Final Days of the 2024 Colorado Legislative Session—What's Left?
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Final Days of the 2024 Colorado Legislative Session—What's Left?

Brownstein Client Alert, April 18, 2024

With less than three weeks left until sine die, there are several key bills currently under consideration in or that have made their way through Colorado's legislature. These proposals span a variety of sectors including alcohol sales, housing regulations, assault weapons control, medical malpractice and artificial intelligence regulations.

Below we summarize relevant bills and their current status.
 

ALCOHOL SALES REGULATIONS

The regulatory landscape around alcohol sales is seeing significant proposed changes. HB 1373, led by Democratic state Reps. Judy Amabile and Naquetta Ricks, seeks to tighten regulations on grocery stores by restricting them from operating multiple liquor licenses and limiting the alcohol strength of wine to 21% and of beers to 14% ABV. Additionally, this bill mandates a dedicated section for all alcoholic beverages in grocery stores and would lift the $2,000 cap on alcohol sales to restaurants by liquor stores.

On the Senate side, SB 181, introduced by Democratic Sens. Kevin Priola and Chris Hansen, proposes to double the excise fees on alcohol manufacturers and wholesalers to support substance-use-disorder services, exempting these fees from the 2020 voter-set revenue cap.

Both bills are still in committee.
 

HOUSING INITIATIVES

The housing crisis continues to be an urgent and often contentious issue for state lawmakers, mostly tackled through a series of land-use bills this session. Gov. Jared Polis signed HB 1007 into law on April 15, removing limits on the number of unrelated individuals cohabitating, targeting enforcement in cities like Fort Collins. This law, effective from July 1, will adhere to health and safety standards for occupancy limits.

HB 1313 requires Front Range cities to achieve housing density targets near transit corridors to qualify for grant funding, sparking resistance from municipalities concerned about governance autonomy. The bill passed the House by a 37-24 vote on April 14 and now heads to the Senate.

Additionally, HB 1152 promotes the increase of housing supply by legalizing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) across Front Range cities, facilitating the creation of independent living spaces on residential properties. This bill passed by the same margin in the House.
 

ASSAULT WEAPONS REGULATION

HB 1292, which recently passed the Colorado House with a vote of 35-27, aims to implement stricter controls over assault weapons. Sponsored by Reps. Tim Hernandez (D) and Elisabeth Epps (D), the bill includes prohibitions on the manufacture, sale and transfer of assault weapons, as well as a ban on rapid-fire trigger activators. The bill also sets a civil penalty for unauthorized private sales and mandates reporting violations, with certain exemptions for military members, peace officers, and specific organizations. The bill is now under consideration in the Senate.
 

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LEGISLATION

SB 130 is set to address the economic damages cap in medical malpractice cases, proposing an increase from $300,000 to $500,000 incrementally until 2029. This bipartisan initiative, led by Sens. Kyle Mullica (D) and Perry Will (R), aims to update the caps to reflect inflation adjustments after 21 years. While health care providers and insurers support the increase for a stable practice environment, patients and legal advocates argue it restricts full compensation for victims and may deter lawyers from complex cases. The bill has seen support in the Senate but faces challenges in the House.

The debate is part of a larger context involving potential ballot measures that could remove these caps entirely, promoting further discussions about the balance between fair compensation for malpractice victims and the impact on healthcare provider operations.
 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE REGULATIONS

SB 205, sponsored by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, introduces rigorous consumer protection measures for AI system developers and deployers. The bill requires detailed documentation of AI systems, transparency about artificially generated content and adherence to criteria preventing algorithmic discrimination. It also outlines “Safe Harbor” provisions, offering defenses against potential violations for those complying with specific risk management frameworks. The Senate Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on the bill April 24.
 

BUDGET DISCUSSION

Colorado budget writers finalized—and the legislature approved—a substantial $40.6 billion budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, which increases spending across various sectors with an emphasis on education and health care services. One of the budget’s biggest accomplishments is eliminating the longstanding “budget stabilization factor,” a school funding shortfall that dates back to the Great Recession, effectively restoring K-12 funding to levels comparable to 1989 when adjusted for inflation and enrollment. This elimination is seen as a significant milestone, especially since Colorado has historically ranked low in terms of teacher pay. Additionally, higher education institutions are set to receive a $132 million increase, which will help limit tuition hikes to 3% for Colorado residents and 4% for out-of-state students.

The budget also includes major increases in health and social services funding, with the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing receiving an additional $512 million and the Department of Human Services getting a $204 million boost. This will support public health and social services, including a significant focus on Medicaid despite a drop in enrollment. State workers are set to receive the largest pay raises in a decade, with an average increase of 6.7%, which includes a 3% across-the-board increase and additional raises based on longevity.

Economically, the state faces a slowdown in growth which impacts revenue projections and spending capabilities. The budget sets aside $46 million in placeholders for pending legislation, with half being marked for housing and the specifics of the rest still under negotiation. Additionally, legislative debates are expected to continue over property tax relief and how to manage taxpayer refunds under the TABOR surplus.

We will continue to monitor these legislative developments as the legislative session winds down. Please reach out if there is anything our team can help you with.


This document is intended to provide you with general information regarding Colorado legislative updates. The contents of this document are not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have any questions about the contents of this document or if you need legal advice as to an issue, please contact the attorneys listed or your regular Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP attorney. This communication may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions. The information in this article is accurate as of the publication date. Because the law in this area is changing rapidly, and insights are not automatically updated, continued accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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