Disposable bag fees, higher minimum wage and cage-free eggs: Colorado laws going into effect for 2023

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Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Plastic bags float in the breeze on a very windy day outside of the Colorado State Capitol.

The start of the new year brings into effect numerous new laws and regulations. While some are relatively obscure, others will be felt by many Coloradans.

Minimum wage increase

On Jan. 1, the statewide hourly minimum wage will increase by $1.09, to $13.65 for regular employees and $10.63 for tipped employees. In Denver, the only city to set its own minimum wage, the regular rate will increase to $17.29 an hour.

Colorado’s minimum wage changes at the start of each year based on the past year’s inflation rate. The statewide increase is equal to nearly 9 percent. It’s a small silver lining amid inflation, though it also adds a new cost for employers to absorb or pass along.

Plastic bag fee

Shoppers who forget their reusable bags will feel the sting of this change quite quickly in the new year.

Starting Jan. 1, stores across the state will be required to charge ten cents for every paper or plastic bag they provide to a customer. Local governments can set the fee even higher. The money collected is split between stores and local governments, which can spend the money on recycling and related programs. Stores will get 40 percent, while the local governments get 60 percent of the money.

The universal fee is the next step toward a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags that will take effect in 2024. The same law also bans single-use foam food containers starting next year.

People who show proof of being enrolled in a state or federal food assistance program are exempt from paying the fee.

The start of paid family leave deductions

Colorado workers will see their paychecks shrink slightly in the new year, as the state starts collecting the fees that will eventually fund a new paid leave program, open to workers taking time off to care for themself, a new child, or an ill loved one, among other reasons.

Up to $4.50 for every $1,000 of wages will be withheld from many worker’s paychecks.

Read more about the program and its implementation here.

Additional penalties for late vehicle registrations 

Coloradans who fail to register a vehicle within 90 days of moving from out of state will have to pay additional penalties. The new law closes a loophole that exempted vehicle owners with a temporary registration permit from another state from paying late fees when registering their vehicle with the Department of Revenue. 

According to a state fiscal analysis in 2021, around 500,000 vehicles were registered with an expired temporary registration permit. 

Under the new law vehicle owners who register late will need to pay back taxes and fees. The change is estimated to bring in nearly $7.6 million additional dollars to the state this next fiscal year, and $15.4 million in fiscal year 2023-24.

Increase use of alcohol-monitoring technology after DUIs

Colorado will require more people to wear alcohol-monitoring devices if they’re convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Under SB22-055, any person who’s put on probation for a felony drunk or drugged driving offense will be required to wear a device that can detect if they’re consuming alcohol. They’ll have to wear the “continuous alcohol monitoring” devices for at least 90 days.

The change applies to the most significant DUI charges, which can be pressed when a drunk driver seriously injures or kills someone in a crash, or if a person has racked up multiple past convictions. 

It’s the nation’s first law mandating the use of the technology, according to manufacturer Scram Systems, although Colorado judges can already choose to require them in some cases. If the device detects a person is drinking, their probation can be revoked and they could be jailed.

The rule isn’t ironclad: People can be exempted from the monitoring requirement if they live in an area where they can’t “reasonably obtain” the device, or if it would not be “in the best interests of justice.” People forced to use the devices are charged $8 to $10 per day to cover the cost, unless they’re unable to afford it.

State analysts expect that nearly 900 people per year will be required to wear the monitoring devices under the new law — quadruple the current number.

The law also includes a change that could help some people get back on the road faster after a DUI conviction, assuming they’re willing to have an alcohol-detection system in the car.

People convicted of DUI, DWAI or excess blood-alcohol content will be able to apply immediately for an “interlock-restricted license,” meaning they can drive using a system that tests a person’s breath for alcohol before the car starts.

That’s already an option under current law, but those drivers currently must wait at least a month before applying for the interlock-restricted license. Drivers who refuse to get an interlock system face license revocations of at least nine months, starting with the first DUI offense, according to the law firm Colorado Legal Defense.

Say goodbye to eggs from caged chickens

Colorado’s largest egg providers are on the path to keeping all of their hens outside of cages. The first step, which goes into effect Jan. 1, requires that each hen have at least a square foot of floor space in their enclosure. By the start of 2025, cages will be banned altogether and hens will have to be kept in open barns, although the law does not require that they have access to the outdoors.

Proponents say the traditional system of keeping hens confined to small cages is inhumane, preventing the birds from performing natural behaviors like perching and dust bathing. However, the transition could significantly increase the cost of a dozen eggs. For example, the cheapest cage-free eggs on sale at Walmart are currently selling for more than double the chain’s cheapest conventional eggs.

More treatment for fentanyl users

State lawmakers passed a new law in 2022 to address criminal penalties and treatment options for fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is deadly in small amounts.

Some elements of the bill already took effect — most notably, a new felony penalty for possession of more than a gram of the drug, which began on July 1, 2022.

But several significant provisions kick in with the new year. Starting Jan. 1, people convicted of certain drug offenses will have to undergo a substance-use assessment, and they could then be ordered into treatment, including staying at a residential facility.

County jails that receive certain state funding will have to implement policies by Jan. 1 to connect people with medication-assisted treatment and other services after they leave jail — rather than just while they’re behind bars. The state also will offer a service in 2023 to create a real-time map of overdoses and fentanyl poisonings across Colorado.

Meanwhile, the large organizations that oversee much of the state’s behavioral health system — also known as managed service organizations —  will have to establish contracts to offer short-term residential care for withdrawal, medication-assisted treatment and more.

The law, House Bill 1326, cleared the state legislature last year largely on partisan lines with Democrats in support and a small number of Republicans backing the changes. It also puts more money into addiction treatment, distribution of overdose reversal drugs, and other services. 

Tax credits for alternative transportation

Corporations will have a new incentive to provide transit passes and other transportation options to employees in 2023.

The new law, HB22-1026, replaces an older tax deduction. The previous deduction similarly encouraged companies to provide “alternative” transportation options, but state auditors found it was rarely used because it offered a “relatively low tax benefit” and due to a lack of awareness by employers.

The new credit is meant to be more beneficial and easier to use for companies. They will get a tax credit to cover up to half the cost of providing or subsidizing transit passes, ridesharing, bikes or ebikes, bike and scooter rentals and other options for employees.

Each company can collect up to $125,000 — with a maximum of $1,000 per employee using the transportation options — and the benefit is available to nonprofits and local governments, as well as private sector businesses. The tax credit is refundable, meaning that even companies without tax obligations can collect the benefit in cash instead.

State analysts estimated that about 1 percent of Colorado employees, or about 38,000 people, will receive eligible benefits in 2023. Their employers will get about $23.5 million in state tax breaks under the new law in the next fiscal year, the analysts predicted.

New rules for sellers in online marketplaces

Frequent users of online marketplaces like eBay and Facebook Marketplace will be required to provide certain identifying information to the company and their customers starting on Jan. 1.

The new requirement under HB22-1099 applies only to “high-volume” sellers with more than $20,000 in annual revenues. The marketplace will have to track information such as their bank account number, contact information, and tax identification number.

People buying products from high-volume sellers also will be provided with the seller’s full name, physical address and contact information, as well as information about any other companies that may be fulfilling the sale. Finally, marketplaces must provide a convenient way to report suspicious activity from high-volume sellers.

The bill was originally focused on shutting down criminal operations that sell large amounts of stolen retail goods. But it also could help crack down on sellers of counterfeit toys, said Danny Katz, director of the CoPIRG, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

“It’s too easy for those companies, when they don’t have to provide basic information, to use these online marketplaces to potentially put in danger kids and other consumers,” he said. “If we can identify those companies … then we can do a better job of getting those off the marketplace.”

Some platforms already are collecting some similar information about sellers. For example, Facebook Marketplace began asking all sellers this year for partial social security or tax identification numbers. Those with sales over $499 are required to provide full identification numbers.

The law passed with strong support earlier this year, with only three Republican representatives opposed and all Democrats in favor, according to data from Colorado Capitol Watch.

People who use powered wheelchairs have the right to repair them

Colorado passed the first law of this kind in the nation, allowing wheelchair owners access to parts, software and manuals so they can repair their own chairs. 

The law also gives independent repair shops the same access to materials, so that users don’t have to rely solely on manufacturers for help. This “right to repair” law does not apply to other devices such as cell phones and other electronics. 

Medicare pays for parts and labor but not for technicians’ travel time and does not pay for preventative maintenance. Because some wheelchair users aren’t able to do routine maintenance, problems can snowball until their wheelchair has stopped working altogether, leaving users with very limited mobility.

Manufacturers argued against the bill, which lawmakers passed last session, saying said that the information is proprietary and shouldn’t be shared with third parties. But people who use wheelchairs said that it can sometimes take months to get parts and service from authorized vendors, significantly affecting their quality of life. Advocates hope the change will make it easier for other shops — or even mechanics who don’t specialize in wheelchairs — to perform simple repairs.

“I think it's gonna empower those that feel comfortable with repairing their own chairs and caregivers … to repair basic items that break down over and over again,” said Rep. David Ortiz, a Democrat who sponsored the bipartisan bill. “In the medium to longer term, I expect that you'll see more shops opening up that will also start providing those parts and repairs in a timely manner.”

Additional funding for backcountry search and rescue operations 

A surcharge increase on snowmobile and off-road vehicle licenses will help pay for more funds for backcountry search and rescue equipment and training. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife will oversee the program, which was previously located within the Division of Local Affairs. 

The division still needs to conduct a rulemaking process to set the new fees. Backcountry search and rescue cards which people can purchase also go to fund search and rescue operations. 

The new law also would give dependents of people who die in search and rescue operations free in-state college tuition.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained the wrong name for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and listed an incorrect rate for the 2023 minimum wage for tipped employees. It also had an incorrect total for the value of the Alternative Transportation Options Tax Credit. All errors have been corrected.