Colorado State Senate
74th Colorado General Assembly
Coat of arms or logo
Term limits
2 consecutive terms (8 years)
New session started
January 9, 2023
Steve Fenberg (D)
since February 23, 2022
President pro tempore
James Coleman (D)
since January 9, 2023
Majority Leader
Robert Rodriguez (D)
since September 8, 2023
Minority Leader
Paul Lundeen (R)
since January 9, 2023
Political groups
  •   Democratic (23)


Length of term
4 years
AuthorityArticle V, Colorado Constitution
Salary$43,977/year + per diem[1]
Last election
November 8, 2022
(17 seats)
Next election
November 5, 2024
(18 seats)
RedistrictingColorado Independent Redistricting Commissions
Meeting place
State Senate Chamber
Colorado State Capitol, Denver
Colorado General Assembly

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.


23 12
Democratic Republican
Affiliation Party
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Democratic Ind Republican Vacant
70th General Assembly 17 0 18 35 0
Beginning of 71st General Assembly 17 0 18 35 0
End of 71st General Assembly 16 1
72nd Assembly 19 0 16 35 0
Beginning of 73rd Assembly 20 0 15 35 0
August 22, 2022[a] 21 0 14 0
Beginning of 74th Assembly 23 0 12 35 0
Latest voting share 66% 34%


Position Senator Party District
President Steve Fenberg Democratic 18
President pro Tempore James Coleman Democratic 33
Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez Democratic 32
Assistant Majority Leader Faith Winter Democratic 25
Majority Whip Julie Gonzales Democratic 34
Majority Caucus Chair Janet Buckner Democratic 29
Minority Leader Paul Lundeen Republican 9
Assistant Minority Leader Bob Gardner Republican 12
Minority Caucus Chair Jim Smallwood Republican 2
Minority Whip Barbara Kirkmeyer Republican 23

Members of the Colorado Senate

District Senator Party Residence First elected Next election
1 Byron Pelton Republican Sterling 2022 2026
2 Jim Smallwood Republican Sedalia 2016 2024#
3 Nick Hinrichsen Democratic Pueblo 2022* 2026
4 Mark Baisley Republican Sedalia 2022 2026
5 Perry Will Republican New Castle 2023* 2024
6 Cleave Simpson Republican Alamosa 2020 2024
7 Janice Rich Republican Grand Junction 2022 2026
8 Dylan Roberts Democratic Eagle 2022 2026
9 Paul Lundeen Republican Colorado Springs 2018 2026#
10 Larry Liston Republican Colorado Springs 2020 2024
11 Tony Exum Democratic Colorado Springs 2022 2026
12 Bob Gardner Republican Colorado Springs 2016 2024#
13 Kevin Priola Democratic [b] Aurora 2016 2024#
14 Joann Ginal Democratic Fort Collins 2019* 2024#
15 Janice Marchman Democratic Loveland 2022 2026
16 Chris Kolker Democratic Centennial 2020 2024
17 Sonya Jaquez Lewis Democratic Lafayette 2020 2024
18 Steve Fenberg Democratic Boulder 2016 2024#
19 Rachel Zenzinger Democratic Arvada 2013*, 2016[c] 2024#
20 Lisa Cutter Democratic Evergreen 2022 2026
21 Dafna Michaelson Jenet Democratic Commerce City 2023* 2024
22 Jessie Danielson Democratic Wheat Ridge 2018 2026#
23 Barbara Kirkmeyer Republican Brighton 2020 2024
24 Kyle Mullica Democratic Northglenn 2022 2026
25 Faith Winter Democratic Thornton 2018 2026#
26 Jeff Bridges Democratic Greenwood Village 2019* 2024
27 Tom Sullivan Democratic Centennial 2022 2026
28 Rhonda Fields Democratic Aurora 2016 2024#
29 Janet Buckner Democratic Aurora 2020 2024
30 Kevin Van Winkle Republican Highlands Ranch 2022* 2026
31 Chris Hansen Democratic Denver 2020* 2024
32 Robert Rodriguez Democratic Denver 2018 2026#
33 James Coleman Democratic Denver 2020 2024
34 Julie Gonzales Democratic Denver 2018 2026#
35 Rod Pelton Republican Cheyenne Wells 2022 2026
*Senator was originally appointed
#Senator is ineligible for re-election due to term limits

Past composition of the Senate

Main article: Political party strength in Colorado

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.

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