DENVER — The first day of July in Colorado marks two things — the start of a new state fiscal year and the enactment date for numerous new laws.
This year, there are more than a dozen new laws that kick in starting Friday. Here’s a list of a few of the new laws.
One of the most debated bills of the 2022 legislative session was one to address the fentanyl crisis in the state. Lawmakers sat through hours of emotional testimony from families who lost loved ones to the drug.
House Bill 22-1326 strengthens distribution penalties for people who possess more than four grams of fentanyl, creates a new drug felony if a dealer sells a compound containing fentanyl which kills a person, and ups the drug felony levels for various distribution amounts.
It also sets possession limits for a misdemeanor at one gram, and dedicates more funding to drug treatment, fentanyl testing and emergency interventions like naloxone.
This new law allows public workers from the state’s counties to form unions and, if enough people join, enter into collective bargaining agreements.
The new law affects around 36,000 county employees, but it prohibits strikes, work stoppages or work slowdowns as part of the collective bargaining process. It marks one of the biggest expansions to rights for public employees in recent memory.
It applies to transportation workers, public safety employees, essential county personnel and more.
Campaign finance limits
With the midterm election right around the corner, one new law going into effect Friday curtails how much money school board candidates can accept.
Unlike other elections, school board races do not have any sort of cap on the amount of money an individual or committee can donate to a candidate.
House Bill 22-1060 caps individual contributions at $2,500 for individual donors and $25,000 for small donor committees.
Those contribution limits would be higher than most other races. State lawmakers, for instance, are limited to $400 campaign contributions from individuals and $5,350 per election cycle from small donor committees.
Behavioral Health Administration
The new Behavioral Health Administration within the Department of Human Services can begin to stand up its operations. The administration will be charged with creating a coordinated, cohesive behavioral health system in Colorado.
Starting Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) can begin accepting employee, property and record transfers for community prevention and early intervention programs, including alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs.
Other portions of the law kick in over the course of the following two July’s.
House Bill 22-1295 takes effect Friday, but there's still a long road ahead before families can enroll their children into pre-K for free. However, beginning this month, the Department of Early Childhood is responsible for administering the current responsibilities of the Office of Early Childhood in the Department of Human Services.
Employees, property, records and money will start to be transferred over to the department.
The universal preschool program will provide 10 free hours of preschool for Colorado families per week and help streamline the process to access preschool, both private and public.
Several bills passed in order to lower costs for businesses and families as many struggle to afford the cost of living with supply chain shortages and inflation.
“I think we've heard loud and clear from the people of Colorado and our residents that they're feeling a pinch in their pocketbooks, and we need to do something about that,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Adams. “I don't think that we can solve everything, but I do think that the work that we've done really is going to alleviate some of that.”
One new law, House Bill 22-1406, allows restaurants to keep the state sales tax they collect for the next year. Normally, that money would need to be handed over to the state. Democrats estimate it will save these businesses $40 million in all.
Another new law, House Bill 22-1001, brings down the cost for people trying to start up and register a new business to $1. The fee will be for business registrations, new trade name registrations and updates to business information. The previous costs for those ranged between $10 and $50.
For professionals, state lawmakers also passed two new laws to cut down on licensing fees and save them a bit of money. House Bill 22-1298 waives the license renewal fee for nurses, while House Bill 22-1299 waives the license renewal fees for behavioral health professionals.
“It's around $100 for a nurse,” said Mullica. “It's not this huge overarching thing, but it's something to give thanks to what's been really a thankless job for a little while now.”
There are also some projected savings for drivers. House Bill 22-1004 will keep the current driver license fee level at $30.87. The Department of Revenue projected it will need to increase the fee for the next two years to maintain its same levels of service. The projected increase was $2. However, the state used general fund money to backfill the need so that the current fee schedule can remain.
Meanwhile, House Bill 22-1351 reduces the cost to register a vehicle. The road safety surcharge is currently reduced for all vehicles by $11.10 in 2022, and is set be reduced by $5.55 in 2023. This bill reduces the fee by $11.10 in 2023.
The new law also delays a gas fee that was set to go into effect this July. It was supposed to increase by two cents per gallon and will incrementally increase to eight cents per gallon by 2028. It will now be delayed by one year.
“But the other thing is that all of those fees got backfilled from somewhere else in the budget. So while you might pay less for your DMV registration, you will not get as big a TABOR refund because they're putting general fund money back into those departments,” said Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Larimer.
While numerous fees will go down for at least a year to help stave off inflation and a tough economy, other fees will increase.
“The real way things are is that the fees that went into place today are forever, they're going to be there until somebody repeals those fees. The savings that Democrats put into place last year are all temporary,” McKean said.
Starting Friday, delivery orders for things like Amazon and DoorDash and more will are see a 27 cent fee tacked onto them.
Ride-shares like Uber and Lyft will start charging an additional 30 cents, which will go to the state in usage fees. Car-share rentals will also see a $2 fee if they last longer than 24 hours. The money will go to help fund transit and transportation projects.
“I think most people, if they could dig in and see a list of every bill that took effect today, I think most people would be very troubled because a lot of these bills add restrictions on what you can do, add cost to your life and do things that don't necessarily make your life better,” McKean said.
For his part, Mullica says the lawmakers worked hard this year to save families money, but he insists there is still more work to be done.
“At the forefront of our mind is always how do we make our community a little better, how do we make people's lives a little better. And I think that we've seen that this year,” Mullica said.
The state budget, a bill dealing with public benefits theft, another to clean-up Senate Bill 20-271, and a jail reform bill to change involuntary placement standards in restrictive housing for prisoners also kicked in Friday.