New laws now in effect

By Lucy McFadden

As a slue of bills turned into laws on July 1, Democratic state legislators looked with pride on their victories in raising money to expand government services and protect citizens from various threats while the Republicans beamed over successful legislation to limit government and cut fat from the budget.

Perhaps the bill that made Democrats most proud was Senate Bill 228, sponsored by Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland. SB 228 repeals the Arveschoug-Bird spending cap, which limited growth in the General Fund and used any surpluses to repair roads, bridges and capital construction.

Without it, legislators have more room to shift funds and pay for needs as they arise. The transportation expenses previously paid with money allocated to Senate Bill 1 will in part be funded through another bill that makes the Democrats proud, but which the Republicans view as a sneak-attack tax hike.

Senate Bill 108, FASTER, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, and Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, creates a new revenue source for transportation by hiking vehicle registration fees $41 per vehicle on average. FASTER was signed into law in the beginning of March and is expected to raise $250 million for the state.

Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll told The Colorado Statesman that the bill “was something we absolutely had to do. It was a job creator, and, secondly, it was a public safety issue. News from D.C. today says that the highway trust fund will be out of money in 60 days. It was absolutely critical that we step up and provide funding for highways and transportation.”

House Bill 1293, the Colorado Health Care Affordability Act, sponsored by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, will provide health coverage to about 100,000 uninsured Coloradans, reducing uncompensated care and cost shifting. New uninsured patients will be able to attain coverage once they gain federal approval.

“This bill is right in line with our theme of expanding our opportunities by expanding the number of people that will be covered in this
state. We are reducing the uninsured by 100,000 or maybe even 200,000 people,” Carroll said with pride.

Another law is Senate Bill 247, the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act, sponsored by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, and Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo. The legislation puts 13,000 more unemployed Coloradans under the UI umbrella, offers 20 additional weeks of unemployment benefits and extends benefits to people in job training programs.

Senate Bill 91, sponsored by Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, protects auto dealers if their parent companies terminate their franchise agreements. Manufacturers who terminate franchise agreements are required to “pay the cost of a remaining lease or one year’s rental value of the facility used for the dealership and the fair market value of the dealer’s goodwill,” according to the bill.

Fourteen Chrysler dealerships in Colorado closed when Chrysler cut them off, along with 775 other Chrysler dealerships around the nation. General Motors also is closing dealerships nationwide, including 11 in Colorado.

Democrats also passed House Bill 1141, sponsored by Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, which updates lease regulations and makes available free credit reports and debt-management services to help those facing foreclosure.

Senate Bill 25, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Westminster, provides anti-fraud features on drivers’ licenses and verifies legal qualifications for entitlement programs.

Other new laws pushed by the Democrats include:

House Bill 1012, sponsored by Rep. Rice and Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, allowing health insurers to reward policyholders who participate in wellness programs.

Senate Bill 138, sponsored by Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada, and Sens. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood and Tochtrop, expanding the scope of care that can be provided by nurses, nurses’ aides and advanced practice nurses.

Senate Bill 93, sponsored by Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, making it illegal for individuals to knowingly possess another person’s passport, drivers’ license or Social Security card without the owner’s permission.

House Bill 1091, sponsored by Reps. John Soper, D-Thornton; Court; Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, and Nancy Todd, D-Aurora; and Sens. Romer and Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, requiring all new homes and apartments to be built with carbon-monoxide detectors.

Lastly, House Bill 1326, sponsored by House Speaker Carroll and Senate President Brandon Shaffer, protects citizens from crooked petition-gatherers.

Colorado’s Republicans lawmakers sponsored successful bills covering a wide range of topics.

When The Statesman asked House Minority Leader Mike May if he had any favorite legislation, the Parker Republican said jokingly that he didn’t know which bills had passed.

“Of my seven sessions in the Legislature, this one is by far the most disappointing, so it’s hard to be excited about any of them,” he said.

Although May was disappointed, Republicans sponsored some important bills, including two that pertain to crime — House Bill 1132 and Senate Bill 241.

Under House Bill 1132, it’s now possible to prosecute a sexual predator who lures a child through text or instant messages.

Senate Bill 241, also known as Katie’s Law, which was sponsored by Sen. Morse and Reps. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, requires the state to begin researching the option of collecting DNA from alleged felons.

The law is named for Katie Sepich, a 22-year-old from New Mexico who was murdered in 2003. Had Colorado been part of the national DNA database — known as the Combined DNA Index System — her murderer’s DNA might have been in the system. Eighteen other states are part of CODIS, which has freed close to 200 wrongfully imprisoned people since its inception. It also has provided conclusive evidence in several hundred successful prosecutions.

In an effort to help struggling Colorado homeowners, House Bill 1109, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, extends legal protection under the Colorado Foreclosure Protection Act to those who are under the threat of foreclosure.

Water ownership rights have been changed under Senate Bill 80, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan. The bill creates a pilot program to allow property owners to collect rainwater and use it for ordinary domestic purposes, fire protection, watering livestock and animals and limited irrigation of a garden or lawn.

Republicans also were encouraged by the passage of House Bill 1081, which lengthens the statute of limitations for vehicular homicides from three to five years. House Bill 1163 clarifies the child abuse law by allowing out-of-state offenses to count in Colorado.

Another batch of legislation will become law Aug. 5.