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New Colorado laws include red flag gun measure and more

American flag and weapon (kalhh/Pixabay)

Law enforcement has gained a controversial new gun-seizure tool, transgender people can change their birth certificates more easily and the minimum wage rose in Denver as new laws took effect Wednesday in Colorado.

More than a dozen new measures that impact workers, patients, gun owners, people awaiting release from jail and marijuana consumers became law Jan. 1. One new law concerns plumbing inspections, while another requires that landlords deal with reported bedbug infestations within four days.

Most of the laws or legal changes were not controversial, although some spurred heated debates during last year’s legislative session.

Here are some of the most significant changes:

Red-flag law

Wednesday was the first day family members or law enforcement can seek court orders to remove guns and ammunition temporarily from people who have been deemed by a judge to pose a danger to themselves or others. There’s plenty of lingering uncertainty about how the measure — House Bill 1117, widely referred to as a “red flag” law — will actually function, or how often the seizure orders will be sought.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has challenged the law in court, and some counties have vowed not to follow it.

Gender identity on personal documents

Before today, people born in Colorado needed a court order, with proof of a surgical procedure, to change the gender designation on their birth certificates. That’s no longer the case. House Bill 1039 brought about two other major changes: It allows people to obtain entirely new birth certificates, rather than amended ones, and it eliminates the requirement of public notice for transgender name changes.

Worker pay

This is the first day towns and cities in Colorado can implement local minimum wages, thanks to House Bill 1210. Denver already took advantage: The city’s new minimum wage, approved in November, is $12.85 starting today and will increase to $15.87 by January 2022.

The statewide minimum wage also rises today to $12, the final of several annual increases approved by voters in 2016.

There are now stiffer penalties in Colorado for employers found guilty of wage theft, or the illegal withholding of pay that workers have earned. Up until now, it’s been a misdemeanor, but under House Bill 1267 it can be a felony, depending on the amount of wages withheld.

Chipping away at health care costs

House Bill 1174 is designed to address “surprise” medical billing — that is, when patients visit medical providers in their network, but are billed for out-of-network care. Now, per this new law, insurance companies and health care facilities have to notify patients before they accept care from a provider outside their network.

Colorado also becomes the first state in the nation to have a law preventing people with diabetes from being charged more than $100 a month out of pocket for insulin. House Bill 1216 addresses the costs of a condition that more than 400,000 Colorado adults — almost 10% of the population — have, according to the American Diabetes Association.

New marijuana businesses

Starting today, thanks to House Bill 1230two new kinds of cannabis businesses are legal in Colorado: tasting rooms that sell marijuana and related products and “hospitality establishments,” which don’t sell cannabis but allow on-site use. Another new law, House Bill 1234, now allows home delivery of medical marijuana to patients with red cards. Deliveries of recreational marijuana will be allowed starting in January 2021.

Government and the business community are still getting organized around implementation of these laws, and lawmakers gave leeway to local governments to decide what to allow within their jurisdictions.

Defendant rights

Senate Bill 191 installs several requirements meant to get people who’ve been accused of a crime, but not convicted of anything, out of jail sooner. One key provision: Courts are required to hold bond-setting hearings within 48 hours of someone’s arrest. Until now, many defendants have had to wait up to five or six days before a judge would set their bond, particularly in rural areas where courts are understaffed.

Rural courts opposed this mandate during the last session, and it’s expected that the implementation of this law — which, among other things, forces courts to be open more often — will be bumpy.


© 2020 The Denver Post