From Guns To Gas: 5 Ways The 2021 Legislative Session Could Affect Your Life
Colorado lawmakers ended a tumultuous, impactful session Tuesday night after passing dozens of new laws that are poised to change everything from how the state pays for roads to who can purchase guns.
It will take years to see the full impact of the 2021 lawmaking term, but some changes are happening soon.
Here’s a look at five major ways the decisions under the gold dome are expected to affect your life in the coming weeks, months and years.
Starting next year, Coloradans will likely start paying more each time they fill up at the gas pump, hop in an Uber or Lyft and even order items from restaurants or Amazon.
It’s all part of a $5.4 billion transportation package lawmakers sent to Gov. Jared Polis last week.
Supporters argued the state’s reliance on a gas tax, which hasn’t risen with inflation, is leaving Colorado with an expensive backlog of crumbling roads. So lawmakers think people who are using roads, even indirectly by summoning a delivery van to their home, should pitch in more.
The fees residents will start paying next year include:
· 2 extra cents per gallon on gas and diesel. The fee will increase a penny every year until it reaches a maximum of 8 cents per gallon.
· 30 extra cents per ride in an Uber or Lyft
· 27 extra cents on deliveries through FedEx, Amazon and restaurants.
The tone at the Capitol changed dramatically in late March after a mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers.
Lawmakers were already on track to pass three new gun reforms. But the shooting spurred many residents, from Boulder to Telluride, to demand more from lawmakers.
“I’m so proud of our state for so many other things, but why does this keep happening here?” Telluride librarian Tiffany Osborne asked after the shooting.
She asked lawmakers to make it more difficult to get guns.
“We haven’t done enough,” she said. “We haven’t because it keeps on happening.”
The six bills passed this session will affect thousands of gun owners in some way. Gun owners must now:
· Lock up or secure their firearms when they are not being used at home. If children or adults get a hold of them, gun owners could face new criminal penalties.
· Report lost or stolen firearms to police within five days. The ticket for not reporting is $25 on the first offense.
Lawmakers also changed rules for buying guns.
A bill heading to Gov. Jared Polis would:
· Ban firearm sales to people convicted of violent misdemeanors for five years
· Close the so-called Charleston Loophole, which allows gun sales to proceed without a successful background check if the check isn’t completed in a timely manner.
There could also be bigger local changes down the road, after lawmakers sent Polis a bill letting cities pass tougher gun laws than the state codes.
Finally, residents all around the state are likely to see new ads soon thanks to the expected creation of a new gun violence prevention office, which is receiving $3 million in funding.
The ads will aim to educate residents about existing gun laws, including a so-called red flag measure letting a judge temporarily take a firearm away from someone if they pose a risk to themselves or others.
Lawmakers hope a bill they passed deemed the “Colorado Option” will lower premiums on the individual market by 15% of the next three years.
Sponsors say it would do that by requiring private insurance companies to start offering a new plan regulated by the state to control costs.
But even some Democrats who voted to send the measure to Gov. Jared Polis are skeptical.
The bill was amended more than 20 times, changing from a public option to a less ambitious proposal.
Lawmakers also removed penalties for doctors and hospitals who choose not to accept the new, lower cost plans.
Sen. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, questions whether the final product will be able to drive down premiums.
“The bill promises consumers lower premiums, but it doesn't provide a viable avenue to obtain these reduction goals,” she said. “Nothing in this bill explains how it will actually save money for the people who need this the most.”
Lawmakers also hope they can drive down prescription drug costs.
They sent Polis SB-175, which creates a state board to review drug prices and establish price limits.
Shopping and dining
Have you enjoyed getting takeout cocktails or having another alcoholic beverage delivered from your favorite restaurant?
Residents are poised to continue the pandemic-inspired trend for at least four more years thanks to House Bill 2027.
Liquor stores expressed safety concerns about continuing the practice beyond the pandemic, but the measure to extend it had wide bipartisan support.
Lawmakers did water it down by backing off an original plan to relax the liquor laws indefinitely.
They also passed new laws that will affect shopping experiences in the coming years.
House Bill 1162 aims to phase out single-use plastic bags and plastic containers in the coming years. A carryout bag fee would start in stores Jan. 1, 2023, and the bags would be prohibited from stores and food establishments starting the next year.
While mask mandates are lifted and case numbers continue to drop, residents will soon start to see the impact of an $800 million state stimulus package. It does everything from improving state parks to paying for more advanced helicopters to fight wildfires.
“We’re not just stimulating the economy, but when we finally get through, our budget, our state finances will also be in much better shape,” State Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, said in March when lawmakers unveiled the plan.
The spending will help residents get broadband connections and small businesses get new loans, among several other things.
Find a more detailed breakdown of the stimulus spending here.
Lawmakers are also distributing billions in federal coronavirus relief money. The legislature is convening committees and working through part of the summer to decide how to spend it on mental health and housing assistance programs.