It's been a busy few days for Gov. Jared Polis, with action on several bills recently passed by the Colorado Legislature. Here's a roundup:
More incentives to replace lawns
Colorado is planning a program to further incentivize residents to replace their grass lawns with landscaping that needs less water to maintain.
Signed into law on Wednesday, House Bill 1151 requires the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a statewide financial incentive program to inspire voluntary turf replacement for homeowners, local governments and nonprofits.
Along the Front Range, lawns account for the majority of outdoor residential water use, Colorado State University estimates.
The Colorado River Basin — which provides water to Colorado and six other states — is experiencing its driest 22 years on record.
The new law will allocate $2 million to finance the “Turf Replacement Fund,” which could include expanding statewide existing city programs that pay $1-$3 per square foot of grass that is removed.
The specific incentive program must be developed before July 1, 2023.
Under the bill, “water-wise” landscaping includes replacement turf and drought-tolerant plants that require less water to grow. Roberts said the bill is especially targeting nonnative grasses used for private and commercial lawns, school fields and other ornamental outdoor spaces, such as road medians.
Hospital price transparency
Hospitals in Colorado will soon face a ban on pursuing debt collections against patients if they do not post their prices online, thanks to legislation signed into law by Polis on Wednesday.
Beginning in August, House Bill 1285 prohibits hospitals not following federal price transparency laws from using debt collectors, filing negative credit reports against patients and obtaining state court judgements for outstanding debts. Noncompliant hospitals can still bill patients, but if they pursue collection actions, they must refund any debt paid by the patient, in addition to all legal fees.
This comes as, more than a year after it went into effect, only 6% of Colorado hospitals are in full compliance with the price transparency law that allows patients to compare costs between hospitals, according to a report by PatientRightsAdvocate.org. That is below the national average of 14.3% compliance.
Tests on drinking water
Schools and child care centers in Colorado will soon begin testing drinking water for lead contamination after Polis signed a bill funding the tests and remediation plan on Tuesday.
House Bill 1358 requires that, by May 31, 2023, the organizations use a state-certified laboratory to measure lead in their drinking water and report the results to the state. The bill provides $18 million to pay for the testing and remediation for facilities that yield positive for lead contamination — defined as 5 parts per billion or more — such as filters or bottle filling stations.
In Colorado, 72% of children under 6 have detectable levels of lead in their blood — much higher than the national average of 51%, according to a national analysis.
Polis on Tuesday signed a bill into law that provides nearly $9 million in funding for Front Range Passenger Rail planning and development.
The plan calls for a rail system along the Interstate 25 corridor from Trinidad to Fort Collins that would connect with Amtrak’s Southwest Chief cross-country rail line. It may, in the future, be extended into Wyoming and New Mexico.
The Legislature created the Front Range Passenger Rail Commission in 2017 to study the idea.
Electric vehicle charging stations
Polis added another veto to his 2022 list, turning down a bill that would have required certain commercial buildings and multifamily residences to include electric vehicle charging stations, depending on the building's size.
House Bill 1218 would have applied to new high-occupancy buildings, as well as to renovation of 50% or more of an existing high-occupancy building.
Polis has now vetoed four measures introduced in the 2022 session. He has until Friday to complete bill signings or vetoes, or allow bills to become law without his signature.
In his veto letter, Polis wrote that he fears the bill would result in higher housing costs at a time when Coloradans are struggling to afford them.
Polis signed two bills into law Tuesday that aim to address the unprecedented rise in thefts of catalytic converters across the state.
Effective immediately, Senate Bill 9 requires auto part recyclers to consult with a national database to determine whether a catalytic converter has been stolen and allows more law enforcement resources and agencies, including the Commodity Metals Theft Task Force, to investigate the thefts.
House Bill 1217 creates an annual $300,000 grant program to raise awareness of catalytic converter theft through public information campaigns, theft prevention, victim assistance and catalytic converter identification and tracking efforts.
In Colorado, thefts of exhaust emission control devices increased by more than 5,000% from 2019 to 2021, going from 189 to 9,811 reported thefts annually, according to the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority.