The Colorado State 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. Senators who are term-limited become eligible to run again after a one-term (four year) respite.

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] Ruth Stockton was the first woman to become Senate’s president pro tempore, serving from 1979 to 1980.[3][4]

Terms and qualifications

The Colorado Senate has 35 members elected to staggered four-year terms. Half the chamber is elected in the same year as gubernatorial elections, with the other half elected in the same year as presidential elections.

State senators are term-limited to two consecutive terms, equivalent to eight years. 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 special 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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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: 21 Democrats and 14 Republicans.

At the 2022 elections 17 senate seats came up for re-election. As a result the composition of the State Senate at the beginning of the 74th General Assembly will likely be 23 Democrats and 12 Republicans.[7]

With the Democratic majority, Steve Fenberg serves as President of the Senate and the Majority Leader position is currently vacant.



(Shading indicates majority caucus)
70th General Assembly17018350
Beginning of 71st General Assembly17018350
End of 71st General Assembly161
72nd Assembly19016350
Beginning of 73rd Assembly20015350
August 22, 2022[a]210140
Beginning of 74th Assembly23012350
Latest voting share66%34%


PresidentSteve FenbergDemocratic18
President pro TemporeJames ColemanDemocratic33
Majority LeaderRobert RodriguezDemocratic32
Assistant Majority LeaderFaith WinterDemocratic25
Majority WhipJulie GonzalesDemocratic34
Majority Caucus ChairJanet BucknerDemocratic29
Minority LeaderPaul LundeenRepublican9
Assistant Minority LeaderBob GardnerRepublican12
Minority Caucus ChairJim SmallwoodRepublican2
Minority WhipBarbara KirkmeyerRepublican23

Members of the Colorado Senate

DistrictSenatorPartyResidenceFirst electedNext election
1Byron PeltonRepublicanSterling20222026
2Jim SmallwoodRepublicanSedalia20162024#
3Nick HinrichsenDemocraticPueblo2022*2026
4Mark BaisleyRepublicanSedalia20222026
5Perry WillRepublicanNew Castle2023*2024
6Cleave SimpsonRepublicanAlamosa20202024
7Janice RichRepublicanGrand Junction20222026
8Dylan RobertsDemocraticEagle20222026
9Paul LundeenRepublicanColorado Springs20182026#
10Larry ListonRepublicanColorado Springs20202024
11Tony ExumDemocraticColorado Springs20222026
12Bob GardnerRepublicanColorado Springs20162024#
13Kevin PriolaDemocratic [b]Aurora20162024#
14Joann GinalDemocraticFort Collins2019*2024#
15Janice MarchmanDemocraticLoveland20222026
16Chris KolkerDemocraticCentennial20202024
17Sonya Jaquez LewisDemocraticLafayette20202024
18Steve FenbergDemocraticBoulder20162024#
19Rachel ZenzingerDemocraticArvada2013*, 2016[c]2024#
20Lisa CutterDemocraticEvergreen20222026
21Dafna Michaelson JenetDemocraticCommerce City2023*2024
22Jessie DanielsonDemocraticWheat Ridge20182026#
23Barbara KirkmeyerRepublicanBrighton20202024
24Kyle MullicaDemocraticNorthglenn20222026
25Faith WinterDemocraticThornton20182026#
26Jeff BridgesDemocraticGreenwood Village2019*2024
27Tom SullivanDemocraticCentennial20222026
28Rhonda FieldsDemocraticAurora20162024#
29Janet BucknerDemocraticAurora20202024
30Kevin Van WinkleRepublicanHighlands Ranch2022*2026
31Chris HansenDemocraticDenver2020*2024
32Robert RodriguezDemocraticDenver20182026#
33James ColemanDemocraticDenver20202024
34Julie GonzalesDemocraticDenver20182026#
35Rod PeltonRepublicanCheyenne Wells20222026
*Senator was originally appointed
#Senator is ineligible for re-election due to term limits

Past composition of the Senate

See also


  1. ^ Kevin Priola switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.
  2. ^ Kevin Priola was elected as a Republican, and crossed the floor to the Democratic Party in 2022.[8]
  3. ^ Zenzinger was appointed in 2013 and was subsequently defeated in 2014 but was later elected to the same seat in 2016
  1. ^ “Salaries for Legislators, Statewide Elected Officials, and County Officers”. Colorado General Assembly. Colorado General Assembly. Retrieved July 7, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e 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)
  3. ^ “Colorado legislators past and present”. Colorado State Legislature. Colorado State Legislature. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  4. ^ “Ruth Stockton”. Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  5. ^ a b 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)
  6. ^ “Verifiable Oddities in Colorado’s History-The Snowshoe Chaplain of the State Senate”. February 23, 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  7. ^ “Colorado Election Results”. The New York Times. November 8, 2022. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  8. ^ @KevinPriola (August 22, 2022). “#coleg #copolitics #Elections2022 #democracy #Republican #DemocratsDeliver #colorado” (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External links

39°44′21″N 104°59′05″W / 39.7392°N 104.9848°W / 39.7392; -104.9848