Aerial view of the Colorado capitol building dome with clouds at sunset.

Governor Polis signs bills lawmakers passed during first days of 2021 legislative session

© iStock - nick1803 

Robert Davis | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed several bills this week that lawmakers passed during the soft opening of the 2021 legislative session.

Among the legislation are bills allowing the General Assembly to operate remotely during the pandemic and addressing other issues such as income tax liability, electronic wills, and an occupational therapy program.

Lawmakers entered a temporary adjournment on January 15 and are not due back in Denver until mid-February, citing COVID-19 safety precautions.

House Bill 21-1003 allows for electronic participation in legislative proceedings. Members are entitled to receive per diem on the same basis as a member participating in person under the legislation, and travel expenses may also be reimbursed if a member must travel due to technical difficulties.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D–Denver, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D–Boulder. It’s fiscal note says it will cost the state $75,000 to operate during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Colorado could spend another $22,000 next fiscal year if the law remains.

For the first time, Colorado legislators can participate in the State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent Government (SMART) Act hearings at any time during the session. These hearings are designed to help government agencies improve their processes and efficiency.

According to the SMART Act, lawmakers are required to hold one hearing in even years and two hearings in odd years. The 2021 hearings are scheduled for January 25 and 26.

House Bill 21-1001, which had bipartisan support, allows for remote participation in party committee meetings through the end of the year. Participation also includes casting a member votes by email, mail, telephone, or through an internet-based application if allowed by the party's rules.

House Bill 21-1002 restores some business tax deductions over time that the Department of Revenue struck by rule. Legislators further prohibited the deductions under HB20-1420. The specified deductions include net operating losses, the application of the federal excess business loss rules, interest expenses, and qualified improvement property.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, it will reduce general fund revenue by $24 million this year and again in 2022. By 2023, the impact drops to $21 million.

Senate Bill 21-003 recreates the Occupational Therapy Practice Act for a period of nine years and amends certain provisions concerning examinations and applications for licensure in the state.

House Bill 21-1004 allows for remote signature of electronic wills. Prior to the act’s passage, wills in Colorado had to be written and executed with a witness in the presence of an officer with authority to administer an oath of law.

“This pandemic has affected every aspect of how we live, including how we plan for our own passing and how we take care of our loved ones after they’re gone,” Polis said at the bill signing.