May 8, 2024 - Politics

Colorado bans cellphones while driving, closing loophole on 2024 session's final day

State Reps. Chris deGruy Kennedy, left, and Jenny Willford, right, shake hands as a bill passes on the final day of the legislative session Wednesday. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post via Getty Images

State Reps. Chris deGruy Kennedy, left, and Jenny Willford shake hands as a bill passes on the final day of the legislative session Wednesday. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado will ban drivers from using their cellphones with their hands while driving starting in 2025 under a bill that won approval just hours before the General Assembly adjourned for the year.

Why it matters: The 120-day lawmaking term ended Wednesday with major victories for Democrats and new fissures within the majority party ahead of the 2024 elections.

Driving the news: The cellphone legislation closes a major loophole in the law and succeeds after years of failure and record numbers of deaths on state highways.

  • Motorists are allowed to use hands-free devices while driving. Other exceptions include commercial vehicle drivers and those parked or idling off the roadway
  • Law enforcement can stop drivers seen using hand-held mobile devices if they deem it imprudent, a far lower standard than currently. The first offense is an $85 penalty with fines rising to $250 for third and subsequent offenses.

The latest: A handful of other major bills crossed the finish line, but not without consternation.

A first-in-the-nation bill to regulate artificial intelligence in the private sector moved to the governor's desk despite a possible veto.

  • The bill sponsors removed far-reaching provisions to make it apply to more information systems. The final version of the legislation is limited to high-risk uses that could lead to discrimination.

The intrigue: The most serious debate came on a measure to require safe storage of firearms in vehicles to prevent thefts. It narrowly won approval in the Senate after House lawmakers stripped out tougher provisions for those convicted of stealing weapons.

  • The final version of the legislation now makes it just a $100 civil infraction if you fail to securely store firearms, and maintains existing penalties for thefts.
  • Democrats defended it as a compromise amid tensions within the party about judicial reform.

The other side: "It's basically toothless," Sen. Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs) complained. "Shame on the House for being soft on crime."

What to watch: The most anticipated bill of the session to lower property taxes — which only debuted three days before the session's end — cleared its final hurdles and is headed to the governor.

  • A homeowner with a property valued at $700,000 would save an average of $300-$400 a year, depending on where they live and local mill levies.
  • The loss in local revenue to schools is offset with money from the state's education fund.

What they're saying: "Coloradans are depending on us to meet the moment and provide responsible property tax relief that works for them and their families," bill sponsor Sen. Chris Hansen (D-Denver) said in a statement.

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