This part of summer is a time for patriotism. It’s also the time new state laws go into effect across the nation.
Fiscal years begin July 1 on most financial calendars, and a slew of state government spending regulations kick in each year on that date. Policy laws also hit the books in a wave, though states often mark their independence by enacting such legislation on their own time.
Among the laws set to take effect this year around the U.S. are new abortion limits, gun laws and technology rules. And one state, Wyoming, will start setting up a lottery Monday, leaving only a handful of states without a jackpot drawing.
So as you get ready for Fourth of July cookouts and family gatherings, consider this roundup of laws starting Monday in Colorado. Thanks to a busy legislative session that saw Democrats pass a flurry of legislation, there’s an unusually long list of changes:
- MAGAZINE LIMITS: A law limiting most ammunition magazines to 15 rounds goes into effect July 1. House Bill 1224 grandfathers existing magazines, but newly produced clips will have to be date-stamped and in compliance with the ammunition limit. One of the most divisive parts of a gun control package adopted in response to last year’s mass shooting in Aurora, the ammunition limit already faces a legal challenge. A federal hearing about the ammunition limits is scheduled for July 10 in Denver.
- RENEWABLE ENERGY: A new law requiring rural electricity co-ops to double the amount of electricity they get from renewable sources by 2020. The change – from 10 percent to 20 percent – likely won’t bring any immediate changes for rural power customers. But they’ll be watching their power bills closely to see if Senate Bill 252 drives up rates beyond the established cap of 2 percent.
- MARIJUANA SAFETY: Colorado has the nation’s first recreational marijuana regulation law. House Bill 1317 took effect in May, but July 1 marks a major deadline in the law. The state Department of Revenue, which will oversee pot regulation, must release detailed regulations on the how the drug is grown and sold. The Legislature left large pieces of the pot regulation puzzle to the Department to figure out. One major detail the Department must announce by Monday is how the newly legal drug should be tested for safety and potency before going on sale to the public Jan. 1.
- CRIMES AGAINST PREGNANT WOMEN: Colorado joins other states with a felony crime of unlawful termination of a pregnancy. House Bill 1154 details how to punish people who harm pregnant women, resulting in the loss of a fetus. Lawmakers had debated similar proposals for years, but until 2013 they deadlocked over arguments about abortion.
- JOB-SEEKER CREDIT PROTECTION: Colorado employers face new limits on accessing the credit history of job applicants. Senate Bill 18 prohibits an employer’s use of consumer credit information for employment purposes if the information is unrelated to the job.
- CAREER ASSISTANCE: Another Democratic-sponsored plan to boost the state workforce is a new “career pathways program.” House Bill 1004 sets up a three-year grant program and a study of current labor pool requirements and qualifications.
- TOBACCO TAXES: Cigarette taxes aren’t going up. But they’re not going down, thanks to House Bill 1144, which makes permanent the state sales tax on tobacco. Sales taxes on tobacco are separate from excise taxes, but Colorado actually charged no statewide cigarette sales tax before 2009.
- GOVERNMENT LIABILITY: Suing Colorado for wrongdoing? You could be eligible for more if your claim stands up in court. Senate Bill 23 raises state liability limits from $150,000 for a single occurrence to $350,000 for a single occurrence.
- HELP FOR SENIORS: Starting Monday, Colorado tax payers will spend more on a fund to help the elderly with things like nutrition, transportation and legal services. Senate Bill 127 increases the amount of state sales tax that goes to the Older Coloradans Cash Fun from $8 million a year to $10 million a year.
- THE OL’ SUNSET EXTENSION: It’s a perennial quirk of state lawmaking: Politicians set up programs, giving the programs a sunset date to assure skeptical colleagues that the program won’t go on forever. Then, a few years later, the Legislature quietly extends the sunset they made a few years back, if not removing it altogether. Several sunset extensions take effect Monday, including extensions for pedestrian boards like the Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Certification Board (Senate Bill 150) and the Board of Mortgage Loan Originators (Senate Bill 156).
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