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State Policy News
House Gives Final OK to Bill to Continue Pay Equity Commission
On Tuesday, the House approved on final, Third Reading, by a 36-to-28 vote, HB-1133, which would continue the Colorado Pay Equity Commission instead of having it sunset on June 30th. CACI opposes the bill.
The Senate Republican leadership has not yet assigned the bill to a committee. The Senate sponsor is Senator Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City).
The purpose of the HB-1133 is to authorize the Commission to “evaluate the status of pay equity in the state.”
The Commission was created by HB-1417 in 2010 when the Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and then-Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, signed the bill into law.
Despite a Senate Committee’s successful effort in January to sunset the Colorado Pay Equity Commission, proponents of continuing the Commission did not give up. CACI supported the Senate committee’s effort to not reauthorize the Commission, which is housed in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).
HB-1133 is sponsored in the House by Representative Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge), who enlisted the other 32 House Democrats as co-sponsors on her bill.
Republican Representatives who spoke against the bill on Second Reading included Clarice Navarro (Pueblo), Roupe, Polly Lawrence (Parker) and Lori Saine (Firestone). They said that the 2009-2015 Commission had essentially accomplished very little.
Representative Danielson, however, asserted that the Commission had produced “remarkable results.”
By contrast, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA) last October issued a sunset review and recommended that the Commission be given another two years of life. Here’s what DORA had to say in recommending that the Commission be continued:
The Pay Equity Commission (PEC) was created to increase awareness of pay inequity and to develop mechanism to address sit. The PEC has made some, though minimal progress on its assigned tasks. As such the work of the PEC remains unfinished and it should be continued.
HB-1133 was substantially amended in the House, both in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, in the House Appropriations Committee and then on the House Floor during Second Reading. A third fiscal note was issued on March 3rd.
The bill now contains an appropriation of $27,396 to pay for one-half (0.5 FTE) of a staff person in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to support the Commission. The Commission also can accept “gifts, grants and donations” to support an additional 1.0 FTE staff support. (FTE is the acronym for full-time equivalent.)
It should be pointed out that the current Commission, which was established in 2009, also was authorized to receive “gifts, grants and donations” to support its work. It appears, however, that none of the supporters and advocates of the Commission contributed any money to support it during its five years of existence.
For more on HB-1133, read:
“Colorado House passes bill to extend Pay Equity Commission,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 10th.
“Now up in the Colorado Legislature: A battle over working mothers’ rights,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 9th.
“Senate Committee Votes to Kill Pay Equity Commission but House Moves to Continue It,” CACI Colorado Capitol Report,” January 30th.
CACI members with questions about HB-1133 should contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Governmental Relations, at 303.866.9642.
House Sends CACI-Opposed Parental-Leave Bill to Senate
The Democratically controlled House Monday approved HB-1221 on Third Reading, Monday and sent it to the Republican-controlled Senate, where its fate is problematic. CACI opposes the measure.
The recorded vote was on a party-line basis, except for Republican Representative Kit Roupe (Colorado Springs), who voted with the majority Democrats to pass the bill. House Speaker Pro Tempore Dan Pabon (D-Denver) was excused.
The bill would continue but expand a 2009 law that mandates that an employer, who employs 50 or more workers, allow an employee to take unpaid, time-off from work to attend certain academic or other activities at his or her child’s school.
For more information on HB-1221, read:
“Now up in the Colorado Legislature: A battle over working mothers’ rights,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 9th.
“House Approves CACI-Opposed Parental-leave Bill on Second Reading,” CACI Colorado Capitol Report, March 6th.
CACI members with questions about HB-1221 should contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Governmental Relations, at 303.866.9642.
News Media Coverage
Below is recent news-media coverage of state and federal political, policy and governmental issues of interest to CACI:
“Colorado businesses could get tax breaks for repaying workers’ students loans,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 12th.
“EDC offers nearly $20 million to lure jobs to Colorado,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 12th.
“Colorado tax-credit study gets unanimous backing amid business questions,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 11th.
“Hickenlooper recaps legislature’s first half,” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, March 11th.
“Hickenlooper seeking compromise on construction-defects reform,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 11th.
“Regulatory reform is rolling in Colorado Legislature, but a big House obstacle in in the way,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 11th.
“Biosimilars bill approved by Colorado Legislature,” by Greg Avery, The Denver Business Journal, March 10th.
“Colorado to review all tourism act subsidies, not just Gaylord,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 10th.
“Bipartisanship makes an appearance,” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, March 6th.
“Credit card bill watered down to study, then killed,” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, March 6th.
“Hullinghorst: construction defects bill ‘non-starter,’” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, March 6th.
“A killed bill demonstrates why Colorado regulatory reform won’t be easy,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 28th.
Federal Policy News
Federal Affairs Council Tackles Net Neutrality, Ozone, Toxic Substances, NLRB & More
On Tuesday, CACI’s Federal Affairs Council had a record attendance to discuss several hot button topics, starting with the recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to enforce “net neutrality” on all wireline and wireless broadband providers. Two weeks after announcing the rule changes, the actual rule language was released today.
Network neutrality: This refers to the belief that all data on Internet networks should be treated equally or neutrally – not slowing down or blocking sites, not creating ‘fast lanes’ or increasing user speeds for a fee.
In 2010, the FCC proposed a similar “Open Internet Order” for just wireline broadband providers which was subsequently challenged in 2011 and struck down by the Federal Circuit Courts in 2014. The Court ruled the FCC didn’t have authority to regulate under the proposed title, setting up the most recent fight to regulate broadband under Title II, as a utility.
With the net neutrality order, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now cannot block, throttle, speed up service, and must eliminate tiered service/speed plans, despite business cases made showing that discriminating traffic actually allows ISPs to prioritize traffic and therefore guarantee a better product and customer experience. Proponents of net neutrality say the order is the most significant change to the Internet since its inception and that the order guarantees a lower barrier of entry for innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Opponents point to the European Union and other nations with similar Internet laws to show investment and innovation will see a sharp decline because if investors and businesses can’t see the possibility of a return on investment.
Municipal Broadband Order: The FCC voted 3-2 (2/26/2015) supporting an order pre-empting state laws which ban or limit municipal broadband networks. Existing ISPs have concerns their investment in communities is being disregarded and discredited, and allows municipalities using taxpayer dollars to be in direct competition with existing providers.
Toxic Substances Reform: Marcus Branstad with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) spoke to support of this landmark legislative update. The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) has not been substantively reformed since its inception in 1976, and a bipartisan coalition of Senators are seeking best practices changes for the way industry and businesses handle, store, use and study chemicals today.
CACI supports the ACC making industry voices a driver of this issue and CACI sent a letter to each of our congressional delegation asking for their support of this legislation as well. For more information on this issue, go to www.ReformTSCA.com or here for a “Quick Facts” sheet.
Fed Council Congressional Update in Brief:
CACI Draft Ozone Comments Circulated: Comments from E&E, Air Quality & Fed Council members are being gathered & incorporated into CACI’s final comments to be submitted to the EPA on March 16. The EPA’s final NAAQS ground level ozone rule was originally set to be published in April but due to the level of comments already received, is now set to be published “mid-summer” according to the EPA’s Region 8 Director.
Representatives Send Comments to EPA Administrator on CACI’s Behalf: Representatives Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn & Scott Tipton sent a letter this week to EPA Administrator McCarthy urging consideration of current NAAQS ozone standards at 75ppb. EPA Region 8 (which includes Colorado) has copies of both comments as well and have added our business voice to the mix as debate on ozone proposals continue.
Keystone XL Pipeline: Congress finalized passage of the pipeline (2/11), but President Obama followed through with his veto threat the same day as passage. This now leaves the pipeline decision once again in the hands of State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry, who have said they are still considering the science and permitting. Congressional language would have removed the Presidential approval permit requirement, for this project only, in order to cross the U.S./Canadian border.
DHS funding, immigration reform: Bills to roll back President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration were put to vote in both the Senate (failed) & House (passed) in the last two weeks. However, the Senate was unwilling to take up House language (which went beyond the President’s Order & peeled back years of immigration protections). After much debate, the Senate passed a “clean” funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security and despite a division among the most conservative factions, the House finally agreed to a 9-month spending bill, coming within hours of a DHS shutdown.
Next bills up in House, Senate: The House had a home work period this week & the Senate took up legislation to prevent human trafficking. In the meantime, the Senate and House committees of jurisdiction are busily working through budget proposals, hearings and negotiations. If your business relies on federal grants or special agency spending projects, now is the time to pay attention to online committee schedules & appropriations developments for each agency you might deal with or work through.
- Overtime Rules: Action is expected on the NLRB’s proposed overtime rules in the next few months. The initial proposal would change the way overtime is treated and has the potential to disrupt the way companies treat certain employees as both salaried and hourly staff.
- Ambush Elections: On Wednesday, the Senate passed a resolution (53-46) under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) disapproving of the NLRB’s “ambush election” rules, which are changing unionization elections from an average of 35-38 days to around 11 days. Businesses and legislators agree this isn’t enough time to educate employees about the benefits or pitfalls of unionizing a workplace. Additionally, the NLRB rule would require businesses to share employee contact information (email, cell phone, home address), as well as work locations and employee hours, which CACI feels violates employee privacy as well.
On Wednesday, the House Education & Workforce Committee held a hearing on ambush elections. The House is expected to take up the joint resolution next week and the White House has already issued a veto threat. If the President were to sign the resolution of disapproval, the NLRB rule would be removed. Since that will not happen, several industries will likely be bringing lawsuits opposing the new rules, which are set to go into effect on April 15, 2015.
SCOTUS decisions this week:
- Supreme Court re-districting case: Fight comes down to the Arizona state legislature’s historic authority to draw Congressional district lines vs. a recent ballot initiative from citizens which created a bipartisan group to draw Congressional district boundaries.
- Obamacare subsidies: King v. Burwell was heard before the Supreme Court last week. This case considers whether healthcare subsidies given to states, which opted to use the federal exchange instead of creating their own exchange, are constitutional & any ruling by SCOTUS is expected to have a wide-range effect. Both case rulings are expected late June or early July 2015.