In re Interrogatories on Senate Bill 21-247 Submitted by the Colorado General Assembly.
2021 CO 37. No. 21SA146.Questions Submitted by the Legislature—Apportionment—Separation of Powers.
June 1, 2021
The Supreme Court exercised its original jurisdiction to review interrogatories propounded by the General Assembly regarding the constitutionality of proposed Senate Bill 21-247. The interrogatories ask (1) whether the General Assembly can add and amend various terms to the Colorado Revised Statutes instructing the independent redistricting commissions established under Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44 to 48.4, to take certain actions to account for census data delays; and (2) whether the General Assembly can require courts to apply a “substantial compliance” standard in any legal action challenging the redistricting commissions’ compliance with the technical, but not substantive, requirements of Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44 to 48.4.
The Court answered both interrogatories in the negative. First, while nothing in the Constitution forbids the commissions from taking the actions suggested by Senate Bill 21-247, the independent commissions were established by voters specifically to remove authority from the General Assembly over the redistricting process. Thus, the General Assembly does not have the authority to direct the independent commissions to interpret constitutional terms a certain way or to take any action beyond what Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44 to 48.4, already require. Second, the General Assembly does not have the authority to define the standard that applies to constitutional challenges; that power lies within the sole province of the judiciary. Accordingly, Senate Bill 21-247 would be unconstitutional if enacted.