From tax credits to a new age limit for firearm purchases, here are new Colorado laws starting this week

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Mike Cummings with the Centennial Gun Club points out features on a long gun to customer Jim Collier of Centennial, Colorado on Wednesday, Nov 2. 2016.

Updated 3:11 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2023

The legislature finished up its business for the year back in May, but some of the new laws they passed are still taking effect — including quite a few today.

Some are regional or issue-specific, but others could affect everyone. Here’s a look at some:

Firearm purchase age

A federal judge blocked a new law late Monday afternoon — hours after it went into effect — that would have required anyone who wants to legally purchase a firearm in Colorado to be at least 21 years old.

The original bill was amended so that it does not put an age restriction on possession of a firearm. The bill was part of a package of gun bills passed by Democrats in the legislature this session. 

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a gun rights group, is mounting a legal challenge against the new law, which is known as SB23-169.

Move over for roadside vehicles

Colorado has expanded its “move over” law so that it applies to all roadside vehicles.

Now, anytime drivers see a stationary vehicle with hazard lights on the side of the road, drivers will have to move at least one lane over from the side of the road, or they can slow to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. Previously, this only applied when police and emergency vehicles are on the side of the road.

To mark the start of this new law, Gov. Jared Polis proclaimed Aug. 7 as “Slow Down, Move Over” day in Colorado. The punishment can range from a class 2 traffic misdemeanor up to a class 6 felony, depending on whether the driver’s actions caused any injuries or deaths.

It’s somewhat rare to be prosecuted for this offense: A total of 230 people were sentenced over three years for failing to move over or slow down for emergency vehicles under the previous version of the law.

Making it easier to lodge a workplace harassment complaint

A new law makes it easier for people to file workplace harassment claims in Colorado. Under SB-172, Colorado revises the legal standard of harassment. People will no longer have to prove the behavior has “been severe or pervasive,” just that it interferes with a person’s ability to do their job or creates a hostile work environment. The law also clarifies that “petty slights, minor annoyances, and lack of good manners do not constitute harassment” unless other factors make it more severe.  The law is a culmination of countless discussions between advocates for the change and members of the business community, who feared it could open the door to frivolous lawsuits.

Cutting down on rental application fees

HB23-1099 could save tenants from having to pay for background checks over and over again. Instead of paying fees for background checks at multiple buildings, an applicant can now pay for a single background check from a company like TransUnion, and then share it with multiple landlords for up to 30 days.

Capping the amount landlords can charge for pet rent

HB 23-1068 sets a maximum amount of money landlords can charge for pet rent at 1.5 percent of the owner’s monthly rent or $35 a month — whichever is greater. Pet deposits will get capped at $300 on top of other security deposits and must be fully refundable. The rule applies to all leases.

Reducing income requirements for prospective tenants

SB23-184 requires landlords to not have a tighter income-to-rent ratio than two times a tenant’s income while prohibiting a landlord from requiring a tenant to submit a security deposit in an amount that exceeds the amount of two monthly rent payments. It also limits the types of documents and credit history reports landlords can use to determine whether to rent to a certain tenant. 

Learning about radon in your home

Under SB23-206, property owners, landlords and real estate brokers will have to provide information on radon testing or mitigation done at the property.

Police discouraged from lying to children

A new law aims to prevent police from lying to juveniles during an interrogation. 

Under HB23-1042, any statements obtained during an interview would be inadmissible in court if a law enforcement officer knowingly lied or used deceptive tactics to a minor to get the information. However, the prosecution still could use the information if they proved that the interrogator “reasonably believed” it was true, or if they can prove that the defendant had made the statement “voluntarily.”

A 2022 study by the National Registry of Exonerations found that of 268 minors exonerated for crimes, 34 percent had given false confessions.

Physician assistants get more independence

Physician assistants in Colorado will no longer have to be under the supervision of a doctor to see patients, giving them and patients more flexibility, especially in rural or underserved areas. 

The sponsors of SB23-083 stressed that PAs are trained and that the measure will encourage collaboration between PAs and doctors.

A similar measure was defeated last year.

Please stop sending scammy notices

Have you ever gotten a letter in the mail that asks you to pay to file paperwork with the state? 

Often, these official-looking documents are actually scams. They are meant to trick the recipient into paying an inflated amount to a third -party, when you could just do your business directly with the state at a much lower cost.

A new state law, SB23-037, aims to crack down on this practice of sending solicitations for filing documents with the Secretary of State or retrieving public records. Now, those solicitations must be marked as advertisements. A message in 24-point font must include information about how to file the paperwork yourself.

Longer contracts for professors

Under SB23-48, non-tenured faculty can now sign longer contracts with state institutions of higher education. Those non-tenure track teachers and librarians now can be signed for up to five years, up from three years previously.

Veggie gardens for all?

Another new law, SB23-178, guarantees some new rights for residents of homeowners’ associations to plant vegetable gardens and drought-tolerant vegetation.

State law already said that homeowners must be allowed to use xeriscaping and other drought-tolerant planting methods. But HOAs could still set limits on those plantings, leading to concerns that they would set regulations that are too stringent.

The new law sets some additional standards for exactly how HOAs can regulate landscapes.

Among other changes, it says that homeowners must be allowed:

  • To plant vegetable gardens anywhere on their property
  • To choose from at least three “water-wise” garden designs for use in front yards
  • To install non-vegetative turf, aka fake grass, in their backyards

Programs for rural Colorado

Two new laws have been billed as helping the rural economy in Colorado. The first bill, SB23-006, formally creates the Rural Opportunity Office under the auspices of the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The bipartisan sponsors said it will act as a central coordinator and help foster economic development in rural areas. (The office has been in operation since 2019, but wasn’t codified in law.)

The other bill, SB23-050, expands eligibility for the Colorado Agricultural Future Loan Program and eliminates the repeal date for the loan program

Selective service not necessary for higher education

The bill, HB23-1261, removes a requirement for a student to register for selective service before they are allowed to enroll in a state college or university. 

Current rules require a male at least 17 years and nine months but younger than 26 to prove they’ve fulfilled selective service requirements before they can enroll. That requirement is going away.

However, even if Colorado schools aren’t checking anymore, the federal government still requires selective service registration. The selective service system would be used to operate a military draft if the President and Congress ever decided to mandate military service.

Tax credits

Two bills passed this year deal with tax credits. Under HB23-1006, an employer must provide written notice to employees about the availability of certain federal and state tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.The second bill, HB23-1081, expands the tax credit for converting to employee ownership. It also increases the cap for a worker-owned cooperative from $25,000 to $40,000, while increasing the cap from $100,000 to $150,000 when it comes to an employee stock ownership plan.

Matt Bloom and Bente Birkeland contributed to this story.