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While most of us were doing our spring cleaning in May, state lawmakers were busy passing hundreds of bills under the Golden Dome—as usual, many of them in a frenzied sprint to the finish line. All those late-moving pieces of legislation were scheduled to go into effect 90 days after the general session ended: on August 7. And while some of them address procedural changes in governance that would only excite politicos and policy wonks, legislators also passed a number of laws that will impact everyday Coloradans.
Below, the seven we think you should care about.
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“Move Over or Slow Down” (HB23-1123)
Issue: When disabled vehicles are on the shoulder of the road with their hazard lights on, too many drivers don’t slow down or move into an adjacent lane in order to avoid close contact. As a result, Colorado has seen an uptick in crashes, including seven involving motorists hitting Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) safety patrol trucks in 2023. Last year was the deadliest year ever on Colorado roads and highways, according to CDOT.
Plan: Colorado’s new “move over or slow down” law now requires drivers to switch lanes or slow to at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit whenever they encounter any disabled roadside vehicle with its hazards flashing—even if an officer hasn’t arrived yet, which was the only parameter under the old law. Failing to do so now constitutes a misdemeanor traffic offense, a possible fine of $150, a potential three-point license violation—and a major headache when your next insurance bill arrives.
More Ways to Use Sick Leave (SB23-017)
Issue: Life happens. Sometimes your kid’s school shuts down for a spontaneous snow day or a wildfire forces you to evacuate your home. But when working Coloradans need to attend to life’s detours, some employers aren’t giving them the paid time off to do so.
Plan: Coloradans can now use their accrued paid sick leave, which all employers offer by law, for the following new uses: caring for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed due to weather, attending a memorial and/or dealing with financial or legal matters that arise in the death of a family member, or having to evacuate a home due to an emergency (including wildfire). These uses of paid sick leave have been added onto the existing uses Coloradans may be more familiar with, including inability to work due to mental or physical illness.
Issue: If you’ve tried to rent a home in the last year, then you probably don’t need us to tell you what the problem is: It’s a tough market out there for renters. Even while housing prices have fallen from a pandemic-era high, rental prices have stayed consistent—in the midst of inflation. It doesn’t help that landlords frequently find ways to tack on additional inconveniences for renters, like excessive application fees and astronomical income requirements.
Plan: Through a trifecta of laws, Colorado renters now have added protections when it comes to application fees, pet rent, and income requirements. Rather than incurring an application fee for background checks at every prospective rental property, HB23-1099 allows renters to submit a single screening report, which can be shared with multiple landlords. HB23-1068 caps pet rent at either 1.5 percent of the total monthly rent or $35 a month, whichever is greater. And lastly, SB23-184 prevents landlords from requiring income on rental applications that is more than two times the rent. Plus, security deposits can’t exceed more than two months’ rent.
Changes to Workplace Harassment Definitions (SB-172)
Issue: Lawmakers, including Democratic state Senator Faith Winter (one of the bill’s prime sponsors), know how difficult it can be to lodge a successful workplace harassment claim in Colorado. In 2017, Winter was the first lawmaker to come forward about sexual harassment she experienced in the state capitol, leading to another lawmaker’s expulsion. Under previous law, complainants needed to prove that harassment in Colorado was “severe or pervasive”—a burdensome stipulation.
Plan: Under the new definitions laid out in SB-172, harassment doesn’t need to be “severe or pervasive” if it still creates a hostile work environment or interferes with a person’s ability to do their work. To protect business interests, the law stipulates that this definition of harassment does not include “lack of good manners,” “minor annoyances,” or “petty slights.” (So no, you can’t file a harassment claim against your coworker who brings tuna salad for lunch every day.) While members of the business community, including executives with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, originally voiced concerns the changes could lead to a more litigious environment, they didn’t formally oppose the bill in the end (although no Republican lawmaker voted for it).
Raising the Firearm Purchase Age to 21 (SB23-169)
Issue: While Colorado law already prevented anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a handgun, it allowed any person 18 years or older to purchase all other types of firearms. But nationally, in 2020, guns became the leading killer of children through a combination of homicides, suicides, and accidents—surpassing auto accidents. And in Colorado, where suicides, youth gun violence, and mass shootings are all too prevalent, lawmakers called for a host of gun measures in this year’s regular session, including SB23-169, which would raise the purchase age.
Plan: Coloradans must be 21 to buy alcohol or cannabis, so this would institute the same age requirement for all firearms. (Active-duty military members and police officers are exceptions to this law.) Democratic lawmakers pushed the General Assembly to pass this law in the hopes of reducing the rate of suicide—the most common gun-related death—and early studies support this idea. Although SB-169 was a Democrat-led effort, several legislators including Sen. Dylan Roberts and Rep. Bob Marshall voted against their party to side with Republican detractors. Selling weapons in violation of the new law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If you’re caught buying weapons in violation of the law, it’s a misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a potential fine of up to $750.
Red Tape: On the same day the new law went into effect—August 7—a federal judge blocked it with a preliminary injunction while a lawsuit challenging the law, filed by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, proceeds.