DENVER — The Colorado legislature plans to adjourn for two weeks starting Sunday until March 30 over coronavirus concerns, lawmakers announced Friday afternoon.
The resolution is going to be introduced Friday and will be voted upon Saturday. Both chambers of the legislature are expected to adopt the resolution. The March 30 date would be reassessed as it grows closer.
Lawmakers would also seek legal guidance from the state judicial branch about the impacts of the session adjournment, according to Senator Kerry Donovan’s office.
“The decision to enter into a temporary adjournment was based on prioritizing the health and safety of the public and staff,” Donovan’s office said in a news release. “The Capitol is visited by thousands of guests every year and as it is our duty to serve the people of Colorado, we are taking this preventative measure to stop the spread of the virus.”
Earlier Friday Gov. Jared Polis issued guidance against holding gatherings of more than 250 people.
House and Senate leaders earlier this week had discussed possibly suspending the session in the wake of the spreading coronavirus. The party leaders had stressed to their members during a meeting earlier this week that they have not made a decision quite yet about whether to suspend the session but that the actions they take will be based on science and not in fear.
“We have not been in this situation before and so there are a lot of things that we have to figure out and that we are working on,” House Speaker Rep. KC Becker said Thursday.
Rep. Becker and other Democrat leaders implored their members to remain flexible with the scheduling, warning that the session might be extended past the May 6 end date and that they may need to come in on some weekends to work.
Republican leadership also met with their caucuses to talk about the steps that are being taken. Minority leader, Rep. Patrick Neville, believes it’s not a matter of if but when the legislature will suspend.
In order to end or suspend a legislative session, a joint resolution must be passed by both chambers by a majority vote. This must happen if the legislature decides to break for more than three days during the session.
However, the join resolution must include a date when the state legislature would reconvene. This is one of the holdups state lawmakers are trying to deal with in determining whether to suspend and for how long.
Suspending an entire legislative session is not something that happens frequently.
One of the most notable public health emergencies in American history was the spread of the Spanish flu in 1918.
Up until 1950, the Colorado General Assembly only met every other year for a legislative session. During the Spanish flu, the legislature was on an off year, so nothing was suspended. The epidemic continued into 1919, but the legislature decided to meet anyway and convened from Jan. 1, 1919 through April 7, 1919, according to Denver Public Library records.
Lawmakers that year even hosted a special session to ratify the 19th Amendment, among other things.