Polis tax bill signing

Gov. Jared Polis touts a package of four tax measure ahead of signing them into law.

The mad rush to finish up signing more than 500 bills before Thursday's deadline continued Wednesday as Gov. Jared Polis put pen to paper on seven bills that deal with data privacy and education.

Senate Bill 190 establishes a solid foundation for consumer data privacy in Colorado, according to co-sponsor Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs. It allows the consumer to make the choice on whether or not they want their personal data sold, if it can be used for targeted advertising or used for "consequential profiles," which refers to a tracking mechanism that shows which websites a consumer visits, or a website where a consumer purchases goods or services and which requires a data profile on the consumer that is then sold or shared.

Websites, whether for online retailers or brick and mortar retailers with an online presence in Colorado must notify consumers about what information the business has, that a consumer can get a copy of that data, as well as the right to correct and delete that personal information.

It also imposes responsibilities on businesses and other entities covered by the bill, such as transparency. If the business does not comply, there is an appeal process to the Attorney General or to a local district attorney who would handle enforcement.

The bill provides an "opt in" for sensitive data, such as biometric data. That's the data that includes body measurements, facial recognition or even keyboard strokes. The opt-in also applies to data on children and demographic information. All of that goes into effect July 1, 2023.

Its biggest provision, which goes into effect on July 1, 2024, is to enact a global or universal opt-out. A consumer would need to opt out just once, and personal data cannot be stored, shared or sold by any website or company covered by the bill. That makes Colorado's law stronger than the data privacy laws in California — where it's optional — and Virginia, which enacted a new data privacy law earlier this year.

State Sen. Robert Rodriquez, D-Denver, said in a statement Wednesday that the law "will shift power back to consumers by ensuring that they are in full control over whether a company can use their personal information or not."

Polis signed all the bills at the governor's mansion Wednesday afternoon.

Polis also signed a trio of bills tied to education, including Senate Bill 172, a bill that would set up an educator pay raise fund to provide more money to hourly workers or to increase teacher salaries. But the law only sets up the fund; the legislature never put any money into it during its passage. The bill's fiscal note states that funding is at the discretion of the General Assembly.

How much a teacher is paid is determined by local school boards and school districts, not the General Assembly. 

SB 172's legislative declaration notes that for all but 30 school districts in Colorado, out of a total of 178, minimum teacher salaries are $30,000 per year. The fund, according to the declaration, is intended to help school districts and charter schools in increasing the salaries paid to teachers.

Polis also signed into law House Bill 1087, which expands a survey on teacher and learning conditions to include education support professionals; and Senate Bill 106, to expand a pilot program on high school to post-high school educational opportunities. 

The final trio of bills signed Wednesday deal with broadband, low-income utility assistance and a start-up loan program funded with state stimulus dollars.

House Bill 1288 sets aside $31.35 million for a startup program that will provide loans and grants to businesses seeking capital to start, restart or restructure a business impacted by the pandemic. The program will be run from the office of Economic Development and International Trade, using a third-party vendor, since the office is not equipped to handle loan programs. The program will be promoted to to minority-owned businesses, those owned by women or veterans, and businesses in rural communities.

“With the rapid increase in vaccination rates and the repeal of capacity restrictions, Colorado small businesses are primed for an economic recovery. However, many are still picking up the pieces after the recession of last year,” according to bill co-sponsor Sen. James Coleman, D-Denver. “This program will help accelerate Colorado’s Comeback by providing small businesses with access to capital, supporting entrepreneurs, and prioritizing financial assistance to disproportionately impacted communities – ensuring our recovery is equitable and lasting.”

House Bill 1105 requires investor-owned utilities, such as Black Hills Energy or Xcel, to collect a monthly energy assistance fee from each customer beginning October 2021 to help finance the low-income energy assistance programs administered by Energy Outreach Colorado, the Colorado Energy Office, and the Department of Human Services. 

The last bill signed Wednesday is House Bill 1109, which makes changes to the state's broadband deployment board and creates a new definition of "underserved communities."

The board gives out grants from the Broadband Administrative fund, which gets its money from the state's High Cost Support Mechanism, a service charge paid for by telecommunication companies, which then passes those charges on to the consumer. For example, Verizon labels the charge on a billing statement as the CO High Cost Fund Surcharge. The mechanism is intended to help bring broadband to rural underserved communities, and the fee generates $12 million per year.

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