204 New Laws In Effect Today
(Aug 8) – A number of key bills passed by House Democrats to help hardworking Coloradans get ahead, protect seniors, help veterans, improve education and support rural communities went into effect today.
Helping Hardworking Families
One of the top priorities for House Democrats this session was to help hardworking families dealing with the high cost of child care. Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, spearheaded a new law, HB18-1208, to expand child care tax credits for Colorado families.
“Our goal with this bill was to help hardworking families dealing with the high cost of child care,” said Speaker Duran. “We must do more to incentivize hard work so Coloradans can afford to provide for their families.”
“Hardworking families are struggling to earn a good life and with childcare affordability,” said Rep. Winter. “I often hear from parents who are concerned about the how the rising cost will impact their child’s future and safety.”
Another child care-related law that went into effect today was HB18-1004, sponsored by Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver, which extends a tax credit for donations to child care facilities to help increase the availability of quality child care providers in Colorado.
Nearly one in nine Coloradans with young children report they or a family member had to quit a job, not take a job, or change their job because of the difficulties surrounding child care, according to a 2016 state report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Improving K-12 and Higher Education
Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, serves as chair of the House Education Committee and is the sponsor of a new law, HB18-1005, that will improve notifications to parents and guardians of their students’ opportunities for concurrent enrollment – courses that can be taken in high school that also earn college credit.
“This bill will give our students a running start and help them graduate from college with less debt,” said Rep. Pettersen. “I encourage Colorado’s students and parents to take advantage of this new opportunity.”
Another new education-related law sponsored Rep. Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, is now in place. HB18-1226 requires the department of higher education to prepare an annual return on investment report of undergraduate degree programs and certificate programs offered at each institution of higher education. Rep. Bridges is a member of the Education Committee and has fought to pass bills to bolster school safety, invest in students and help teachers.
Helping Our Veterans
Rep. Jessie Danielson is the sponsor of a new law to give a tax break to thousands of military veterans in Colorado. HB18-1060 phases in a Colorado tax deduction of up to $10,000 for veterans under the age of 55 whose military retirement benefits are less than $40,000 a year.
“This tax break for military retirees honors veterans’ service and goes a long way toward making Colorado the most veteran-friendly state in the country,” Rep. Danielson said when the bill was signed into law this May.
Rep. Tony Exum Sr., D-Colorado Springs sponsored a new law, HB18-1078, to require that active duty military members and veterans appearing in court as defendants be advised of the availability of substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment programs.
“Veterans dealing with addiction and mental health issues need treatment – not jail time. This bill will help connect those who have served our country with the services they need,” Rep. Exum said.
Fighting for Rural Colorado
Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, showed herself to be a force for rural Colorado at the state capitol again this year. Rep. McLachlan’s bills to expand rural broadband HB18-1099, help address the rural teacher shortage SB18-042, and promote the next generation of Colorado farmers and ranchers SB18-085 take effect today.
“Improving access to broadband, investing in teachers and students and building our future agricultural workforce are critical for our rural communities to be able to grow and thrive in today’s economy,” Rep. McLachlan said.
Also in effect today is the major broadband investment bill SB18-002, sponsored by Speaker Duran and Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, which will send millions of dollars in broadband deployment grants to unserved parts of the state.
Improving Access to Mental Health Services & Helping Seniors
Mental health advocate Rep. Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, celebrated the enactment of her bill to create an ombuds office to connect Coloradans to mental health resources and assist people who feel they have nowhere to turn when they are denied or put on waiting lists. HB18-1357 will also require insurers to document and disclose their efforts to comply with mental health parity and network adequacy laws.
Rep. Michaelson Jenet was recently honored by two leading mental health advocacy groups for her efforts to expand access to care and treatment for Coloradans.
Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, sponsored a bill to help senior and disabled Coloradans by creating a tax credit to help these individuals with the cost of home modifications that allow them to stay in their homes. The bipartisan HB18-1267 was signed by Governor Hickenlooper in May.
Helping Fight Wildfires & Prepare for Natural Disasters
Amidst the frequent and ferocious wildfires that have been raging across our state, a new concern has arisen over drone interference with law enforcement and safety operations such as aerial firefighting. Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, sponsored a new law, HB18-1314, which makes it a crime to operate a drone during a response to a wildfire or emergency.
Another new law going into effect today to help prepare for natural disasters is HB18-1394, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont. The bill creates a policy group to help coordinate the state’s response in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and continues the Colorado Resiliency Office, which helps direct long-term rebuilding efforts and community recovery.