Colorado will be among 26 states to raise the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour starting today, but that’s not the only change in wage-related laws going into effect with the new year.

A bevy of new laws take effect at the start of 2020, including one that makes it a crime to pay less than the state’s minimum wage.

Under that new law, employers that fail to pay that wage — which rises to $12 an hour under Amendment 70 approved by voters in 2016 — could be found guilty of felony theft depending on how much money is involved.

According to a recent report by the Colorado Fiscal Institute, about 623,000 Colorado workers are employed in industries such as construction and food services that are more likely to be at risk for wage theft.

That report, released earlier this year, showed that minorities, senior citizens and teen workers are more likely to work in those industries, and oftentimes that happens when employers misclassify their workers.

“An employee can be misclassified when they are labeled as an ‘independent contractor’ by an employer in order to skip out on requirements to pay minimum wage or overtime, to avoid other employment laws or to avoid paying worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and income tax,” the report says. “It can also take place when, for example, a regular employee is called a ‘salaried manager’ to avoid paying that worker overtime.”

Meanwhile, another new law going into effect allows local governments to raise minimum wages above those called for under Amendment 70, which starting in 2021 increases based on the consumer price index for the state, but it can never go down.

To date, only Denver has approved a minimum wage that is higher than the state’s, raising it to $12.85 an hour starting this year, $14.77 in 2021 and $15.87 by 2022.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, say doing so will only increased labor costs for employers, who will end up transferring those increased costs for goods and services onto consumers.

In an NFIB Research Center report issued last year, raising the current federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to the $15 an hour many groups want to see could reduce private sector employment by more than 1.6 million jobs, and cause a cumulative U.S. output loss of more than $2 trillion.

Several minimum wage groups, however, say the opposite would be the result.

“It’s vital to remember that workers are also customers, and minimum wage increases boost the buying power of people living paycheck to paycheck,” said Holly Sklar, chief executive officer of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. “Minimum wage raises also pay off in lower employee turnover, reduced hiring and training costs, lower error rates, better productivity and happier customers.”

RED FLAG

Starting today, for any state judge that actually approves them and county sheriffs that will enforce them, Colorado’s controversial new extreme risk protection order law goes into effect.

The protection orders, also known as the red flag law, is designed to allow law enforcement or family of a mentally ill gun owner to petition a judge to have those weapons temporarily taken away, and mental health treatment required for the gun owner to get them back.

While the concept of a red flag law has been supported by such gun-rights groups as the National Rifle Association, none that any state has actually adopted has its support primarily because of due-process rights.

Like Colorado, those laws don’t require the gun owners to be notified before an extreme risk protection order is granted.

Those gun owners are to be notified immediately after such an order has been issued, and gives them 14 days to challenge it.

The new law does, however, require law enforcement or family members seeking a protection order to prove that the gun owner poses a danger to themselves or others, and, if granted by a judge, for the gun owner to seek mental health treatment.

MARIJUANA BARS

Of the three new marijuana-related laws that take effect today, one would allow for the creation of marijuana hospitality establishments, subject to approval by local governments, of course.

In November, the Colorado Licensing Authority approved regulations for the new establishments that would allow for the sale and on-site consumption, depending on whether they are mobile or non-mobile establishments.

Another new marijuana law going into effect would allow medical marijuana stores to deliver marijuana products to private residences, but only if they first get approval from local governments. Those delivery provisions apply to retail marijuana outlets starting Jan. 1, 2021.

A related law on marijuana taking effect today revamps how medical and retail stores are regulated, including a softening of who can own or work at them.

Under the old law, anyone with a drug-related felony conviction was barred from owning or working at marijuana stores, but the new law now limits that to within three years.

The new law also merged the retail and medical marijuana regulations into a single code, allows stores to reuse or recycle marijuana “waste” for such things as containers and packages, and allows industrial hemp products to be sold in retail stores.

Previously, they were limited to medical marijuana outlets.

Other new laws going into effect starting today include:

n Lobbyist transparency: Starting with this year’s legislative session, which begins next week, all lobbyists are required to be more transparent in revealing who hires them, and places increased reporting requirements with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. They are already required to report which legislative bills they are working on, but under the new law, they now have to do so within 72 hours, rather than monthly.

n Car sharing: Those involved in peer-to-peer vehicle sharing programs will find themselves subject to regulations for the first time.

In a measure introduced by Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, such programs that operate similar to home-sharing apps like AirBNB will have to make sure their vehicles are insured, drivers who use their vehicles are licensed and car owners must verify that their vehicles are safe and have no open safety recalls.

n DMV fees: Current law already requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to reimburse vehicle owners any pro-rated sales taxes that are paid when a vehicle owner sells before the vehicle’s registration year ends.

This new law would extend those reimbursements to include prorating registration fees and surcharges also paid on the sold vehicles.

n Jail bonds: Two new laws also go into effect requiring the Judicial Department to create a program to remind defendants in counties that don’t already operate their own pre-trial services of upcoming trial dates, and mandating chief judges to establish bonding requirements that allow defendants eligible to post bonds to do so within 48 hours of being arrested for certain crimes.

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