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New laws that took effect Jan. 1, including that bag fee

Coloradans will see an increase in minimum wage and a decrease in the cost of hygiene products
Diapers and feminine hygiene products will no longer have a Colorado state sales tax. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press file)

Coloradans can expect some big changes this year when going to the grocery store, looking at their paychecks and traveling to work, thanks to a host of new state laws that took effect after the new year.

Here is a look at some of the new laws that took effect Jan. 1:

Cage free

Any eggs that do not come from a cage-free facility will disappear off the shelves of Colorado grocery stores this year, thanks to a law that was passed in 2020 and is now taking effect.

The law is in response to businesses that keep chickens enclosed in cramped, 67-square-inch cages the entirety of their lives. There are three main companies in Colorado that are expected to meet the new requirements, according to Colorado Department of Agriculture Inspections Director Mark Gallegos.

Gallegos said the three companies “represent more than 90% of the egg production in Colorado,” in an interview with Colorado Public Radio. “Those three farms have multiple facilities throughout the state.

Farms that own fewer than 3,000 hens and those that own chickens used for meat or other purposes are exempt, according to Colorado.gov. Those farms that are not exempt will have two years to comply with the cage-free law.

Consumers will most likely see an increase in egg prices, as Colorado farms must meet the rise in cage-free production costs. The impact of the avian flu outbreak, which effected five million egg-laying hens, also caused a noticeable shortage of eggs, causing more rising costs at the supermarket.

Plastic bag fees

A 10 cent fee is now being charged for every plastic bag customers use to bag their groceries in stores across the state. The new law is just one step toward a complete ban on single-use plastic bags and single-used foam food containers that will go into effect in 2024, according to Colorado.gov.

Exempt from the new law are fast food restaurants and small retail stores. Also exempt from paying the 10 cent fee are shoppers who can prove they are on a federal or state food assistance program, according to a news release from the city of Durango.

The money collected from the plastic bag fee will be split between the stores (40%) and local governments (60%), according to the new law.

Minimum wage increase

Colorado’s minimum wage is now increasing by $1.09, up nearly 9% from last year, which means regular employees will make a minimum of $13.65 an hour, and tipped employees will make a minimum of $10.63, according to Colorado.gov. The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25, which many states still adhere to.

It remains to be seen how the wage increase will affect Durango businesses, or if it will in any way alleviate the struggles of residents working to make ends meet with the rising cost of living and lack of affordable housing options.

Tax-exempt hygiene products

A little monetary relief is coming for Colorado parents with infant children and those who use feminine hygiene products. There will no longer be a state sales tax for diapers or feminine hygiene products, all considered necessary items.

Termed the “Tampon Tax,” proponents of getting rid of state taxes on hygiene products argue they are not “luxury items,” as have been labeled in the past, and should fall under the medical and health supply category, which are also tax-exempt in several states, according to NPR.org.

“This new bipartisan law finally ends the sales tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products permanently and starts saving people money on these necessary products,” stated Colorado Gov. Jared Polis after signing the bill into law.

Twenty-two states still view feminine hygiene products as luxury items and still impose them with a state tax.

Fentanyl user treatment

Colorado’s latest efforts to fight rising drug addiction and overdose rates now focuses on one specific drug responsible for a 70% increase in accidental deaths since 2021: fentanyl. Based on the nature of the offense, the new Fentynal Accountability and Prevention Act will have drug offenders undergo a substance-use assessment, after which they may be ordered into treatment, including a stay at a residential facility, according to Colorado.gov.

County jails receiving state funding must comply with the new policies and make sure that inmates are not only receiving medication-assisted treatment behind bars, but also set them up with treatment and other services once they’re paroled.

Paid family leave

Colorado works will now see 0.45% ($4.50 for every $1,000 of wages) of their paycheck earnings withheld for the new Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (FAMLI), which will officially launch in 2024. Once the program begins, it will replace workers’ wages when they go on leave for childbirth, serious health conditions, or other life circumstances.

The new program also aims to lessen the burden of small business owners, who may lose out on potential employee applicants because of an inability to provide paid family and sick leave.

“Colorado small business owners and self-employed applicants are looking forward to the launch of the Colorado FAMLI program, which will allow employers to offer access to a benefit that is important to supporting their workforce,” said Colorado Director for Small Business Majority Lindsey Vigoda, in a news release. “We know that many small businesses want to offer paid family and medical leave but simply can't afford to do so on their own. The new FAMLI program will help close this gap for small businesses while providing access to critical financial support for Coloradans – a win-win for businesses and employees alike.”

Backcountry search and rescue funding

Search and rescue volunteers who sacrifice their time, efforts and safety in Colorado’s backcountry will have more financial support in 2023.

The new funding will provide more training for volunteers, as well rescue equipment. Control of search and rescue funding has been transferred from the Division of Local Affairs to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, using a surcharge increase on snowmobile and off-road vehicle licensing to help pay for the funds, according to Colorado.gov.

“In reality, this is just bringing us up on par with all the other emergency responders,” Jeff Sparhawk, executive director of the Colorado Search and Rescue Association, told lawmakers at an April hearing at the state Capitol, as reported by Colorado Public Radio. “We’re not asking for something special. We still are trying to make it so we run very cost-effective, very efficient, very safe operations.”

The new law stipulates that volunteers have immunity from any lawsuits that might be filed after an unsuccessful rescue mission, and if rescuers are disabled or killed on duty, their dependents have new access to free higher education classes at state colleges and universities.

A full list of Colorado’s 2023 laws can be found on the Session Laws section of Colorado.org.

molsen@durangoherald.com

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