Here’s a roundup of successful Colorado bills on guns, abortion and cost of living
The 2023 legislative session ended on May 9
The Colorado Capitol on May 9, 2023. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
Colorado lawmakers considered more than 600 bills this legislative session, which wrapped up on Monday.
The Democratic majority, bolstered by a trifecta of power in the House, Senate and governor’s office, ushered through legislation meant to curb gun violence, protect abortion patients in the state and save Coloradans money.
“Democrats entered this session with a mandate from Colorado voters. We were asked to tackle big issues and respond with equally big solutions. I think we did just that,” Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, said during a post-session press conference on Tuesday.
Here are some of the key pieces of legislation that passed this session.
Curbing gun violence
Lawmakers began the 2023 session a few months after a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, placing gun violence prevention near the top of a list of priorities for Democrats. The urgency for new firearm regulations increased with two separate shootings at Denver’s East High School and multiple days of students flooding the Capitol to demand action from elected officials. While most of the introduced gun bills made it through and were signed by Gov. Jared Polis into law, a proposed ban on assault-style weapons died in its first committee hearing.
“Like too many, this session was marked by gun violence,” Fenberg said. “In the face of these tragedies, we did not throw up our hands and fail to act. We acted and fought hard to pass a critical suite of gun violence prevention bills.”
With House Bill 23-1219, Coloradans will need to wait three days between buying a gun and taking possession of it. Supporters hope this will create a cooling-off period to prevent impulsive homicides and suicides. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis on April 28. The law is currently being challenged in court.
Senate Bill 23-169 raises the minimum age to buy any gun in Colorado to 21. Previously, people 18 years old older could buy rifles and other long guns but had to wait until 21 to buy a hand gun. The bill was signed into law by Polis on April 28. The law is currently being challenged in court.
Senate Bill 23-170 expands the list of people who can petition for an extreme risk protection order, also known as a red flag, to temporarily confiscate the guns from a potentially dangerous person. Now, in addition to law enforcement and household members, educators, mental health providers, health care providers and district attorneys can ask a judge to order a temporary seizure. The bill was signed into law by Polis on April 28.
Senate Bill 23-168 rolls back extra liability protections that the gun industry in Colorado have enjoyed. It will be easier for gun violence survivors to sue firearm and ammunition manufacturers and sellers. The bill was signed into law by Polis on April 28.
Senate Bill 23-279 bans the sale and possession of unserialized firearms, commonly referred to as ghost guns, that are often assembled with do-it-yourself kits. Law enforcement, which largely backed the bill, say untraceable ghost guns are increasingly used in crime. Polis has yet to sign the bill.
Protecting access to reproductive health care
Last year, Colorado codified the right to abortion through the Reproductive Health Equity Act. Since then, the landmark federal case protecting that right, Roe v. Wade, was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and many conservative states took action to restrict abortion access, making Colorado a destination for patients seeking abortion care.
Senate Bill 23-188 protects people who receive, facilitate or provide abortion or gender-affirming care in Colorado from out-of-state litigation and prosecution. Law enforcement and courts cannot recognize or participate in out-of-state investigations into abortion and gender-affirming care that takes place in Colorado. Polis signed it into law on April 21.
Senate Bill 23-189 requires large employer health insurance plans to cover abortion beginning in 2025. There is an exemption for government and religious employers. Polis signed it into law on April 21.
Senate Bill 23-190 prohibits anti-abortion centers, sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers, from falsely advertising that they provide abortions. Bill sponsors argued that the sites often target vulnerable pregnant people. Additionally, it outlaws so-called abortion pill reversal treatment unless the state’s three medical boards find it to be an acceptable practice by October. That provision of the law was challenged in court. Polis signed it into law on April 21.
Utility bills, taxes and cost of living
A theme of the election season immediately preceding the legislative session was the rising cost of living in the state, buoyed by inflation and global economic pressure. The cost of utilities, property taxes and housing costs were priorities of Polis and the Democrats.
Senate Bill 23-303 puts up a 10-year property tax relief plan for voter approval in November. It is intended to blunt the affect of rising property values on annual property taxes by reducing assessment rates. If approved by voters, it would increase the amount of tax revenue the state can collect under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to backfill local districts that rely on property taxes. Polis has not signed it yet.
House Bill 23-1311 will go into effect if voters approve the property tax plan. It will flatten the TABOR refund checks next year into equal amounts for taxpayers, rather than relying on the current refund mechanism based on income levels. Polis has not signed it yet.
Senate Bill 23-291 came after a special joint committee on rising utility rates met this session. It will require utilities to file “gas price risk management plans” to keep prices consistent in the natural gas market, as well as direct the state’s Public Utilities Commission to incentivize utilities to keep fuel costs down and not pass costs to consumers. Polis has not signed it yet.
House Bill 23-1011 establishes a right to repair measure for farmers and ranchers, so they can repair pricey equipment themselves without the delays and expense of going to a specialist. It requires manufacturers of machines like tractors and combines to provide customers with manuals, tools and software to keep the equipment running. Polis signed it April 25.
Under House Bill 23-1215, hospitals will no longer be able to charge facility fees for preventive care services and a site that charges facility fees must be upfront about it. A statewide study will determine the scope and impact of facility fees. Polis has not yet signed it.
Senate Bill 23-93 caps the annual interest on medical debt at 3% and clarifies requirements for medical debt payment plans. It also requires health care facilities to provide a cost estimate for a service to a patient who intends to pay without insurance, among other transparency provisions. Polis signed it on May 4.
Increasing housing stock and creating affordability
In his State of the State address, Polis set forth a legislative priority to address the housing shortage and affordability crisis in the state. While his marquee proposal to increase residential density by rewriting the state’s land use codes failed on the last day of session, the Legislature passed some housing measures, and leaders say they plan to do more in upcoming sessions.
“Of course, one issue we know we need to press forward on is housing,” Polis said Tuesday. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to protect the rights of homeowners, to make Colorado more affordable to purchase or rent a home.”
In addition to the land-use bill, various tenants’ rights bills also failed, including a bill to lift a prohibition on rent control and one that would require “just cause” for eviction.
Senate Bill 23-184 prohibits landlords from rejecting a tenant on income grounds unless their monthly income is less than two times the monthly rent. Security deposits would also get capped at two times the rent. Traditionally, landlords require prospective tenants to make at least three times the rent. Polis has not yet signed it.
House Bill 23-1255 bans local growth caps and would repeal such caps in places like Golden and Boulder. Polis has not yet signed it.
House Bill 23-1190 gives local governments the right of first refusal on multifamily properties to convert them into affordable housing. Local governments would have seven days to indicate their interest in properties that are at least 30 years old, 30 days to make an offer and 60 days to close. Polis has not yet signed it.
Under House Bill 23-1120, a landlord must go through mediation before evicting a renter who receives public assistance through federal Supplemental Security Income, federal Social Security Disability Insurance, or financial assistance from Colorado Works, the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. There is an exception for landlords who manage five or fewer homes and if the tenant doesn’t disclose their assistance. Polis has not yet signed it.
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