Wage Hikes, a Red Flag Law and More Changes Coming to Colorado Today

Social pot consumption, minimum wage hikes, a gun-confiscation law and more are coming to Colorado in 2020.
Brandon Marshall
Social pot consumption, minimum wage hikes, a gun-confiscation law and more are coming to Colorado in 2020.

No matter how you celebrated New Year’s Eve, you’re waking up this morning (or afternoon) in a different state than the one you were in yesterday.

No, it’s not because you blacked out and took a hijacked party bus to Kansas. It’s because a wide range of new state and local laws took effect at the stroke of midnight on January 1, affecting everything from wages and health care to gun rights and marijuana licensing. Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest changes here in Denver and across Colorado:

Minimum wage hikes
Every Colorado worker making the minimum wage just got a raise of 90 cents an hour — the last of four annual increases under Amendment 70, approved by voters in 2016. The statewide minimum wage now stands at $12 an hour, and from now on, it will be adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases according to the Consumer Price Index.

There’s even better news for minimum-wage workers in Denver, who will now be paid at least $12.85 an hour under an ordinance passed by city council in November. Denver is the first — and so far, only — city in Colorado to take advantage of a new state law allowing local governments to set their own, higher minimum wages; its minimum wage will eventually rise to $15.87 an hour in 2022.

A red flag law, if you can keep it
Beginning today, district and county courts across Colorado will accept petitions for Extreme Risk Protection Orders, a legal mechanism that, if approved by a judge, will allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from a person deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Democrats passed the so-called red flag law over bitter opposition from Republicans, and sheriffs in dozens of conservative-leaning Colorado counties are refusing to enforce it.

Price caps on insulin and out-of-network charges
So-called surprise medical bills — eye-popping charges that patients can be hit with for receiving emergency care from “out of network” providers — have become a major target of health-care reform advocates in recent years. Congress failed to pass a bill cracking down on the practice at the federal level last month, but a new Colorado law taking effect today places caps on certain kinds of charges and establishes a new arbitration process to handle disputes.

Another new state law prevents insurers from charging patients more than a $100 monthly co-pay for insulin, the price of which has skyrocketed over the last decade, leading as many as one in four Americans with diabetes to ration their supply of the life-saving medicine. Colorado is the first state to enact an insulin price cap, though Illinois and others are now following suit.

Social pot consumption, home delivery and vape additive bans
Subject to local approval, Colorado restaurants, hotels, art galleries and other businesses can now apply for a license to allow social pot consumption — though they’ll have to choose between the state’s new “marijuana hospitality establishment” designation and a liquor license. Dispensaries can also apply for a license that will allow on-site consumption. Medical marijuana centers can also begin home delivery services effective tomorrow, January 2, but retail dispensaries will have to wait another year.

A ban enacted by state regulators on vitamin E acetate — a chemical additive linked to a nationwide outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses — and two other additives also goes into effect today.

Transgender birth certificates
Starting today, transgender and non-binary Coloradans can change the gender on their birth certificates through a new, streamlined process, eliminating a requirement to obtain a court order proving that they have had gender-reassignment surgery. Coloradans can now update the gender on their birth certificate to M, F or X.

Bedbugs, landlords and you
Another new state law requires tenants to promptly notify landlords when they "reasonably suspect" that there may be bedbugs in their unit, and requires landlords to inspect units within four days of receiving that notice. It also clarifies that in most cases, landlords are responsible for the costs of inspecting and treating bedbug infestations.

One small step for college savings
Tuition costs at Colorado's public universities have increased by over 65 percent in the last ten years, and students are now footing two-thirds of the state's higher-education costs after covering only one-third as recently as 2002. But don't worry — starting today, a new, privately funded state program allows you to "kick start" your child's college savings account with a one-time $100 contribution. Take advantage of CollegeInvest's "First Step" program now, and then start looking for the other $99,900 or so your kid will need to cover CU tuition and fees circa 2038.