Efforts to build housing, curb car theft among new state laws this month
A slate of ten new state laws that focus on a wide range of issues including land use, car theft, job training, and the environment went into effect over the weekend.
“These new laws will help improve public safety, make sure Colorado continues to lead in the clean energy transition and break down barriers to creating more housing now,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “[They] are part of our ongoing commitment to make Colorado the best place to live, work, and run a business.”
Although this year’s legislative session was marked by a number of failed housing and land-use proposals, one of the new laws creates a new pathway that the government can utilize to develop affordable housing. It directs the state’s public-private collaboration unit, which promotes partnerships between the state, local governments and private organizations, to develop affordable housing projects on underutilized state land.
“If we can deed that over to local governments or nonprofits, that helps bring down the cost of developing that affordable housing,” Bill sponsor Sen. Rachel Zenzinger said. “It's a really good way of the two entities coming together and collaborating on an affordable housing solution. I like to call it the opportunity broker bill.”
Zenzinger also said the measure was able to get the legislature’s approval because it focuses on collaboration with local governments and organizations instead of preemption of local control by the state.
Two of the laws are meant to address the high rates of motor vehicle theft in Colorado, which have skyrocketed in recent years, leaving the state with the highest rate of car theft in the nation. The number of motor vehicle thefts in Colorado almost doubled between 2019 and 2022, and the state’s Bureau of Investigation recorded almost 40,000 cars were stolen last year alone.
Historically, the punishment for auto theft depends on the value of the stolen vehicle, but under one of the new laws, all car thefts will be treated the same. The crime of motor vehicle theft starts as a class three felony and could be as serious as a class five felony.
“There are a lot of people out there that don't have an expensive car, but if their car gets stolen, it's going to have a real impact on their lives,” Zenzinger, also a sponsor of the car-theft bill, said. “Everybody should have equal justice under the law. The value of the car shouldn't have any bearing on the seriousness of the crime, and so we eliminated the value of the stolen car.”
The law also creates a separate misdemeanor offense for the unauthorized use of a vehicle, which applies to situations where a car is used without the owner’s permission. That could mean taking a relative’s car without permission, for example. A companion measure also creates a dedicated state fund for car theft prevention programs.
Another measure that took effect this weekend dedicates $45 million to training for high-demand jobs in nursing, education, construction and law enforcement. The funding will go to local colleges and apprenticeship programs and is expected to support 20,000 students.
Other laws aim to advance renewable energy production by providing tax credits for electric vehicles and expanding the state's authority to regulate emissions from sources other than oil and gas.
All new laws are available to the public on the state’s website where they can also be sorted by the date they go into effect.
Copyright 2023 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.