Colorado has long produced some of the nation’s most in-depth sunrise reports despite a state sunrise law requiring scant consideration of proposed regulations’ costs or of least restrictive regulations. Colorado enacted its sunrise law, which covers both health and non-health occupations, in 1985.
Sunrise review is initiated when regulation proponents file an application with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies’ Office of Policy, Research and Regulatory Reform (COPRRR). Any interested party can file an application, provided it is accompanied by a statement of support signed by at least 10 individuals. Most applications—81%—are filed by industry insiders. There is no application fee.
Colorado’s sunrise law gives COPRRR more than 10 months to review applications: Applications must be submitted by December 1 and COPRRR has until October 15 of the following year to produce its report. After that, applicants can ask General Assembly members to sponsor legislation creating new occupational regulations. COPRRR can decline repeat requests from the same applicants unless they provide new information that might affect its recommendations. Only Vermont’s sunrise law has a similar provision. Colorado’s sunrise law is unique in allowing COPRRR to forgo review if the office—together with the Legislative Council, which assists the General Assembly with policy research—finds an imminent threat to public safety.
Colorado’s sunrise law charges applicants with demonstrating a need for new regulation. Among other factors, applicants must “defin[e] the problem . . . to be solved by regulation and the reasons why regulation is necessary” and explain why they are proposing a particular form of regulation and not another form.
After reviewing an application, COPRRR conducts its own analysis and evaluation of the proposed regulation. Colorado’s sunrise law requires COPRRR to consider “[w]hether the unregulated practice of the occupation or profession clearly harms or endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the public, and whether the potential for the harm is easily recognizable and not remote or dependent upon tenuous argument.” This is a moderate standard.
Colorado’s law also asks for a general evaluation of regulation’s costs rather than the inquiry into specific types of costs required in some other states. The one exception is that it does require COPRRR to consider a proposed regulation’s potential effects on opportunities for ex-offenders.
Colorado’s law does not suggest that reviews consider previous or ongoing efforts to address the potential harm identified. Nor does it suggest that reviews consider whether proposed regulations are narrowly tailored to that harm. And it does not require COPRRR to recommend, or the General Assembly to enact, the least restrictive regulation.
Despite the state’s limited law, the Colorado sunrise reports in our dataset are highly rigorous, consistently using independent research and analysis to understand occupations and the need, or lack thereof, for regulation. Colorado’s sunrise process is also very active, producing more than twice as many reports as the state with the next most active process. The quality and quantity of Colorado’s sunrise reviews likely owe to COPRRR’s unique history and culture.
Licensure Was Frequently Sought but Infrequently Recommended or Enacted
Summary of Colorado’s Sunrise Reviews, 1985–2017
Notes: A distinct license is a separate license for an occupation already licensed under another, usually broader, occupational category. A recommendation of no new regulation means just that; a recommendation to maintain or amend license refers to a recommendation to reject new regulations (such as a distinct license) in favor of keeping an existing license, with or without amendments. A legislative outcome of no new regulation means no new regulation of personal qualifications; the legislature may have adopted other regulations. An outcome of broader credential means the legislature opted to sweep the occupation into a broader licensure, certification or registration scheme. Where a state reviewed an occupation more than once, we are counting only the legislative outcome as of 2018. “Registration request” includes a request for a distinct registration scheme.
Occupations Licensed Without Supporting Recommendations
Asbestos Air Samplers
Dialysis Technicians *
Hearing Aid Dispensers
Landscape Architects *
Marriage and Family Therapists
Massage Therapists *
Mortgage Brokers *
Occupational Therapists *
Occupational Therapy Assistants *
Speech Language Pathologists
*Multiple recommendations against licensure.
Sign up to receive IJ's biweekly digital magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking updates about our fight to protect the rights of all Americans.