Date: 07/30/2009

Presentation on Legislative Vacancies


Votes: View--> Action Taken:

10:04 AM -- Presentation on Legislative Vacancies

Troy Bratton, Office of Legislative Legal Services, joined the committee to discuss his memorandum on the subject of legislative vacancies (Attachment B). Mr. Bratton talked about the existing statute that covers legislative vacancies in the case of the death or resignation of a legislator. He discussed the process for filling legislative vacancies in other states. The most common approach is the designation of a list of successors by the legislators. Such a list is generally filed with the Secretary of State and given to the Governor. Other states allow the remaining members of a legislative body to choose individuals to fill vacancies. Majority rule usually governs such a choice. Alabama has a very comprehensive process for filling legislative vacancies. Mr. Bratton outlined the Alabama procedure in detail. California's constitution includes a provision allowing the general assembly to fill vacancies in an emergencies with pro tempore members from the same party and legislative district as the members they are replacing. In Kansas, a party-driven process is triggered in the event of an emergency. The county committee of the unavailable legislator's political party will designate a temporary replacement. The designated successor serves until the original member becomes available or a new legislator may be duly elected.


10:15 AM

Mr. Bratton discussed the process in New Mexico, where county commissioners designate five successors for legislators from that committee. The designated replacement stays in office until marshal law is official terminated by the Governor. In South Carolina, a broad Emergency Interim Legislative Succession Act that includes contingencies for changing the location of a legislative session and procedures for designating emergency interim successors has been enacted. Only 15 states have an actual plan to deal with legislative vacancies in the case of an emergency. Mr. Bratton listed some options for changing Colorado law. Mr. Herreid asked if any states require legislative leadership to make appointments to fill vacancies. Senator Sandoval asked whether a disaster would need to be officially declared by the Governor. Senator Spence asked about public access to lists of designees and Mr. Bratton replied that there were no confidentiality requirements for such lists.

10:23 AM

Senator Sandoval expressed her preference for a comprehensive statute to cover legislative vacancies in the case of an emergency. Representative Lambert discussed his concerns with creating a list of designees for each member. He indicated that the existing statute is comprehensive enough and cases of unavailability due to emergency might be added to that statute. The committee discussed various scenarios in which legislators need to be replaced. Representative Levy raised the possibility of only triggering any potential process when an emergency is declared and certain key pieces of legislation require consideration and enactment. The committee continued to discuss various options for continuity of the legislature. Ms. Goldman asked that any administrative functions tied to filling vacancies be put in rule, rather than in statute, for the sake of flexibility. Representative Lambert talked about changing the quorum rules to allow business to be conducted with a smaller number of legislators. Representative Levy indicated her preference for building on the current statute because it has already been established and has been fully vetted by elected legislators. Senator Spence expressed her opinion that adding to current statute is a good idea and that an additional plan should also be in place in case the established procedure cannot be carried out.

10:39 AM

The committee continued their discussion of options for filling vacancies in emergencies. Senator Spence asked how legislative vacancies are handled at the federal level. Kent Smiley, Governor's Office of Homeland Security, stated that the process is the same in an emergency and a non-emergency. Mr. Bratton informed the committee that it does not have the authority to recommend legislation and any legislation that carries forward would need to be sponsored by individual members.