, meaning voters have 90 days after the assembly adjourns to exercise the power of referendum by submitting a petition to the Secretary of State. Thus, an act that has a safety clause does not allow the power of referendum.

The safety clause is being overused.

Kelly Hegarty

Durango