Payday-loan limits among laws taking effect Wednesday
Public indecency, payday lenders and lower speed limits in areas where wildlife cross roads are a few of the 110 new laws that go into effect Wednesday.
One of the biggest new laws is an increase in the state’s renewable-energy standard to 30 percent for large public utilities, such as Xcel Energy.
Currently, power companies are required to get 20 percent of their electricity from such renewable sources as wind and solar by 2020, but the larger producers said they were likely to hit that mark far sooner than initially thought.
As a result, Gov. Bill Ritter and some Western Slope senators introduced House Bill 1001, which primarily emphasizes solar, and lawmakers said it will lead to the installation of about 100,000 new solar rooftops during the next 10 years.
“These are high paying jobs that will stimulate economic activity in our local communities and can’t be shipped overseas,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who introduced the bill with Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus. “This change will bring jobs in wind, solar, biomass, natural gas, hydro and geothermal to our state.”
The standard was first created under Amendment 37, which voters approved in 2004. Three years later, the Legislature increased the standard to 20 percent by 2020 for power suppliers, and included a new 10 percent standard for rural electric cooperatives.
Republican lawmakers said the increase was an unnecessary mandate on business, but Xcel officials supported it.
Republicans also protested another controversial new law that narrowly won legislative approval. Under HB 1351, payday-loan companies will be limited to charging a monthly maintenance fee of no more than $7.50 for every $300 loaned, capped at $30 a month. The measure also limits the companies from offering new loans to customers for 30 days.
Currently, payday lenders are allowed to impose finance charges anywhere from 300 percent to 500 percent measured as an annual percentage rate. The new law limits that to 45 percent. The companies are limited to lending no more than $500 in loans, which are designed to be paid off within a few weeks.
“We want to protect hard-working families from predatory lenders who trap borrowers into a vicious cycle of debt where they face 300 percent interest rates,” said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver. “That’s wrong. Any responsible lender would be satisfied with a 45 percent APR cap.”
Meanwhile, a couple of Western Slope lawmakers were pleased to see their measures become law.
Rep. Kathleen Curry, unaffiliated-Gunnison, will see HB 1238 cut down on the amount of roadkill and save motorists’ lives.
Under the new law, the Colorado Department of Transportation is allowed to lower speed limits in certain parts of the state where animal crossings are common, but it’s limited to designating wildlife crossing zones to no more than 100 total miles of highway.
The new law, which doesn’t include interstates or county roads, call on CDOT to clearly mark when the new zones begin and end. Fines for speeding also would be doubled in the zones.
Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, will see two of his measures become law this week.
HB 1054 requires the state’s colleges and universities to establish procedures to deal with emergency situations, such as a campus shooting, and to ensure students know what to do in case such an emergency happens.
The other new law, HB 1334, moves the crime of public masturbation from the state’s public-indecency statutes to the more serious public-exposure laws. At the same time, it moves such nonsexual acts as urinating in public or streaking from the exposure statutes and puts them under indecency crimes.
King said current law has caused some people to be categorized as sexual offenders when they just did something stupid, and actual sexual offenders were getting slaps on the wrist.
“It seems appropriate to me to be able to free up resources for law enforcement and their focus to be out there looking for the true sexual predators, and not people (who) through intoxication or just bad judgment end up urinating in public and end up on a sex-offender registry,” King said. “Nine out of 10 people are going to say, ‘That’s not a sex crime. That’s just being stupid in public.’”