Colorado Capitol Report

Legislative Session Begins on Theme of Bipartisanship and Unity


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CACI State Policy News

Bipartisanship, Unity and Healing Dominate Speeches to Begin Legislative Session

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Second Regular Session of the 69th Colorado General Assembly began.  The two majority-party legislative leaders and the two minority-party leaders delivered their opening day speeches.  Yesterday, Governor John Hickenlooper delivered his fourth State of the State Address at 11 a.m. in the House Chamber to a joint session of the House and the Senate.

The five speeches struck notes of community healing and unity against the backdrop of the various tragedies—floods, wildfires, shootings–that befell the state in 2013 with calls for bipartisanship in addressing Colorado’s challenges.

The calls for unity and bipartisanship stand in stark contrast to the historic acrimony that divided many Republicans and Democrats during the 2013 session on a number of political hot-potato issues: gun control, civil unions, imposition of renewable energy standards on rural electric associations (REAs) and the providers of electricity to the REAs, and sale of recreational marijuana.

In December, the CACI lobbying team issued an overview of the top business issues that it expects to work on during the session.  At the top of that list are bills that will, among others, seek to restrict fracking, change the state’s workers’ compensation system and impose restrictions on so-called wage theft by employers.

The state’s improving economic health will translate to debates over how to spend the unanticipated revenues.  The December 20th forecast by the non-partisan Colorado Legislative Council projected that the current fiscal year, which ends June 30th, will have a $20.5 million more than the required reserve.  The Council’s forecast is that the legislature will have about $1.37 billion more to spend in fiscal year 2014-2015, which begins July 1st, than the amount it budgeted for fiscal year 2013-2014.

The Governor yesterday called for increasing the state’s reserve fund from 5 percent to 6.5 percent.  In the wake of the failure of Amendment 66 last November, there are calls to increase K-12 funding.  The Governor also called for an additional $100 million for higher education and a cap on tuition increases at 6 percent.

Here are the highlights of the five speeches by the legislature’s four legislative leaders and the Governor as they pertained to the state’s economy and business issues:

House of Representatives

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver)

In his prepared remarks, Speaker Ferrandino discussed jobs and unemployment, “economic security,” education reform and funding, advanced industries, job training, and the business personal property tax.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland)

In his prepared remarks, House Minority Leader DelGrosso talked about such business issues as rural economic distress, unemployment, regulatory burdens on small businesses, investing in roads and bridges, last year’s SB-252 (the renewable energy standards mandate on REAs and their electricity suppliers), renewable energy, the oil-and-gas industry and education reform,

Senate

Senate President Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora)

In her prepared remarks, Senate President Carroll covered such issues as education, job creation, unemployment, the “wage gap,” rural broadband access, workforce development, reductions in the business personal property tax, child care, career pathways for IT and hospitality industries and advanced industries investment,

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs).

In his prepared remarks, Senate Minority Leader Cadman touched on such issues as jobs, unemployment the economy, infrastructure, reviving rural areas, K-12 education reform and barriers to higher education,

Governor John Hickenlooper

In his prepared remarksGovernor Hickenlooper discussed such topics as unemployment and job growth, jobs, tourism, his Colorado Blueprint economic development strategy, the Advanced Industries Accelerator Program, the Colorado Innovation Network, making state government more efficient, telecommunications reform, greater transparency in K-12 school funding, an increase of $223 in per-pupil in elementary-and-secondary school funding, clean water, the energy industry and “fracking,” and the Colorado health-care exchange.

“More jobs all over Colorado is our highest priority,” the Governor said.

For news-media coverage of the five speeches, read:

Hickenlooper emphasizes unity, a few business issues, in State of the State speech,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 9th.

Gov. Hickenlooper’s State of the State: ‘Colorado does not shut down,’” by Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post, January 9th.

Opening day Colorado legislative speeches are light on policy, heavy on healing,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 8th.

Floods and fires dominate on Colorado legislature’s opening day,” by Lynn Bartels and Kurtis lee, The Denver Post, January 8th.


Senator Schwartz Speaks to Energy & Environment Council

At left: Sen. Gail Schwartz speaks to CACI's Energy & Environment Council, At Right: Carly West, CACI Governmental Affairs Representative

At left: Sen. Gail Schwartz speaks to CACI’s Energy & Environment Council,
At Right: Carly West, CACI Governmental Affairs Representative

On Thursday, Senator Gail Schwartz sat down with CACI’s Energy & Environment Council to discuss her legislative agenda for the upcoming session.  As the Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, she will be carrying several bills of interest to the Council, and will see many more related bills come through her Committee.

Sen. Schwartz is carrying HB 1030, along with Senator Roberts and Representatives Coram and Mitsch Bush, to establish incentives for the development of hydroelectric energy systems, a bill that came out of the Water Resources Review Committee unanimously.

She will also be sponsoring a resolution to create a select committee on severance tax, noting the role severance tax plays in water infrastructure in the state.  This session she will also be looking at legislation on efficiency in energy consumption and building performance, and anticipates several bills supporting biomass.

Additionally, she remains interested in the opportunities for thermal heat and energy, although she does not plan to carry the same bill that she brought last year, SB 13-272, which would have modified energy Demand Side Management programs to include thermal energy.

In response to questions about last year’s contentious SB 252 – Renewable Energy Standard, which Sen. Schwartz was a sponsor of, she noted that she would not be carrying legislation to tweak that policy.

The next meeting of the Energy & Environment Council will be February 6, and Dr. Larry Wolk, Director of the Department of Public Health & Environment, will be the guest speaker.


News Media Coverage

Below is recent news-media coverage of state political, policy and governmental issues of interest to CACI:

Lack of immigration reform means worker shortage for Colorado builders,” by Nancy Lofholm, The Denver Post, January 10th.

A tame session ahead at the Colorado legislature?  We hope.” editorial, The Denver Post, January 9th.

A closer look at a bill that would put one health-care provider out of business in Colorado,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 8th.

State oil and gas industries speak up on proposed air quality rules,” by Tom McGhee, The Denver Post, January 7th.

New state senator Zenzinger into office,” by Peter Marcus, The Colorado Statesman, December 16th.


Military Service Veterans to Benefit from Unusual Dog Show

On Saturday, February 22nd, a very unique dog show will be held from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum at Lowry in east Denver.

Any dog owner can enter his or her lovable pooch to compete in the “Worst in Show,” a tongue-in-cheek counterpoint to such traditional dog shows as the famous Westminster Kennel Club.  The show will include a silent auction, raffle and food sampling.

The show is being organized by Freedom Service Dogs of America, which trains and provides shelter dogs to military service veterans for companionship.  This program can be viewed on YouTube:

For more information, including how to be a sponsor, contact:

Sharan L. Wilson,  Executive Director

Freedom Service Dogs of America, Inc.

2000 West Union Avenue

Englewood CO  80110

Phone: 303.922.6231

Fax: 303.922.6234


CACI Colorado Manufacturing Initiative Update

Victory for Manufacturers

In 2011, the NAM began litigation pushing back on an unfair and overreaching decision by the National Labor Relations Board that would have required manufacturers to post a notice in their workplaces informing employees of their right to organize and strike.

This is from the National Association of Manufacturers:

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declined to ask the Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling striking down its poster rule as government overreach by the January 2 deadline.

“Manufacturers start off the new year with great news in our fight against an overreaching NLRB,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “This is the culmination of the NAM’s aggressive legal pursuit against a government-imposed regulation that would create a hostile work environment while injecting politics into manufacturers’ day-to-day business operations.”

“By allowing the deadline for filing a Supreme Court appeal to pass, the NLRB has tacitly acknowledged its overreach in the case, letting stand an important victory for manufacturers’ First Amendment rights,” noted NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly.

Colorado Community College System Hosting Micro-Summits for Manufacturers to Solicit Input on the Implementation of HB13-1165, the Manufacturing Career Pathways Bill

CCCS will host a series of region micro-summits to discuss the progress made on implementing last sessions HB1165 which is creating a manufacturing pathway. More information will be provided as it becomes available, but the first summit will take place January 24th in Pueblo. It will be held from 11:30-1:30 in the ballroom at Pueblo Community College.  We encourage our manufacturing members in Pueblo to participate in the conversation. Please contact Danielle Glover, CMI Program Manager, for more information.

About the CMI For information on CACI’s Colorado Manufacturing Initiative, contact Danielle Glover at 303.866.9657. CACI is the Colorado affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers.

co.manufacturinginitiative                          new_nam_logo

 


Federal Issues

Extension of Unemployment Benefits Still Uncertain

The following was written by Sue McGurkinCACI Federal Policy Representative, who can be reached at 303.966.9641.

In its first week of the 2014 session, Congress took up a known controversial issue that has not only divided the parties but has also divided each chamber. The issue at hand is an emergency extension of the federal unemployment benefits that expired on December 28, 2013. These benefits go to people who have exhausted their state benefits, which typically last 26 weeks, and an extension was not included in the recent budget deal that the President signed at the end of last year.

At issue is a philosophical difference regarding the proper role of government, which continues to be a reoccurring theme in Congress; most Democrats do favoring an extension of the unemployment benefits, particularly given the current economic climate, while many on the Republican side contend an extension does little to incentivize those receiving the benefits to find jobs. In addition, a large area of contention between the parties is how this nearly $6.5 billion benefit over the ten year budget period will continue to be paid for, either via cuts in other programs or potentially, by raising the deficit even more.

Earlier this week, the Senate, which has a Democratic majority, voted 60-37 to proceed to a full debate of the three month benefits extension legislation, otherwise known as Senate Bill 1845, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. Six Republicans voted with 54 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the cloture motion that permits the measure to move ahead. Those six Republicans were Senators Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rob Portman (Ohio) — most said they were unlikely to support the legislation as it is currently drafted and are working to ensure any extension is “paid for,” meaning that there would not be an increase to the deficit. Consequently and at press time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has put the full Senate vote on hold until a compromise can be accomplished (targeting end of next week) and he knows has the necessary 60 votes for passage.

Even with support in the Senate, it is not clear whether or not the House will definitely take up the bill, particularly if the benefits are not paid for and/or if other Republican priorities for job creation, such as passing the Keystone Pipeline, are not included.  A likely scenario is for a three-month extension of the benefits to be passed, with the caveat that a longer extension of the benefits incorporates these other policy matters advocated by both Senate and House Republicans.

Of potential impact to our members (if such extension legislation passes) and as reported by the Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers’ Compensation, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recognized that the extension will increase the number of weeks claimed in regular state Unemployment Insurance (UI) as claimants decide to exhaust state UI benefits in order to receive Emergency Unemployment Compensation. CBO assumes that this increased payout will also result in states increasing state UI taxes to cover the increased pay out. In addition, employers may receive an increased number of requests for information from state workforce agencies seeking to verify that individuals made required work search contacts between December 29, 2013 and the date benefits are re-instated, if federal legislation is passed.

CACI will continue to keep you updated on this issue and if you have any questions, please reach out to Sue McGurkin, CACI’s Federal Policy Representative at 303.866.9641.


CACI Encourages Its Members to Meet with Their Congressional Delegation in 2014

Congress began its second part of the 113th session this week, and there is some hope for a more productive legislative output in 2014. While divided government does not necessarily bode well for a plethora of constructive, well-crafted policies, it does continue to provide the business community with significant opportunities to impact the policy agendas of their individual Congressional members; this is particularly true since 2014 is a mid-term election year. Congressional representatives are more likely to listen to people directly in their districts and they want and need to hear how their policies directly affect companies and their employees.

In addition to the debt ceiling, it is anticipated that in the second session of the 113th, Congress will address such key issues as immigration, the farm bill, tax reform, environmental regulations, health care and water resources. CACI encourages its member companies to not only host their Congressional delegation for in-person meetings with them but to also invite them for site tours, as well as discussions with their employees, in order to educate the Congressional representatives on your business and key federal policy issues.

In order to prepare for your Congressional visits, click here for the 2014 Congressional calendar for both the Senate and the House; the gray boxes indicate when the Members are back in their district for work periods. Since the Congressional members have tight schedules, requests for meetings need to be done well in advance, such as a few weeks to even months before the actual meeting. CACI can certainly help with this aspect and please contact Sue McGurkin, CACI’s Federal Policy Representative, at 303.866.9641 for additional assistance.

CACI will also be providing opportunities to meet with Congressional members and their staff in 2014 via various programs, such as Congressional Staff Luncheons and Member meetings hosted at the CACI offices. If you have any questions regarding the federal policy initiative, please reach out to Sue McGurkin. We look forward to working with you in 2014!


House Energy & Commerce Committee Seeks Public Input on Modernizing Communications Act

The House is taking the first step in attempting to modernize the federal Communications Act, which has not been significantly altered since 1996 and fails to account for the changes in technology and the current telecommunications landscape. The Act details the powers and duties of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its regulatory authority over those communications providers that fall under its purview.

As reported this week, Representatives Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), “who lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its communications and technology subcommittee, respectively, released a white paper outlining flaws that have emerged since the law was last updated more than a decade ago. The paper is the first action in the multi-year effort to revamp the Communications Act.”

Understanding that the policy issues are complex and are not without controversy, Representatives Upton and Walden are seeking input from the public on their four-page white paper that concludes with a series of questions. In addition to the question posed, they are requesting feedback on any other issues related to the Communications Act. Currently, there is a hearing scheduled for January 15th, whereby former FCC Chairmen Richard Wiley, Reed Hundt and Michael Powell will testify before the House subcommittee on their perspectives for updating the law.

It should be noted that both Congressman Cory Gardner (R) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette both sit on the Energy & Commerce Committee and CACI is happy to facilitate direct meetings with their offices on this issue.

 Responses to the Congressional white paper are due by January 31, 2014 to CommActUpdate@mail.house.gov and questions are directed to David Redl at 202.225.2927.

For more information, read:

“House takes step to overhaul communications law,” by Julian Hattem, The Hill, January 8th.

http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/194785-house-takes-step-to-overhaul-communications-law

“Former FCC chiefs to testify on telecom law rewrite,” by Kate Tummarello, The Hill, January 9th.

http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/194942-former-fcc-chiefs-to-testify-on-telecom-law-rewrite#ixzz2pvYWR2Ug


EPA Issues Carbon Emission Rules for New Coal Fired Power Plants; Opportunity for Public Comment

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rules for new coal-fired power plants regarding carbon emissions were published in the Federal Register this past Wednesday, making March 4, 2014 their effective date. The EPA is taking public comment on these rules until March 10, 2014 and click here for more information and to provide comments.

The rules, which are a key component of the President’s climate change plan, come nearly four months after they were announced by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. As reported when they were announced, the rules are “meant to remove potential obstacles in the implementation of carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) technology. Without the technology, coal plants would be unable to meet forthcoming emission standards proposed as part of President Obama’s effort to combat climate change.” However, there continues to be much debate as to whether or not CSS is technically feasible at this time; and legal challenges from industry have already been promised.

In addition, it was reported, “The new coal regulations would limit carbon emissions for newly built coal plants to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour for large coal plants and 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour for smaller plants. Considering the average emissions from existing coal plants is currently 1,800 pounds per megawatt hour, the new rules will likely be tough to meet.”

It is interesting to note that the EPA wrote in the comments section of the final rule that they do “not anticipate that this proposed rule will result in notable CO2 emission changes, energy impacts, monetized benefits, costs, or economic impacts by 2022.” Rather, it was contended by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in her admission to Congress that “the rule was not about reducing emissions, but pushing the U.S. to emerge as a leader on global warming initiatives.”

In conjunction, the EPA has already begun reaching out to stakeholders regarding regulations for emissions from existing power plants and it is anticipated that proposed standards for these power plants will be released this summer.

CACI has already provided testimony at both the state and federal level regarding regulation of greenhouse gases and will continue to do so as qualified opportunities arise. For questions on this issue, please contact Sue McGurkin, CACI’s Federal Policy Representative, at 303.866.9641 or Carly West, CACI’s Governmental Affairs Representative, at 303.866.9622.

For more information, read:

EPA Website on Carbon Pollution Standards

EPA publishes carbon capture regs,” by Ben Goad, The Hill, January 2nd.

EPA publishes emissions rule to GOP’s dismay,” by Laura Barron-Lopez, The Hill, January 8th.

EPA coal regulations published in Federal Register,” by Ashe Schow, Washington Examiner, January 8th.


EPA to Host Webinar Summarizing Fracking Study Roundtable

Please see note below from the EPA announcing their most recent webinar on their ongoing study of the potential effects on drinking water by hydraulic fracturing.

_____________________________________________________

 Technical Roundtables are an important component of EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Study. EPA recently held a Technical Roundtable where subject-matter experts discussed the outcomes of the 2013 Technical Workshops, stakeholder engagement, and plans for the draft assessment report expected to be released in December 2014.

EPA will be hosting a one-hour webinar on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 2:30pm EST to provide a summary of the roundtable. To participate in the webinar, please register at http://www.clu-in.org/conf/tio/frac9/

To view roundtable materials and presentations, please visit http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/2013-technical-roundtable.