by Patti Dahlberg and Thomas Morris
The Colorado Commission on Uniform State Laws (CCUSL) is Colorado’s delegation to the national Uniform Law Commission (ULC). The ULC is comprised of more than 300 commissioners appointed by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The CCUSL meets each year during the ULC’s annual conference in July to identify a preliminary legislative agenda of approved uniform acts for potential introduction in Colorado. The CCUSL then typically hosts two or three public meetings at the state capitol to discuss its proposed legislation, listen to interested parties, and finalize its legislative agenda. The CCUSL sends advance notice of the meetings held in the capitol to interested parties, posts meeting information on the General Assembly and the CCUSL websites, encourages public testimony at the meetings, and broadcasts the meetings over the internet.
The CCUSL held meetings to discuss its legislative agenda on September 18, 2020, and December 16, 2020, and approved eight uniform acts for introduction as commission bills during the 2021 legislative session. The links to the acts provided below are to the ULC version of the uniform acts (unless identified with a bill number), and uniform acts are routinely amended prior to introduction. Links to the Colorado versions of uniform acts will be available on the CCUSL Additional Information page as the bills are introduced. One of the uniform acts approved for introduction was a ULC act newly approved at the 2020 annual meeting and the other seven uniform acts were ULC-approved acts from prior years, a couple of which were introduced during the 2020 legislative session but were sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shortened legislative session. The eight uniform acts approved for introduction in 2021 in Colorado are:
- Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA). Most documents traditionally printed on paper can be created, transferred, signed, and recorded in electronic form. The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and a similar federal law, E-SIGN, provide that a transaction is not invalid solely because the terms of the contract are in an electronic format. But UETA and E-SIGN both contain an express exception for wills, which, because the testator is deceased at the time the document must be interpreted, are subject to special execution requirements to ensure validity and must still be executed on paper in most states. Under the UEWA, the testator’s electronic signature must be witnessed at signing (or notarized simultaneously in states that allow notarized wills) and the document must be stored in a tamper-evident file. States will have the option to include language that allows remote witnessing and the act addresses recognition of electronic wills executed under the law of another state. For a generation that is used to banking, communicating, and transacting business online, this act will allow online estate planning while maintaining safeguards to help prevent fraud and coercion. The Colorado General Assembly enacted the Colorado Uniform Electronic Wills Act (HB21-1004) during the first three days of the 2021 legislative session.
- Uniform Easement Relocation Act (UERA). An access easement gives the owner of one parcel of real estate the legal authority to travel across another person’s property. Think of a driveway that runs from a public road across one property to access another. In many, but not all, states, the owners of both properties must consent to relocate an easement. When the owner of the burdened property asks to relocate an access easement to allow further development, an easement holder in a state that follows the mutual consent rule can withhold consent to prevent the development or demand a ransom payment before agreeing to the change. The UERA allows the burdened estate owner to obtain a court order to relocate an easement if the relocation does not materially impair the utility of the easement to the easement holder or the physical condition, use, or value of the benefited property. The burdened property owner must file a civil action, give other potentially affected real-property interest owners notice, and bear all the costs of relocation. These conditions build upon the rule contained in the Restatement (Third) of Property: Servitudes, whose approach to easement relocation has been fully or partially adopted in a number of states. The act excludes conservation easements and public-utility easements from its scope and contains a number of additional safeguards, not found in the Restatement, to protect the easement holder’s interest in the use and enjoyment of the easement during and after the relocation.
- Uniform Recognition and Enforcement of Canadian Domestic-Violence Protection Orders Act. This act provides for the enforcement of domestic violence protection orders issued by Canadian courts. Reflecting the friendship between the United States and Canada, citizens move freely between the two countries, freedom that in certain limited circumstances can work against victims of domestic violence. Canada has granted recognition to protection orders issued in the United States and other countries in the Uniform Enforcement of Canadian Judgments and Decrees Act. By this act, enacting states accord similar recognition to protection orders issued in Canada.
- Uniform Fiduciary Income and Principal Act (UFIPA). This act is a revision of the former Uniform Principal and Income Act with a new name to differentiate it from predecessor versions. While older trusts often had clear delineation between income and principal interests, modern trust accounting requires flexibility. Trustees now tend to invest for the greatest total return and then adjust between interest and principal to produce a fair result for all the beneficiaries. UFIPA recognizes this trend toward total-return investing and includes unitrust conversion rules to allow even older trusts to take advantage of modern investment trends. UFIPA gives estate planning attorneys additional flexibility to tailor a trust for each client’s needs and includes a new governing law section to help avoid jurisdictional disputes.
- Uniform Trust Code, Part Five. The Uniform Trust Code (2000) was the first national codification of the law of trusts. In 2018, after significant review of the uniform act by the legal community and with some amendments, the Colorado General Assembly enacted the Colorado Trust Code (SB18-180), deliberately leaving part five out to allow for additional review. The Colorado Bar Association has completed its additional review of part five and suggested amendments, and part five is ready to be considered for inclusion in the Colorado Trust Code.
- Uniform Automated Operation of Vehicles Act. Automated and partially automated vehicles are already on the roads; this act reconciles automated driving with a typical state motor vehicle code. Many of the act’s sections – including definitions, driver licensing, vehicle registration, equipment, and rules of the road – correspond to, refer to, and can be incorporated into existing sections of a typical vehicle code. This act also introduces the concept of automated driving providers (ADPs) as a legal entity that must declare itself to the state and designate the automated vehicles for which it will act as the legal driver when the vehicle is in automated operation. The ADP might be an automated driving system developer, a vehicle manufacturer, a fleet operator, or another kind of market participant that has yet to emerge. The act uses the motor vehicle registration framework that already exists in states and applies it to both conventional and automated vehicles. By using an existing framework, the act also seeks to respect and empower state motor vehicle agencies.
- Uniform Collaborative Law. This act provides attorneys guidance in determining whether collaborative law is appropriate for a particular dispute or client. As a uniform state law, the act helps establish uniformity in core procedures and consumer protections, while minimizing the patchwork spread of varying approaches and definitions. The collaborative law process provides lawyers and clients with an important, useful, and cost-effective option for amicable, non-adversarial dispute resolution. Like mediation, it promotes problem-solving and permits solutions not possible in litigation or arbitration. Collaborative law is a voluntary process in which clients and their lawyers agree that the lawyers will represent the clients solely for purposes of settlement, and that the clients will hire new counsel if the case does not settle. The parties and their lawyers work together to find an equitable resolution of the dispute at hand, retaining experts as necessary. No one is required to participate, and parties are free to terminate the process at any time.
- Revised Uniform Athlete Agents Act (RUAAA). As a 2015 update to the 2000 Uniform Athlete Agents Act (enacted in 42 states, including Colorado), the RUAAA updated the 2000 act to expand some definitions, provide for reciprocal registration between states, add new requirements to the signing of an agency contract, and expand notification requirements. The 2019 Amendment to the Uniform Athlete Agents Act responds to the 2018 changes made to the NCAA bylaws to provide student athletes with more freedom and flexibility to explore the possibility of going professional while retaining their college eligibility. Under the new NCAA bylaws, certified sports agents can cover limited expenses of a prospective or enrolled student athlete and the athlete’s family for meals, hotel, and travel in connection with the agent selection process. Because the NCAA bylaw changes conflicted with the Athlete Agents Acts, the NCAA asked the ULC to amend the two Uniform Athlete Agents Acts so they will not conflict with the bylaw changes. The Section 14 amendment was drafted to clear up the conflict; it was also drafted so that it applies beyond the current bylaws to ensure that the ULC will not have to go to state legislatures every time the NCAA broadens its bylaws. The amendment includes appropriate safeguards so that it applies only if the NCAA makes further changes.
For more information concerning the ULC and CCUSL, check out these articles:
- The Uniform Law Commission Works to Promote Uniformity of Law Among the States – August 6, 2015
- The Uniform Law Process Takes its Time – September 17, 2015
- The “C” in Uniform Law Commission – November 5, 2015