The regulation of ride-sharing services and the creation of a first of its kind marijuana banking law highlighted a busy week of deadline decisions on the part of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
June 6 was the last day for bills that passed the Legislature this year to become law. Last week, Hickenlooper made decisions on dozens of bills, including the signing of legislation that allows the Public Utilities Commission to regulate ride-sharing services by companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The transportation network companies allow passengers to book rides through a smartphone application. However, up until the bill's signing, those companies did not face any of the kinds of regulations that are required for other transportation services, such as taxis.
The bill would require businesses like Uber and Lyft to carry liability insurance, conduct background checks on drivers, inspect vehicles and receive permission to operate from the PUC.
The bill received bipartisan sponsorship and support from both legislative chambers.
“Now that Senate Bill 125 has been signed into law, the necessary safety regulations will be in place and these new, innovative transportation services will have the freedom to expand in Colorado,” said Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada.
The governor also took action on the following pieces of legislation last week:
• Hickenlooper vetoed Senate Bill 23, which sought to incentivize Western Slope owners of water rights to make water conservation improvements. The governor's office said Hickenlooper chose to veto the bill “because of unresolved concerns about its potential impact to water rights.”
Hickenlooper expressed concern over “a breakdown in consensus toward the end of the legislative session that divided the water community and, in our view, would make implementation of the policy more difficult.”
Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, expressed disappointment over the veto through an emailed statement that read, “The governor repeatedly states that our water efforts need to begin with conservation. … He missed a great opportunity to incentivize water conservation by Western Slope water users.”
• The governor signed into law a bill that creates a financial system for marijuana businesses.
House Bill 1398 allows retail marijuana and hemp businesses to enter into a banking co-operative system that would operate similarly to credit unions.
Supporters say the new law is needed to protect shop owners from crime that can occur when dealing in a cash-only business.
Because marijuana is considered an illegal drug at the federal level, federal banking rules make it more difficult for retail pot businesses to gain banking services from financial institutions.
• Hickenlooper also signed into law a bill that creates stiffer penalties for those who commit child sex crimes.
The governor signed House Bill 1260, Colorado's version of “Jessica's Law.” The law — which the majority of states have enacted some version of — is named after a 10-year-old girl in Florida who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender.
The law creates new mandatory minimums for various felony classifications of sex crimes on children. The most severe of those punishments carry with them prison sentences of 24 years to life.
For the past two years, Republicans have pursued their own version of a Jessica's Law bill, which contained a strict, 25-year minimum sentence for each felony case of child sex assault.
That bill, as it did last year, failed in the Democrat-majority Legislature, in favor of the Democrats' own version.