Coordinates: 39°44′21″N 104°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)
70th General Assembly17018350
Beginning of 71st General Assembly17018350
End of 71st General Assembly16118350
Beginning of 72nd Assembly19016350
Beginning of 73rd Assembly20015350
Latest voting share57%0%43%


PresidentLeroy GarciaDemocratic3
President pro TemporeKerry DonovanDemocratic5
Majority LeaderSteve FenbergDemocratic18
Assistant Majority LeaderRhonda FieldsDemocratic29
Majority WhipJeff BridgesDemocratic26
Majority Caucus ChairJulie GonzalesDemocratic34
Minority LeaderChris HolbertRepublican30
Assistant Minority LeaderJohn CookeRepublican13
Minority Caucus ChairJim SmallwoodRepublican4
Minority WhipPaul LundeenRepublican9

Members of the Colorado Senate

DistrictSenatorPartyResidenceTerm Up
1Jerry SonnenbergRepublicanSterling2022
2Dennis HiseyRepublicanCañon City2022
3Leroy GarciaDemocraticPueblo2022
4Jim SmallwoodRepublicanSedalia2024
5Kerry DonovanDemocraticVail2022
6Don CoramRepublicanMontrose2022
7Ray ScottRepublicanGrand Junction2022
8Bob RankinRepublicanCarbondale2024
9Paul LundeenRepublicanColorado Springs2022
10Larry ListonRepublicanColorado Springs2024
11Pete LeeDemocraticColorado Springs2022
12Bob GardnerRepublicanColorado Springs2024
13John CookeRepublicanGreeley2022
14Joann GinalDemocraticFort Collins2024
15Rob WoodwardRepublicanFort Collins2022
16Tammy StoryDemocraticEvergreen2022
17Sonya Jaquez LewisDemocraticLafayette2024
18Steve FenbergDemocraticBoulder2024
19Rachel ZenzingerDemocraticArvada2024
20Jessie DanielsonDemocraticWheat Ridge2022
21Dominick MorenoDemocraticCommerce City2024
22Brittany PettersenDemocraticLakewood2022
23Barbara KirkmeyerRepublicanWeld County2024
24Faith WinterDemocraticThornton2022
25Kevin PriolaRepublicanAurora2024
26Jeff BridgesDemocraticGreenwood Village2024
27Chris KolkerDemocraticCentennial2024
28Janet BucknerDemocraticAurora2024
29Rhonda FieldsDemocraticAurora2024
30Chris HolbertRepublicanParker2022
31Chris HansenDemocraticDenver2024
32Robert RodriguezDemocraticDenver2022
33James ColemanDemocraticDenver2024
34Julie GonzalesDemocraticDenver2022
35Cleave SimpsonRepublicanAlamosa2024

Past composition of the Senate

See also


  1. ^ 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)
  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. ^ 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)
  5. ^ “Verifiable Oddities in Colorado’s History-The Snowshoe Chaplain of the State Senate”. Retrieved January 19, 2014. External link in |title= (help)

External links