During the legislative session, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce tracks closely the work at the State Capitol and recommends formal positions on critical policy issues that affect the business community. In the past few years, we’ve seen between 631 to 775 bills being filed each session – that’s a whole lot of review and analysis for us to assess if they impact business.
Our Legislative Policy Committee, chaired by Lori Fox of Pinnacol Assurance, reviews the bills introduced and takes positions on those that impact the business community. Needless to say, this committee works very hard for us: So far in 2013, 485 bills have been introduced (264 bills in the House and 221 in the Senate), which is actually a very low number by this stage of the session.
Of those 485 bills, the Chamber has taken a position on 59: We support 37, oppose 18 and are neutral on four (often changing from a previous position of support or opposition based on amendments to the bill). We again are seeing a number of proposals that have been introduced in past sessions, such as efforts to undermine the Labor Peace Act and the expansion of Family Medical Leave coverage. We are consistent in our position on legislation, so our history is a good predictor of whether we will support or oppose a bill. We don’t change our position even when the make-up of the legislature changes.
We have crossed the half-way mark for Colorado’s legislative session (42 days remainingin the 120-day session, but who’s counting?). That said, we anticipate those 42 days will bring many more new bills than we would typically see at this late date in the session—estimates are between 100 to 125 more substantive bills. The legislature will be focusing its efforts over the next two weeks on the annual budget bill (often referred to as the Long Bill), leaving very little time to review those additional bills. Here’s a preview of some of what we are told are still to come:
- A package of bills aimed at increasing regulatory burden for the oil and gas industry. (We need to take care of our environment while also taking advantage of this tremendous economic driver—we know we can do both. Other states are figuring it out every single day as they find solutions that work for the environment and oil and gas producers. We have to stop hurting Colorado residents, who receive the economic benefits of this industry.)
- A potential rewrite of workers’ compensation statutes. (We have the fifth-lowest workers’ compensation costs in the country, and it took us some time to get there. Our success is a combination of good policy and emphasis on prevention. We need to be thoughtful about the changes that can negatively impact our competitive position.)
- A telecommunications statutes rewrite. (A complex issue that we face each year. Typically, we ask our members who are impacted directly to help us analyze these proposals.)
- Proposed policies for the legalization of marijuana. A committee is reviewing 58 recommendations from the recently convened Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64. It will formulate regulations into legislation to be considered by the full General Assembly. It is likely that the legislature, as part of that package of issues, will refer a measure to the voters this fall to allow for the implementation of an excise tax on marijuana. (We opposed the passage of Amendment 64, but given that it did pass, we are now focused on ensuring employers retain their rights to establish policies, such as zero tolerance in the workplace to ensure the safety of workers and customers.)
Finally, as I noted in last week’s letter, the Chamber took a position of support on the rewrite School Finance Act, SB13-213. We believe the reforms outlined in the bill will lead to better outcomes for Colorado’s students and help deliver a future workforce that meets the needs of our economy. The bill directs how any additional resources (tax increases) put into the educational system shall be spent.
Finally, last Friday (the deadline to file ballot titles for 2013), more than 25 separate measures were filed to increase funding for K-12 education in Colorado. With that many ballot titles being filed, and the concern that SB12-213 won’t make it through the legislative process, the Denver Metro Chamber and Colorado Concern jointly filed a ballot title as well. Unlike many of the other ballot measures filed, ours does NOT propose an increase in taxes. Instead, it does one thing: It states that, should Colorado voters adopt a tax increase in 2013, it must be aligned with the priorities and reforms established in SB13-213. In other words, we are serious about ensuring that any additional revenues voters decide to put into our educational system should be spent to ensure the best results.
We will continue to keep you updated on our positions and any policy news that affects business in Colorado. Please also visit our website for a listing of our current positions or to get more background information.