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Colorado legislators pass flurry of bills as session comes to an end

colorado lawmakers
Posted at 7:09 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 13:11:05-04

DENVER — Normally, the end of the legislative session is busy with a little work and a lot of speeches and shenanigans. There’s the annual harp performance and a rubber band ball drop. Members normally bring their families and deliver speeches about the legacies of outgoing lawmakers.

While there was certainly a lot of that on Wednesday, lawmakers also had quite a bit of work to get through before midnight.

As of Wednesday morning, there were still 88 bills left needing some sort of action, including substantial ones like changes to fentanyl criminal laws, climate bills, a statewide recycling bill and more.

“Legislators are a lot like high schoolers, we save all of the work until the very end. And there's something good to that, right? The pressure of knowing we have to end by midnight tonight means that conversations happen,” said Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Arapahoe County.

Race to the end: Lawmakers working to get bills passed before legislative session ends

Here’s a look at some of the final bills that passed:

Bills that passed

Health insurance surprise billing protections and a bill to prohibit hospitals from not disclosing prices: House Bill 22-1285 would prohibit hospitals from pursuing collection actions against a patient if the hospital was not in compliance with federal price transparency laws when the patient was treated. House Bill 22-1284, meanwhile, would allow people to request an external, independent review of a charge for an out-of-network provider to see whether it can be charged at an in-network level.

Driver License Fee Reduction: House Bill 22-1004 Calls for the state to keep driver’s license registration fees at current levels rather than allowing them to rise. Currently, the fee for a driver’s license is $30.87. However, the Department of Revenue projects that it will need to increase the fee for the next two years to maintain its same levels of service. The projected increase is $2.

TABOR Refunds: the Colorado Dividend would offer $500 for all Colorado taxpayers who file their 2021 tax returns by May 31, 2022. They will receive their rebate in the mail by August or September.

Internal Election Security Measures: SB22-153 strengthens some of the election security laws already on the books but also puts new loss in place, including making it a felony to access voting equipment without authorization or publishing confidential election information.

Missing And Murdered Indigenous Relatives: The bill would create an office to focus solely on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) epidemic in the Colorado, something that advocates say is a long-time coming. The bill acknowledges the unique challenges that stem from these cases, which includes poor and inconsistent reporting, lack of interagency cooperation, and misclassification of racial identity.

Towing Carrier Nonconsensual Tows: House Bill 22-1314 would crack down on non-consensual tows, like those seen frequently at apartment complexes. It would also ban tows for expired plates and prevent tow companies from keeping cars if someone can't pay.

Restrictive Employment Agreements: House Bill 22-1317 would limit non-competes to employees making more than $101,000. It would also stipulate that businesses must present the agreement to applicants to review before they accept a position with the company.

Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Chemicals: House Bill 22-1345 prohibits the sale of carpets, cosmetics, cookware, fabric treatments, food packaging, children’s products, furniture and other items that have PFAS chemicals in them starting in 2024.

Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions: House Bill 22-1362 calls for municipalities, counties and state agencies to begin to adopt energy performance policies consistent with the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code by 2026. For bill co-sponsors, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by updating the requirements for new buildings in the state.

Producer Responsibility Program For Recycling: House Bill 22-1355 would create a producer responsibility program in the state. It would require companies that sell products in the state to pay into the program for the amount of goods they sell in the state and the waste they contribute. The money would then be used towards a statewide recycling program that would establish a clear, uniform list of what’s recyclable and educate the public on it.

Oversight Of Chemicals Used In Oil & Gas: House Bill 22-1348 reports that part of the problem is operators and suppliers of the products often do not have knowledge of the chemical information, thus the data is vastly underreported. This bill takes the onus away from operators. Instead, it would require manufacturers to disclose the chemical lists by July 31, 2023.

Colorado Election Security Act: Lawmakers sent the Election Security Act to Gov. Polis’ desk Tuesday. SB22-153 strengthens some of the election security laws already on the books but also puts new loss in place, including making it a felony to access voting equipment without authorization or publishing confidential election information. It also requires election officials and employees to get certified on election law, security, and risk-limiting audits, bars people from being an election official if they have prior election offense convictions, requires 24/7 surveillance of election equipment, gives $1 million in grant money to counties to look at possible election risks and upgrade equipment, and adds new requirements and rules requiring electronic voting equipment and election certifications.

The bill was a direct response to the election security breach last year in Mesa County, over which Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and her deputy clerk were indicted on felony charges tied to tampering with election equipment, identity theft and official misconduct.

Fentanyl Accountability and Prevention: With just over an hour left in the session, lawmakers passed a finalized bill that aims to address the state’s fentanyl crisis. They approved last-minute changes that would allow a jury or judge to decide whether a person charged with felony fentanyl possession between 1 and 4 grams knew the drug compound contained fentanyl and have the charge lowered to a misdemeanor.

After discussion that went until nearly 10:45 p.m., the House voted 35-30 to pass the bill on to the governor's desk. After the vote, Rep. Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, removed himself as a prime sponsor of the bill after voting no on adoption of the bill over the possession limits.

The final agreement would allow someone who is charged with a drug felony for possessing 1-4 grams of a compound containing fentanyl to trigger a process in court by which they could present evidence they did not know the drugs they were in possession of contained fentanyl, and the jury or judge would be able to whether decide to drop the charge to a level 1 drug misdemeanor.