DENVER – The minimum wage will begin to rise, it will be tougher to amend the state constitution, and primary elections will change with the new year.
Along with state amendments and propositions approved by voters in November and signed into law this week by Gov. John Hickenlooper, there is a handful of other new laws that take effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Amendment 70, which raises the Colorado minimum wage incrementally over the next several years, will boost wages in January from $8.31 to $9.30. The amendment, approved by voters by more than a 10 percent margin, will increase the minimum wage by 90 cents annually on the first of each year until it reaches $12 on Jan. 1, 2020.
Barbara McLachlan, Democratic representative-elect for House District 59, said while the increases will be a hardship for small businesses initially, the change has the potential to improve the standard of living for individuals in rural Colorado who work for minimum wage.
“Eventually, these people will be able to work two jobs instead of three jobs and be able to have more time and money to spend in the community,” McLachlan said.
This was not a sentiment echoed by her counterpart from across the aisle, Don Coram, Republican representative for District 58. He believes the minimum wage was intended to be a starting point and not an end goal. “I’m concerned about the young people that have never had employment that are starting out,” Coram said.
“That minimum wage has been where business could afford to hire them and train them, but if they are going to pay more money now, I fear that those young people won’t get that start to get that first job.”
McLachlan countered that more and more individuals are being asked to live off of minimum wages. “I support it (Amendment 70) because we cannot expect everybody to live on this wage that was not designed to be a livable wage.”
While businesses may feel a hit, La Plata County as an employer will not, said Megan Graham, public affairs officer for the county.
“Amendment 70 won’t have any effect on La Plata County because we don’t currently have any minimum wage employees,” she said. “In fact, our lowest wage is $13.05 an hour.”
Fort Lewis College also does not anticipate significant impact, as the institution’s regular employees are paid above the current minimum wage.
Some student employees will see a change, Mitch Davis, public affairs officer for FLC, said in an email.
Students in work study programs will find themselves working fewer hours to reach their preset work study quotas, but the larger effect will be in the La Plata County community, Davis said.
“Most of our student employees work fewer hours per week than those in private business,” he said in the email.
“In other words, a person in the community working 30 hours per week would see a larger impact than a student worker who may only be putting in 8 to 10 hours a week.”
Also going into effect are Amendment 71, which increases the requirements for proposing an amendment to the Colorado Constitution, and Propositions 107 and 108, which make changes to the state’s primary system, the former of which creates a presidential primary election in which unaffiliated voters can participate.
In addition to amendments and propositions that voters passed in the November general election, several notable bills approved during the 2016 Colorado legislative session, which concluded in May, also will go into effect Jan. 1.:
House Bill 1432 mandates that private-sector employees have the right to inspect personnel files that are maintained by their employers annually or once following termination.The bill does not, however, require private-sector employers to create or maintain personnel files or “to retain any documents that are or were contained in an employee’s or former employee’s personnel file for any specified period of time,” according to the wording of the bill.
House Bill 1426 requires written findings of disabilities from medical professionals “when approached by a patient seeking an assistance animal.”This bill also creates a Class 2 petty offense for “intentional misrepresentation of entitlement to an assistance animal” or service animals, both of which carry a $25 fine upon first offense and increases upon subsequent offenses to a maximum of $500.
Also being implemented is House Bill 1165, which makes changes to the child-support guidelines and statues for the state of Colorado.It includes measures that allow the state to “seize insurance claim payments, awards and settlements for the purpose of meeting past-due child support obligations,” and changes in the definition of “shared physical care” so that it is based upon overall parenting time rather than numbers of overnight stays.
A complete list of the bills approved during the 2016 legislative session can be found at tornado.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/digest2016a/16DIGEST.pdf