New State Rules Take Effect In 2020, Including ‘Red Flag’ Law

Some of the biggest and most contentious laws the state legislature passed in 2019 go into effect on Wednesday, Jan. 1.

Together, the new laws aim to prevent suicides and gun violence, protect hospital patients from unexpected medical bills and give local governments the power to raise their minimum wages higher than the state level.

There are even new rules requiring tenants to report bed bugs to their landlords so the mitigation can begin sooner.

Here's a breakdown of some of the most impactful measures taking effect this week:

Extreme risk protection order

The so-called "red flag" law was one of the most contentious pieces of legislation passed in 2019. But the lawmakers who wrote it are predicting it will be one of the most meaningful. It will allow police to temporarily take away a person's gun if a judge agrees they pose a threat to themselves or others. The measure was sponsored by Rep. Tom Sullivan, who says it will prevent suicides.

"People who are having a mental health episode, and need some help, we need to get the most destructive means of them ending their own lives, which is a firearm, out of their hands so we have a way to save these people," Sullivan said Monday.

Gov. Polis signs the extreme risk protection order bill into law. File photo.
Credit Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage
Gov. Polis signs the extreme risk protection order bill into law. File photo.

Several county sheriffs around the state made headlines this year by vowing not to enforce the new law. Some Republican lawmakers are also concerned about the safety of officers who are sent to retrieve weapons.

Sullivan said he is not fazed by the criticism. He said sheriffs will have to make a decision when a request is made to take a weapon.

"You're going to be facing a mother, or a wife who is going to be standing in front of you, talking about their son or their husband who is in the throes of a problem, and law enforcement has already been there several times," he said. "Now they are going to be able to take the action that needs to be taken to save somebody's life."

Sullivan said he's confident sheriffs will "do the right thing" and enforce the new law.

Family members or police can petition a judge to temporarily take away someone's firearm. State analysts expect the new law will be used about 170 times a year. Their estimate is based on data from other states that already have the law on the books.

Minimum wage hikes

Another state law taking effect in 2020 lets cities and counties raise their own minimum wages for the first time. Supporters of the bill said the previous system hurt residents in cities with higher costs of living.

"In Meeker, Colorado or in La Junta or Holly, $11.10 an hour is something different than it does in Denver, or Greeley," said Kevin Bommer of the Colorado Municipal League.

The state's minimum wage is set to increase to $12 an hour in 2020. Some cities are already starting to take advantage of the new law.

Denver City Council recently passed a measure that will increase the city's minimum wage to almost $16 an hour by 2022.

Surprise medical bills

Lawmakers heard many stories this year about Coloradans who went to a hospital they thought was in their insurance network only to be hit with a bill for services from specialists that were not covered. The new law aims to fix this problem by forcing hospitals to let patients know when there might be an out-of-network doctor or specialist providing the care. It also limits charges for out-of-network physicians who are working at a hospital or facility that participates in the patient's insurance plan.

The measure earned bipartisan support. Health care providers who do not follow the new rules will face fines up to $2,000.

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