Colorado Capitol Report

Legislative Session Opens, Officials Sworn In, Speeches Given: Time to Go to Work!

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State Policy News

Legislative Session Opens, Officials Sworn In, Speeches Given: Time to Go to Work!

Yesterday, Governor John Hickenlooper, who was sworn in for his second term Tuesday, gave his fifth “State of the State” in the House Chamber before a joint session of the House and the Senate.

The Governor’s address capped a busy week during which the legislature went into session on Wednesday, January 7th when the majority and minority leaders delivered their opening-day speeches.

The first regular session of the 70th Colorado General Assembly promises to be a political see-saw because political control is narrowly divided between the Republicans and the Democrats.  Senate Republicans control their chamber by one-vote (18-17) while House Democrats control their chamber by a narrowed, 34-to-31 margin, or by just two votes.

Said Chuck Berry, CACI President, “For CACI, an important question is this: On what significant business issues can the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans compromise and produce bipartisan legislation that can be passed and be sent to the Governor for his signature?”

Although jobs and the economy were a major theme to the five speeches, each party, not surprisingly, took a different tack as to the policies that each will pursue to address employment issues and to improve the economic climate.

Clearly, Senate Republicans and House Democrats will produce bills that play to their respective constituencies.  Of note, Senate Republicans are likely to try to roll back some of the Democratic accomplishments of 2013 and 2014 sessions when the Democrats controlled both chambers.

Just as clearly, controversial bills supported by the House Democrats are almost certain to die in the Senate.  And controversial bills advocated by the Senate Republicans are likely to die in the House.

One of the biggest issues under the Gold Dome will be the TABOR surplus, which is projected by the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting to be $200 million for the new fiscal year that begins July 1st.  A TABOR surplus happens when revenues exceed the limit imposed by TABOR, which is the combined rate of population growth and inflation.

Democrats largely would like to retain the money and put it into programs while Republicans generally would like to return it to the taxpayers.  If the money is to be retained and spent, voters—not legislators–get to make this decision under TABOR.  The odds are less than zero that the Republicans and Democrats can agree on a bill that would place a referendum on the ballot for this November.  In that case, it will be up to the proponents to qualify a ballot initiative that would allow the State to retain and spend the money.

“CACI policy councils have begun studying introduced bills,” said Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, “and CACI will work hard with pro-business lawmakers of both parties to advocate pro-business legislation and oppose anti-business bills.”

The business issues to be debated at the State Capitol will likely include:

  • Business regulations
  • Construction-defects;
  • Water;
  • Transportation (roads and bridges) funding;
  • Oil-and-gas production, i.e., “fracking”:
  • Business tax incentives;
  • Tort reform,
  • Rural economic development;
  • Workforce development;
  • Water-quality permit fees; and
  • Health-care, including Connect for Colorado, the health-insurance exchange, that was the target of a recent scathing state audit;


Following is a brief excerpt from the Governor’s prepared State of the State speech:

Seventy to eighty percent of Colorado’s water falls on the mostly agricultural communities west of the Continental Divide; while 90 percent of our population is on the east, in the more urban Front Range.

Colorado is a semi-arid state. Even when our snow pack is substantial and the state has what looks like a water surplus, a drought always looms. Water in Colorado is always in finite supply.

The long boiling disagreements over water have been well-documented.

Historically, folks west of the Divide took the position that not one more drop of water would be diverted to the Front Range. And east of the Divide would respond with: We’ll see you in court.

But just last month, after the largest civic engagement process in state history, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, at long last, achieved what many believed was impossible:

It brought together the disparate stakeholders from around the state and drafted Colorado’s first-ever statewide Water Plan.

Representatives of urban areas recognized that locally sourced dairy and food is vital to all of Colorado; while the agricultural areas realized that they could not simply allow urban areas to dry up.

The Colorado Water Plan represents a paradigm shift of cooperation and collaboration, and goes a long way to ensure we strategically allocate this precious resource to maximize our entire state’s ability to grow and flourish.

Following are brief excerpts about various business issues from the opening-day prepared speeches by each chamber’s majority and minority leaders:

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder)

House Speaker Dickey Lee HullinghorstMembers, I am asking you today to support legislation that will help make sure our economic recovery is felt by all Coloradans, in all four corners of our magnificent state.

That means investing in job training and workforce development to put qualified Coloradans into the high-skill jobs that our state’s economy is now producing.

Our dedication to Colorado’s middle class also means supporting the biggest and best economic development program of all — providing our students with an excellent public education and an affordable college education.

House Minority Leader Brain DelGrosso (R-Loveland)

DelGrossoRepublicans have a vision for a prosperous Colorado, and we hope that this vision can be shared by all members in this chamber, by our fellow Senators and by the Governor. For many of us that come from rural communities, we understand Colorado’s identity, we are here to help preserve and protect it. Colorado’s natural beauty is one of the things we value most about living here, and I can tell you none of us would jeopardize it. To my friends across the aisle, if you value the rural identity as much as we do, share our vision and make Colorado’s rural economy as much a priority as our Front Range. I am willing to work with each member in this chamber, and hope this feeling can be reciprocated by each one of you. This session let’s work together and make all Colorado prosperous.

Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs)

CadmanThe skill levels necessary for competing in a hi- and low-tech global economy demand more from our graduates. We need more focus on training, skills and knowledge in a variety of vocations from surgical technicians, to Constructions Supervisors, Equipment Operators to IT Specialists.

Our latest report from the Colorado Workforce Development Council has provided a wealth of insight in Colorado’s progress in workforce development. The opportunities and obstacles identified in the “Colorado Talent Pipeline Report” published last week provides us with a roadmap for increasing the vital public/private partnerships that are bringing our schools and our employers together for our students.

Empowering our kids to succeed is our greatest responsibility – their success is the ultimate return on our investment.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora)

CarrollAfter all, these halls are not about forcing a partisan agenda, they are about doing what is right.  What’s right — what’s just — is an economy that works for everyone – not just a few at the top.  Despite Colorado’s recovery, we all know that there is MUCH more to be done.  We know that while Colorado is leading the nation in many respects, too many people are still being left behind.  A stagnant wage isn’t fair to the young families working to keep up with the rising costs of healthcare, and every layoff is more than a statistic; it’s the difference between enough food at dinner or paying the electric bill.  We know that our recovery will be real, and enduring when it is felt directly by all Colorado families, by all 64 counties, both urban and rural.  We know the recovery will be done when it is felt that every Coloradan has the opportunity to be free from debt and is able to plan for the future again with some financial peace of mind.

This year we will focus on assisting displaced workers, rural economic development, encourage small business investment in economically distressed areas including urban and rural sectors, promote job training, retirement security, and work to address issues with long-term unemployed Coloradans.

For information about CACI’s 2015 legislative agenda, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.

For news media coverage of the session since it began, read:

Hickenlooper’s State of the State speech calls for new look at TABOR,” by John Frank, The Denver Post, January 16th.

In inaugural address, Hickenlooper marks Colorado’s progress,” by John Frank, The Denver Post, January 13th.

Cadman: ‘Nothing without providence,’” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, January 9th.

Opening day of legislature,” by Ernest Luning, The Colorado Statesman, January 9th.

Innerview: Dickey Lee Hullinghorst,” by Jody Hope Strogoff, The Colorado Statesman, January 9th.

New legislators experience range of emotion on opening day,” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, January 9th.

On opening day, Colorado lawmakers find partisanship amid unity talk,” by Joey Bunch and John Frank, The Denver Post, January 7th.

111 bills introduced on Colorado Legislature’s first day,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 7th.

Partisan flashes as GOP takes control of Senate,” by John Frank, The Denver Post, January 7th.

Opening day at the Colorado Legislature: Leaders want to help middle class, but methods differ,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 7th.

Colorado House eyes economy, cites middle class as the bottom line,” by Joey Bunch, The Denver Post, January 7th.

Colorado GOP touts unity facing divided statehouse,” by Joey Bunch and John Frank, The Denver Post, January 7th.

Construction-defects reform comes down to 2 main arguments,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 6th.

 Democrats, Republicans outline agendas ahead of Colorado session,” by John Frank, The Denver Post, January 5th.

Colorado legislative leaders differ widely on major business issues,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 5th.

Dickey Lee Hullinghorst must manage divided Colorado House in 2015,” by Joey Bunch and Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post, January 4th.

Tort reform coming before the Colorado Legislature,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 2nd.

Construction defects legislation could be hot button issue (again) as local entities become involved,” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, January 2n.

Meet the gatekeepers of the Colorado Legislature,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, December 26th.


Doug Friednash Joins Governor as Chief of Staff

Last Sunday, the Governor’s Office issued the following news media release:

DENVER — Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015— Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today Doug Friednash will be the next Chief of Staff, effective February 2, 2015.

“I am delighted that Doug Friednash has decided to join our administration,” said Hickenlooper. “He could not be more perfect for this role, for this time, and for this team. He brings a wealth of both public and private sector experience, and a collective expertise that will be the ideal complement to our Chief Strategist Alan Salazar, our Chief Legal Counsel Stephanie Donner, and our Chief Administrator Kevin Patterson.”

As chief of staff, Friednash will oversee the management of state agencies, advise the governor and cabinet members on state issues and provide crisis management support, help to fill critical positions within the cabinet and senior staff, and support Alan Salazar as he continues to oversee policy and legislative initiatives.

“I’m thrilled to join Governor Hickenlooper and his talented cabinet team to work on behalf of the residents of Colorado,” said Friednash. “This is an exciting time for the state and I look forward to helping Colorado continue to grow under this administration.”

Most recently, Friednash was a shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck where he managed government relations and public policy, including representing Panasonic Enterprise Solutions in their relocation negotiations with the state and the City of Denver.

Prior to joining the firm, Friednash served as the Denver city attorney, managing 100 attorneys and responsible for all municipal representation which included a broad range of matters such as collective bargaining, federal lobbying, leading negotiations involving Denver International Airport, and crafting local, state and federal laws and regulations.

Friednash’s public sector experience also includes two terms in the Colorado House of Representatives after being elected in 1992, receiving numerous awards during his two terms including Outstanding Freshman Representative, Business Legislator of the Year, Guardian of Small Business, and Friend of the Children. He also served as an assistant attorney general in the Colorado Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement Section.

In his capacity handling private sector cases, Doug litigated public sector and complex commercial litigation. This includes chairing a national securities fraud case, representing pharmaceutical benefit management company and the largest privately-held jeweler in the United States in complex commercial litigation and trademark infringement issues.

Friednash graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a double-major in Business Economics and Political Science in 1984, and received a J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law, where he served as Student Bar Association President and received the Outstanding Graduate award.

Friednash currently serves on the University of San Diego Law School Alumni Board of Directors, Denver Public Schools Foundation Board, Concerts for Kids Board of Directors, Board of Directors, and works with the Global Livingston Institute.

Patterson has served as the interim chief of staff over the last several weeks as the search was underway. Hickenlooper also announced today that Patterson will move to an expanded Chief Administrative Officer role where he will work with Friednash and Salazar supporting the cabinet on organizational development and interdepartmental projects.

“We are all so grateful to Kevin, for not only filling in while the search was underway but for doing so with poise, grace and of course his natural sense of humor. He has always been there for this administration and never let up as we’ve continued seamlessly to work on behalf of the state. I’m sincerely thankful, as always indebted and look forward to working with him in this new role,” said Hickenlooper.

Federal Policy News

CACI’s Federal Relations Council Gets Economic Briefing and Behind-the-Scenes Tour at Federal Reserve

On January 6th, CACI’s Federal Council was hosted by the Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve.  Many times we walk by this building on the 16th Street Mall and don’t realize the importance of the work they do for our state and region.  Alison Felix, Assistant VP and Denver Branch Executive, gave our group a briefing on the economics of 2014 for Colorado, the 11th region and the country – specifically looking at factors influencing our energy, housing, manufacturing & tourism sectors, while also noting where government policies are influencing consumer behavior and market outcome.  They still expect to see positive growth in the U.S. economy but it’s not likely to be as robust as the last year.

Through Stacee Montague, Director of Public Affairs Denver Branch, we also learned more about the Federal Reserve’s structure, their dual-mandate to maintain both a healthy 2% inflation while minimizing unemployment numbers, and the many ways the FED is not the U.S. Mint.  Essentially, the Federal Reserve provides cash flows to our bankers, ordering money nightly from the U.S. Treasury and providing analysis on our nation’s economic health through their monetary insight.  The Denver Branch destroys all “unfit” bills (i.e. anything a vending machine won’t accept and the FED actually has 43 markers they look for to determine fitness).  They also catch the occasional counterfeit bill and they monitor the healthiness of their “member” banks (typically just those with national charters).

Attendees were especially impressed with the behind-the-scenes glimpse they got of the money operations deep within the Federal Reserve building.  On average, the Denver Branch destroys $3 million in unfit bills per day.

Congressional Update:

Keystone Pipeline:  Last week, the House passed H.R. 3, the Keystone Pipeline Act from Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) by a vote of (266-153), just one week after the Nebraska State Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and cleared the way for the Keystone XL project to continue.  The Senate passed cloture on the motion to proceed (63-32) to S. 1, also the Keystone Pipeline Act, and are considering an open amendment process, meaning votes will continue into next Tuesday at the very least.  H.R. 3/S.1 both recognize that Keystone XL’s permits are in order, acknowledge all environmental impact statements (EIS) have been completed and approved, and deeming the State Department’s permit as “approved” and authorizes TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to complete the final stages of the Keystone pipeline from Canada to the U.S. – removing any requirement for Presidential approval of this project.  63 Senators are likely to support final passage of S.1/H.R. 3, but this wouldn’t be the 67 votes needed to overcome a veto.  The President said he will not sign Keystone legislation.

“40-hours For Full Time” & ACA Changes: The House passed a bill (252-172) re-establishing the 40-hour work week as “full-time”.  In order to require more businesses to pay for employee insurance, the Affordable Care Act currently defines full-time employment as 30-hours.  Unfortunately, this requirement was such a burden to many businesses, employment structures were changed to employ more part-time workers.  CACI signed a letter to Congress this week urging a return to the 40-hr work week definition.  This change will allow both employees and employers to benefit.  Employees who work full-time can remain full-time, while part-time workers will have more flexibility in number of hours they can work.  Employers would be able to focus on what they do best – running a successful business.  The Senate will likely take up this bill after Keystone votes are complete, despite a Presidential veto threat.

Immigration:  Yesterday, the House voted 236-191 approving legislation to fund Homeland Security through the rest of the budget year ($40 billion) but the bill also included several controversial amendments.  One amendment (237-190) rescinds President Obama’s actions from November 2014 to prevent deportations & offer more work permits to 4 million illegal immigrants.  Another amendment undoes provisions of Obama’s work on the DREAM Act which allowed 600,000 immigrants who arrived as children to avoid deportation and take work permits.  This provision narrowly passed 218-209.  The Senate is less likely to take up this bill due to the controversial amendments. The President has already issued a veto threat.

For information on Federal policy topics as well as the activities of CACI’s Federal Relations Council, contact Leah Curtsinger, CACI Federal and State Governmental Relations Representative, at 303.866.9641.